The Major League Soccer is the top-flight football league in North America, consisting of teams from the United States and Canada.

The MLS was established in 1993 as part of the United States’ successful bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup, with the inaugural campaign not taking place until 1996.

While it started with 10 teams, the MLS – which is geographically divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences – currently has 28 teams (25 from the US and three from Canada), and there are plans to add one more team starting from 2023.

The best MLS players of all time

The league has had some of the best players to have ever graced the beautiful game of football, and here is a list of some of them and a few of the accomplishments that have made them MLS heroes,  cult heroes and legends.

Bradley Wright-Phillips

  • MLS Appearances: 234
  • MLS goals: 117
  • Trophies: Four
  • Year: 2013 – 2021

Bradley Wright-Phillips spent nine years in the MLS after leaving England in 2013.

The former Manchester City striker moved to New York Red Bulls from Brentford, scoring 126 goals in 240 games before leaving for Los Angeles FC in 2020. Wright-Phillips scored nine goals in 21 appearances for LAFC before joining Columbus Crew the following year, ending his MLS journey with two goals in 21 games.

The former Southampton forward won three Supporters’ Shields while he was with the Red Bulls, helping Columbus Crew to a Campeones Cup in 2021. Individually, Wright-Phillips picked up two MLS Golden Boots and was in the MLS Best XI and MLS All-Star twice.

He was also Castrol Index Top MLS Player once, emerging as New York Red Bulls MVP on three separate occasions.

The former England under-20 international was MLS Player of the Month once, made the CONCACAF Best XI once and was also named MLS Comeback Player of the Year in 2020 before his retirement.

Brian Ching

  • MLS Appearances: 233
  • MLS goals: 82
  • Trophies: 11
  • Year: 2001 – 2013

Brian Ching played in the MLS for 12 years after beginning his professional career with Los Angeles Galaxy as the 16th pick overall in the 2001 MLS SuperDraft.

The former forward was released by Galaxy after a goal and two assists in 12 games across all competitions, joining second-division Seattle Sounders. Ching returned to the first division in 2003, with San Jose Earthquakes acquiring him.

He spent three years at the club, bagging 28 goals and 12 assists in 68 games before joining Houston Dynamo. Ching established himself as an MLS legend with the Western Conference outfit, scoring 69 goals and assisting 29 others in 224 games.

As a result, he remains Houston Dynamo’s all-time leading scorer.

Ching won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and MLS Western Conference Championship with Galaxy before helping San Jose Earthquakes bag one MLS Cup, one MLS Supporters Shield and one MLS Western Conference Championship.

At  Dynamo, he won the MLS Cup, the MLS Western Conference Championship and the MLS Eastern Conference Championship twice apiece.

Internationally, Ching represented the U.S.A, scoring 11 goals in 45 games and winning one CONCACAF Gold Cup with them. Individually, the Haleiwa, Hawaii-born forward was named in the MLS All-star six times, winning one MLS Golden Boot and making the MLS Best XI once.

He was also named the MLS Comeback Player of the Year once and is a one-time recipient of the MLS Goal of the Year award.

Carlos Valderrama

  • MLS Appearances: 175
  • MLS goals: 16
  • Trophies: One
  • Year: 1996 – 2003

Carlos Valderrama spent the last eight years of his career in the MLS, playing for Tampa Bay Mutiny, Miami Fusion and Colorado Rapids.

The former midfielder is widely regarded as Colombia’s greatest player ever, and he proved his worth in the league, scoring 13 times in 121 games for Mutiny with whom he won the MLS Supporters’ Shield.

Valderrama scored three times in 23 games for Fusion and once in 41 appearances for Rapids.

Known for his ability to create chances, the South American holds the record for most assists (26) in a single MLS season and he made the MLS All-Star team and won the MLS MVP in 1996.

Valderrama has also been named in the MLS All-Time Best XI.

Chad Marshall

  • MLS Appearances: 409
  • MLS goals: 26
  • Trophies: Eight
  • Year: 2004 – 2019

Chad Marshall spent 16 years in the MLS, playing for Columbus Crew and Seattle Sounders before retiring in 2019.

The former U.S.A international centre-back made 272 appearances for Crew, scoring 19 times and winning the MLS Cup and three MLS Supporters’ Shields with them.

At Sounders, Marshall played 186 games across all competitions, scoring 12 goals and winning two MLS Cups, one MLS Supporters’ Shield and one U.S. Open Cup.

The legendary defender was named in the MLS Best XI four times, CONCACAF Gold Cup All-Tournament Team once and he emerged as MLS Defender of the Year thrice.

Chris Wondolowski

  • MLS Appearances: 413
  • MLS goals: 171
  • Trophies: Three
  • Year: 2005 – 2021

Chris Wondolowski spent 17 years in the MLS and is the highest scorer in the competition’s history.

