Top 10 MLS Players of all time
Is it fair to say that Landon Donovan was better than Leo Messi? Well, he was in terms of his career MLS performance. We rank the 10 greatest players in MLS history.
Messi to MLS mania is officially going crazy. With the recent news that fellow Barcelona stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba (and perhaps Eden Hazard as well) will be joining Argentine superstar Lionel Messi at Inter Miami, it’s important to remember that MLS history already has its share of legendary players.
Previously, MLS Designated Players have been the talk of the league, but they haven’t been the only MLS stars. We will look at the all-time top 10 here.
Who are the best current MLS players?
The leading goal-scorer for the 2022 MLS season was Nashville forward Hany Mukhtar, followed by Austin FC forward Sebastian Driussi and Philadelphia Union forward Daniel Gazdag. The leading assist man was FC Cincinnati winger Luciano Acosta.
Famous MLS Players
When looking back at the biggest names in MLS history, two superstars immediately come to mind for different reasons: Landon Donovan and David Beckham. Donovan is the most decorated player in the history of the league, while Beckham was its biggest global icon during the pre-Messi era.
The MLS has featured names like Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Sebastian Giovinco which are Designated Players. Check out the 10 greatest Designated Players in MLS history.
Before delving into the top 10 all-time MLS greats, some honorable mentions are in order for players who just missed the cut. This group includes former Sounders forward Clint Dempsey, former Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, former New York Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, and former LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane.
Ranking the Top 10 Greatest Players in MLS History
- Andre Blake
Years Active in MLS: 2014 to present
Team: Philadelphia Union
Awards: MLS Goalkeeper of the Year (2016, 2020, 2022), MLS Best XI (2016, 2020, 2022)
Andre Blake is more than just the token goalkeeper on this list. In fact, he is a three-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year -- the most of any keeper in MLS history – and a two-time runner-up for the award. On top of that, Blake is still only 32 and shows absolutely no sign of slowing down.
Drafted first overall by the Philadelphia Union in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft out of UConn, Blake has held the starting job in the City of Brotherly Love for almost a decade, having played in 220 games with the Union. He has also accumulated 66 caps for a resurgent Jamaican national team that looks set to qualify for the 2026 World Cup. There is no doubt that Blake is one of the best active players in today’s MLS.
- Chad Marshall
Years Active in MLS: 2004 to 2019
Teams: Columbia Crew, Seattle Sounders
Awards: MLS Cup (2008, 2016, 2019), MLS Defender of the Year (2008, 2009, 2014), MLS Best XI (2008, 2009, 2014, 2018)
Like Andre Blake on the goalkeeping side, Chad Marshall has the most MLS Defender of the Year awards in league history with three. Drafted second overall by the Columbus Crew in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft, Marshall was a rock for the Ohio club for 10 years, racking up 272 total appearances, winning an MLS Cup, and claiming three Supporters Shields.
That wasn’t enough for Marshall. After a trade to the Seattle Sounders in 2014, he snagged another two MLS Cups and two more MLS Best XI honors to bring his career total in that category to four. Marshall was already an MLS legend by the time he retired after the 2019 season. When a player can win championships with multiple MLS teams, it is safe to say he had an impressive career.
- Carlos Valderrama
Years Active in MLS: 1996 to 2002
Teams: Tampa Bay Mutiny, Miami Fusion, Colorado Rapids
Awards: FIFA 100 (2004), MLS MVP (1996)
Named to Pele’s “FIFA 100” list as one of the 100 best living players in 2004, the Colombian midfielder Carlos Valderrama had a highly successful career in South America and Europe before joining MLS. He was one of the league’s founding fathers upon joining the now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny for the 1996 season.
Brief stints followed with the Miami Fusion and Colorado Rapids before Valderrama retired at age 41 in 2002. In his short but fruitful MLS career, the Colombian racked up an MLS Supporters’ Shield, an MLS MVP award (1996), and an All-Time MLS Best XI selection. He also set the league’s single-season assist record with a whopping 26 in 2000. His iconic hairstyle no doubt helps him in being one of the first names soccer fans think of when they hear “best MLS players ever.”
- Jeff Agoos
Years Active in MLS: 1996 to 2005
Teams: DC United, San Jose Earthquakes, MetroStars
Awards: MLS Cup (1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003), MLS Defender of the Year (2001), MLS Best XI (1997, 1999, 2001)
Jeff “the Goose” Agoos is arguably the greatest American center back of all time. He had 134 caps for the U.S. Men’s National Team, was a three-time MLS Best XI honoree, the 2001 MLS Defender of the Year, a five-time MLS champion (three with DC United and two with San Jose), and was ranked by Betway Insider as the greatest Jewish American player of all time.
The American star was playing for German side SV Wehen before joining the newly-formed MLS in 1996 as a member of DC United. He starred in the nation’s capital for five years before moving to San Jose in 2001.
