The Top 10 Best MLS Players of All Time
It’s hard to believe that MLS, the United States top men’s professional soccer league, has been around for 22 years. Since the league began all the way back in 1996, we’ve seen world-famous superstars like David Beckham, Thierry Henry, and Andrea Pirlo grace the pitch stateside alongside fantastic home-grown talent from the United States.
Which players stand out among the thousands of athletes that have put on a Major League Soccer kit? In order to figure that out, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 best MLS players of all time.
Here we go!
10. Cobi Jones
The first entry on our list is none other than the U.S. Men’s National Team’s Most Capped Player (and Backyard Soccer legend) Cobi Jones. After featuring for the United States in the 1994 World Cup, Jones spent time with Coventry City in the Premier League before making his way to the Los Angeles Galaxy for the inaugural MLS season. The dreadlocked midfielder played over 306 games for LA, scoring 70 times and winning MLS Cup twice. Jones’ best season in the league came in 1998 where he tallied 19 goals and was named to the league’s Best XI.
9. David Villa
Spanish striker David Villa came stateside at the age of 33 years old and has been one of the most lethal players in league history despite his “advanced” age. After a European career that saw him win the Champion’s League with Barcelona and a World Cup with Spain, Villa has torn through Major League Soccer, scoring 66 goals in his 101 appearances with New York City FC. In his first three years in the league, Villa was named to the Best XI twice and was named league MVP for his 23 goal campaign back in 2016. Despite having only played in the United States for a little more than three seasons, David Villa has already made his mark as one of the league’s all-time greats.
8. Tony Meola
In addition to having a video game for the Super Nintendo named after him, Tony Meola is also one of the league’s best players. Meola appeared in 250 MLS games from 1996-2006 and backstopped the United States National team 100 times. The New Jersey native is also the only goalkeeper to win the league’s MVP award, which he was awarded back in 2000 after a season which included 16 shutouts. His 16 shutouts are an MLS record that still stands to this day, some 18 years later.
7. Chris Wondolowski
Despite being much maligned for his famous miss in the 2014 World Cup, current San Jose striker Chris Wondolowski is deserving of a place in the pantheon among the league’s best. After playing for six years in the league without much success, the California native has scored double-digit goals in each of the past eight seasons. Wondolowski has won the league’s Golden Boot twice, was named league MVP in 2012, and featured in the league’s Best XI for three straight seasons.
6. Marcelo Balboa
Perhaps best known for his iconic long hair and goatee, former Colorado Rapids defender Marcelo Balboa is among the best defenders in league history. Balboa was a player that was well ahead of his time as he was an incredibly technical defender who also had immense ability going forward in attack. Balboa’s style is certainly en vogue nowadays with teams all over the world, and his seven-year MLS tenure was enough for him to be named in the league’s All-Time Best XI in 2005.
5. Jeff Agoos
When you think about the best American defenders of all time, Jeff Agoos almost immediately comes to mind. The Switzerland-born defender was capped over 134 times for the United States National team and was a defensive stalwart in the early days of MLS. The one known as “the goose” experienced tremendous success in MLS, winning five MLS Cups and being named to the league’s Best XI on three separate occasions.
4. Eddie Pope
Despite the fact that his play on the field lacked a certain degree of flash, Eddie Pope is widely considered to be the best defender to ever don a United States National Team kit. Pope had an almost other-worldly sense of how the play in front of him was about to unfold and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. In addition to being a fantastic cerebral defender, Pope also showed a deft scoring touch when called upon as he scored the game-winning goal in the inaugural MLS Cup Final in 1996. Pope’s resume includes four appearances in the league’s Best XI, a Defender of the Year Award, and 82 international appearances. Not too shabby.
3. Robbie Keane
Much like David Villa, Robbie Keane didn’t come over to MLS until his early 30s. However, during his six-year MLS career, there were few better than Keane. The Irish international came stateside after a decorated European career which saw him play for the likes of Inter Milan, Tottenham, Liverpool, Celtic and West Ham United. Keane absolutely set the league on fire from the get-go in Los Angeles, scoring a total of 71 goals during the 2012-2015 seasons. As the lynchpin of a fantastic Galaxy attack, Keane helped lead the team to three MLS Cups and was named league MVP in 2014. On top of all of his MLS accomplishments, he’s also a first-cousin of famed Smiths singer Morrissey, which is pretty cool in its own right.
2. Jaime Moreno
Three-hundred-and-forty games played. One-hundred-and-thirty-three goals scored. One-hundred-and-two assists. Jaime Moreno has undoubtedly had one of the best careers in MLS history, yet he only comes in at number two on our list. The Bolivian forward played for D.C. United from 1996-2002 and then again from 2004-2010, and made an indelible mark on the league as he won four MLS Cups and was named to the league’s Best XI a whopping five times. Moreno also represented Bolivia in the 1994 World Cup, which is the last time the South American nation has featured in the tournament.
1. Landon Donovan
You most likely knew this one was coming. Our No. 1 ranked MLS player of all time is none other than Landon Donovan. The league’s MVP award is named after him, so how could we not make him our number one? The California-born attacker recently came out of retirement to play for Leon in Mexico’s Liga MX but most of his club accomplishments came in Major League Soccer. Donovan is considered by many to be America’s best-ever soccer player, and it’s hard to argue that given his six MLS Cup titles, one league MVP award, and his seven selections to the league’s Best XI. Donovan currently holds the MLS records for goals (145) and assists (136), and his play helped put the United States on the map as a national team. Donovan is also the joint-highest scoring player for the United States National Team, and at 36-years-old still has some magic left in his boots.