The former striker started his professional career with San Jose Earthquakes in 2005, leaving for Houston Dynamo the following year after just three appearances.

He spent four years with Dynamo, scoring eight times in 58 games before returning to the Quakes in 2009.

On his return, Wondolowski bagged 176 strikes in 401 games, winning his secondbSupporters’ Shield with them.

He won two MLS Cups with Dynamo and was also part of the USMNT side that won the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2013, with 11 goals in 35 international appearances.

Wondolowski made the MLS All-Star five times, the MLS Best XI thrice and was once named Major League Soccer MVP.

He won two MLS Golden Boots, and was the top goalscorer at the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Clint Dempsey

  • MLS Appearances: 186
  • MLS goals: 72
  • Trophies: Three
  • Year: 2004 – 2006, 2013 – 2018

Clint Dempsey started and ended his career in the MLS, with stints in the Premier League with Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur in between.

The former US international forward scored 24 goals in 86 games for New England Revolution and 56 goals in 136 for Seattle Sounders – with whom he won one MLS Cup, one Supporters’ Shield and one U.S. Open Cup.

Dempsey made the MLS All-Star four times, was once MLS Comeback Player of the Year and a CONCACAF Gold Cup Top Goalscorer.

At international level, he scored 57 goals in 141 games, winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup thrice.

 

Cobi Jones

  • MLS Appearances: 306
  • MLS goals: 70
  • Trophies: 12
  • Year: 1996 – 2007

Cobi Jones spent a large chunk of his career with Los Angeles Galaxy, winning one CONCACAF Champions’ Cup, two MLS Cups, two Supporters’ Shields, two U.S. Open Cups and five Western Conference titles across 12 campaigns.

The former midfielder scored 15 goals in 164 games for the United States, winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2002.

David Beckham

  • MLS Appearances: 98
  • MLS goals: 18
  • Trophies: 10
  • Year: 2007 – 2012

David Beckham spent five-and-a-half years at LA Galaxy, scoring 20 goals in 118 games.

The Manchester United legend won two MLS Cups, three Western Conference titles during the regular season and another three during the play-offs and two Supporters’ Shields.

Beckham won the MLS Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2011, and despite winning it all in European club football, his return of 17 goals in 115 caps yielded nothing in terms of international silverware.

David Villa

  • MLS Appearances: 117
  • MLS goals: 77
  • Trophies: 0
  • Year: 2015 – 2018

David Villa spent just four years in the MLS without silverware, but his time with New York City FC will forever be remembered.


The former Spain international hitman scored 80 goals in 126 games across all competitions, winning one MLS MVP Award and making the MLS All-Star four times and the MLS Best XI twice.

At international level, the former Barcelona and Valencia helped Spain to a World Cup and one European Championship.

Diego Valeri

  • MLS Appearances: 236
  • MLS goals: 84
  • Trophies: Two
  • Year: 2013 – 2021

Diego Valeri spent nine seasons with Portland Timbers, bagging 97 goals in 276 games and helping them win one MLS Cup and the MLS is Back Tournament in 2020.

The former Argentina international attacker is regarded as the greatest player in Portland Timbers history after making the MLS All-Star four times, the MLS Best XI thrice and winning the MLS Cup MVP.

Dwayne De Rosario

  • MLS Appearances: 343
  • MLS goals: 104
  • Trophies: Six
  • Year: 2001 – 2014

Dwayne De Rosario spent 14 seasons in the MLS, scoring 30 times in 120 games for San Jose Earthquakes, 32 times in 112 games for Houston Dynamo, 33 times in 98 games for Toronto FC, twice in 13 games for New York Red Bulls and 28 goals in 74 games for D.C. United.

The former Canada international forward won two MLS Cups and one Supporters’ Shield with Quakes, two MLS Cups with Dynamo and one U.S. Open Cup with D.C. United.

De Rosario scored 22 goals in 81 international games, winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2000.

Individually, he made the MLS All-Star seven times, the MLS Best XI six times, winning the MLS Golden Boot and MLS MVP Award in 2011.

Eddie Pope

  • MLS Appearances: 254
  • MLS goals: 10
  • Trophies: Eight
  • Year: 1996 – 2007

Eddie Pope spent 12 seasons in the MLS, playing for D.C. United, MetroStars and Real Salt Lake.

The 82-cap former United States international defender won three MLS Cups, two Supporters’ Shields, one U.S. Open Cup, one CONCACAF Champions League and one Copa Interamericana with DC United, helping his country to the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2005.

Pope made the MLS Best XI four times and was named MLS Defender of the Year in 1997.