- Dwayne De Rosario
Years Active in MLS: 2001 to 2014
Teams: San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo, Toronto FC, New York Red Bulls, DC United
Awards: MLS Cup (2001, 2003, 2006, 2007), MLS Best XI (2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011), MLS MVP (2011)
The only Canadian in this top 10 ranking, midfielder Dwayne De Rosario was versatile enough to score 104 career MLS goals, good for ninth on the all-time list, while simultaneously serving as a rock in numerous MLS midfields.
After helping San Jose capture the MLS Cup in both 2001 and 2003, De Rosario moved to Houston and was the best player on back-to-back MLS Cup-winning Houston Dynamo teams in 2006 and 2007. This came during his stretch of six MLS Best XI selections in the seven seasons from 2005 to 2011. In 2011, then playing for Toronto FC, the Canadian took home a long-overdue MLS MVP award.
- Sebastian Giovinco
Years Active in MLS: 2015 to 2019
Team: Toronto FC
Awards: MLS Cup (2017), MLS Best XI (2015, 2016, 2017), MLS MVP (2015)
After a successful career in Italy that included multiple Serie A titles with Juventus, Sebastian Giovinco, then age 28, decided to give MLS a shot in 2015 and moved to Toronto FC. While he only stayed in North America for four years, he made the most of his brief tenure.
The “Atomic Ant” made the MLS All-Star team in all four years that he was in the league, snagged three MLS Best XI selections, won the 2015 MLS MVP and Golden Boot, and led Toronto FC to the 2017 MLS Cup. In 114 career games, he had 68 goals and 52 assists -- staggering numbers by any account.
Giovinco also has the most MLS free-kick goals of all time and is one of the best European players in MLS history.
- Jaime Moreno
Years Active in MLS: 1996 to 2010
Teams: DC United, MetroStars
Awards: MLS Cup (1996, 1997, 1999, 2004), MLS Best XI (1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006)
The Bolivian-born forward Jaime Moreno had an interesting career path. After starring for Blooming in his native Bolivia, he signed with Middlesbrough of the Premier League. Some 20 appearances later, Moreno was on the move to MLS’ DC United. He exploded onto the scene with 19 goals in his first 29 MLS appearances before re-joining Middlesbrough (by then in the second division) on loan in early 1998.
Moreno returned to MLS and never left. Apart from one season with the MetroStars, the Bolivian was “Mr. DC United.” He became the first MLS player to score 100 goals and record 100 assists. He led DC United to four MLS Cups, and four Supporters’ Shields, was named to five MLS Best XI teams, made the MLS All-Time Best XI, and was even named to the Washington DC Sports Hall of Fame.
Years Active in MLS: 1996 to 2005
Teams: Kansas City Wizards, Miami Fusion
Awards: MLS Cup (2000), MLS MVP (1997, 2003)
Another old-school MLS name, Predrag Radosavljevic (popularly known as “Preki”) was an original MLS signing for the Kansas City Wizards after playing for teams such as Everton and Portsmouth in the Premier League.
Already 33 by the time he entered MLS, Preki still won two MLS MVP awards and two Golden Boots, which included claiming both at age 40 in 2003. He managed to score 79 MLS goals for the Wizards and Miami Fusion and won the MLS Cup with Kansas City in 2000. Preki was truly a Major League Soccer legend.
- Chris Wondolowski
Years Active in MLS: 2005 to 2021
Teams: San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo
Awards: MLS Cup (2006, 2007), MLS Best XI (2010, 2011, 2012), MLS MVP (2012)
Perhaps unfairly known for missing an easy scoring chance that would have sent the USMNT to the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals, Chris “Wondo” Wondolowski is the highest scorer in the history of the MLS (171 total goals). The league’s top scorer in both 2010 and 2012 was a mainstay for dominant San Jose Earthquakes teams.
Wondolowski moved to San Jose in 2009 after winning two MLS Cups early in his career with the Houston Dynamo. A dominant 2012 season saw him score 27 goals to match Roy Lassiter’s 16-year-old MLS record. A natural goal poacher, he displayed that ability better than all the players in MLS.
- Landon Donovan
Years Active in MLS: 2001 to 2016
Teams: San Jose Earthquakes, LA Galaxy
Awards: MLS Cup (2001, 2003, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014), MLS Best XI (2003, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014), MLS Cup MVP (2003, 2011), MLS MVP (2009)
There was only going to be one answer for the greatest MLS player of all time: Landon Donovan. The American midfielder joined the San Jose Earthquakes on loan from Bayer Levekusen in 2001 and never looked back, especially after he moved over to the LA Galaxy.
The all-time MLS record-holder for assists and the second-leading scorer in league history, Donovan’s list of MLS accomplishments is staggering. He was a six-time MLS Cup champion, was named to the MLS All-Time Best XI team, was the 2009 MLS MVP, was a seven-time selection for the MLS Best XI, and was a two-time MLS Cup MVP.
Parameters of Rankings
These rankings of the greatest players in MLS history are based on four factors. Those factors are the hype that each player generated in terms of fan interest, each player’s individual level of performance, the success of each player’s teams, and the impact each player had on MLS as a whole.
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