Jaime Moreno

  • MLS Appearances: 340
  • MLS goals: 133
  • Trophies: 12
  • Year: 1996 – 1997, 1998 – 2010

Jaime Moreno spent 15 seasons in the MLS, with 14 of those with D.C. United before his retirement in 2010.

The former Bolivian international forward left Middlesbrough for United in 1996, scoring 131 goals in 329 games across two spells for the club.

Moreno also bagged two goals in 11 games for MetroStars, playing 75 international matches and scoring nine goals.

He won four MLS Cups, four MLS Supporter’s Shields, one Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, one CONCACAF Champions’ Cup and one Copa Interamericana with DC United, making the MLS Best XI five times.

Jeff Agoos

  • MLS Appearances: 233
  • MLS goals: 11
  • Trophies: 10
  • Year: 1996 – 2005

Jeff Agoos spent a decade in the MLS, appearing for D.C. United, San Jose Earthquakes and MetroStars.

The 134-cap former US international defender won two MLS Cups with San Jose Earthquakes, while he won three MLS Cups, two MLS Supporters’ Shields, one U.S. Open Cup, one CONCACAF Champions’ Cup and an InterAmerican Cup with D.C. United.

Agoos won the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup with the U.S.

He won the MLS Defender of the Year Award in 2001 and is named in the MLS All-Time Best XI having made the MLS Best XI thrice.

Jeff Cunningham

  • MLS Appearances: 365
  • MLS goals: 134
  • Trophies: Three
  • Year: 1996 – 2005

Jeff Cunningham established himself as an MLS legend after 14 seasons in the league.

The Jamaica-born ex-United States international forward registered 64 goals in 203 appearances across two stints for Columbus Crew, 12 goals in 26 games for Colorado Rapids, 19 goals in 38 games for Real Salt Lake, six goals in 32 games for Toronto FC and 33 goals in 66 games for FC Dallas.

Cunningham won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and MLS Supporters’ Shield with Crew and the Major League Soccer Western Conference Championship with Dallas.

He has two MLS Golden Boots and was in the MLS Best XI thrice, with a goal in 14 international games.

Josef Martinez

  • MLS Appearances: 126
  • MLS goals: 95
  • Trophies: Four
  • Year: 2017 – date

Josef Martinez has been with Atlanta United since 2007, scoring 108 goals in 150 games in all competitions so far.

The Venezuela international striker, 29, has 12 goals in 58 caps for country thus far and has represented them at three Copa Americas.

Martinez has won one MLS Cup, one Eastern Conference title, one U.S. Open Cup and one Campeones Cup with Atlanta.

He has made the MLS All-Star twice, the MLS Best XI thrice, won one MLS Golden Boot and emerged as MLS MVP once

Kei Kamara

  • MLS Appearances: 360
  • MLS goals: 134
  • Trophies: Four
  • Year: 2006 – 2013, 2015 – 2020, 2021 to date

Kei Kamara currently plays for Montreal and is one of only 10 players to have scored 100 league goals and more in the MLS.

The Sierra Leonean international forward, 37, has been around since 2006, quickly returning after brief stints in England with Norwich City and Middlesbrough and in Finland with HIFK.

Kamara scored 32 goals in 77 games across two stints at Columbus Crew, two goals in 12 games for San Jose Earthquakes, seven in 32 for Houston Dynamo, 38 in 113 for Sporting Kansas City, 19 in 52 for New England Revolution, 14 in 28 for Vancouver Whitecaps, 17 in 38 for Colorado Rapids, one in seven for Minnesota United, and he has bagged three goals in 15 appearances thus far for Montreal.

The forward won the Eastern Conference twice and one U.S. Open Cup while with Sporting Kansas and the Eastern Conference once with Crew.

Kamara boasts one MLS Golden Boot, a place in the MLS All-Star and MLS Best XI in 2015 and the 2007 MLS Fair Play Award.

Landon Donovan

  • MLS Appearances: 340
  • MLS goals: 145
  • Trophies: Nine
  • Year: 2001 – 2016

Landon Donovan is widely regarded as the best MLS player in history and the best U.S footballer of all time, and not many will disagree.

The former winger started his career in the German Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen before linking up with San Jose Earthquakes in 2001, spending 15 seasons in the MLS. Donovan was with the Quakes for four years, scoring 43 goals in 109 games.

He joined LA Galaxy in 2005, ending his time there with 141 goals in 317 appearances. The former Bayern Munich and Everton loanee established himself as a hero for country, bagging 57 goals in 157 games and leading them to four CONCACAF Gold Cups.

Donovan made the CONCACAF Gold Cup Best XI four times, was the highest goalscorer at the competition thrice and was once the MVP.

He was voted in MLS All-Time Best XI having made the MLS Best XI seven times and the MLS All-Star 13 times.

Donovan also has one MLS Golden Boot to his name, holds the record for most assists (136), and it will be interesting to see if anyone will come close to his achievements in the league and USMNT anytime soon.

Marco Etcheverry

  • MLS Appearances: 190
  • MLS goals: 34
  • Trophies: Eight
  • Year: 1996 – 2003

Marco Etcheverry won three MLS Cups, two MLS Supporters’ Shields, one CONCACAF Champions League, one Copa Interamericana and one U.S. Open Cup with DC United and is named in the MLS All-Time Best XI.

The former Bolivia international striker was named in the MLS Best XI four times, emerging as the MLS Most Valuable Player once.

Nick Rimando

  • MLS Appearances: 514
  • MLS goals: 0
  • Trophies: Four
  • Year: 2000 – 2019

Nick Rimando holds the MLS records for career wins (183), shutouts (129), saves, and overall appearances (514) and is widely regarded as the best goalkeeper in MLS history.

The 22-cap former US international was in goal for Miami Fusion, D.C. United and Real Salt Lake, spending all his career in the league.

Rimando won the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2013 with his country, the MLS Supporters’ Shield with Miami Fusion, one MLS Cup and one MLS Supporters’ Shield with D.C. United and one MLS Cup with Real Salt Lake.

Individually, the California-based legend made the MLS All-Star six times.

Robbie Keane

  • MLS Appearances: 125
  • MLS goals: 83
  • Trophies: Four
  • Year: 2011 – 2016

Robbie Keane scored 104 goals in 165 games for LA Galaxy, helping them land three MLS Cups and a Supporters’ Shield.

The former Republic of Ireland international striker bagged 68 goals in 146 games for his country and he was a thorn in the flesh of defenders in the MLS.

Keane made the MLS Best XI four times, the MLS All-Star once, emerging as MLS MVP once.

Preki

  • MLS Appearances: 242
  • MLS goals: 79
  • Trophies: Three

Predrag Radosavljevic, popularly known as Preki, spent 10 years in the MLS playing for Kansas City Wizards and Miami Fusion.

The Yugoslavia-born former U.S international midfielder won the MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield and US Open Cup with the Wizards, appearing 28 times for the country and scoring four goals.

Preki won two MLS Golden Boots before retiring in 2005, and was one of the pioneering players when the MLS kicked off.

Sebastian Giovinco

  • MLS Appearances: 114
  • MLS goals: 68
  • Trophies: Four

Sebastian Giovinco spent just four years in the MLS, playing for Toronto FC, but the former Italian international striker managed to write his name in the league’s folklore.

The former Juventus star helped the Canadian side to one MLS Cup, two Eastern Conference Championships and a Supporters’ Shield.

Giovinco made the MLS All-Star team in each of his seasons at Toronto, making the MLS Best XI thrice and winning one MLS Golden Boot and one MLS MVP Award.

The Italian also won the CONCACAF Champions League Ball and made the CONCACAF Champions League Best XI.

Taylor Twellman

  • MLS Appearances: 174
  • MLS goals: 101
  • Trophies: Two

Taylor Twellman spent seven years in the MLS with New England Revolution, scoring 109 goals in 190 games across all competitions.

The former U.S international forward bagged six goals in 30 international caps, winning the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Twellman won the U.S. Open Cup and North American SuperLiga with New England, making the MLS Best XI twice, winning one MLS MVP and one MLS Golden Boot.

He bagged more goals in MLS than any other player during his career, becoming the youngest player to reach 100 goals in 2009 aged 29, and is New England’s all-time leading goalscorer.

Tony Meola

  • MLS Appearances: 250
  • MLS goals: 0
  • Trophies: One

Tony Meola spent the last 11 years of his career in the MLS, making 90 appearances for New York/New Jersey MetroStars, 125 appearances for Kansas City Wizards and 35 appearances for New York Red Bulls.

Meola won the MLS Cup in 2000 with the Wizards and was named the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year that same season.

The former USMNT international helped his country to the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 1991 and 2002, earning 100 caps and going to three World Cups.

Honourable Mentions

  • Ante Razov
  • Brad Davis
  • Brad Guzan
  • Brian McBride
  • Carlos Bocanegra
  • Carlos Ruiz
  • Carlos Vela
  • DaMarcus Beasley
  • Diego Chara
  • Edson Buddle
  • Guillermo Barros Schelotto
  • Ignacio Piatti
  • Jason Kreis
  • Jozy Altidore
  • Kasey Keller
  • Kevin Hartman
  • Kyle Beckerman
  • Marcelo Balboa
  • Michael Bradley
  • Miguel Almiron
  • Mike Magee
  • Nicolas Lodeiro
  • Ozzie Alonso
  • Peter Nowak
  • Stefan Frei
  • Tim Howard
  • Thierry Henry
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic

We had to include Zlatan’s MLS debut in this didn’t we?!