5 Best Players in MLS History

With the new MLS season now under way, we look back on some of the greatest players to grace the top league across the pond.

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The 2023 MLS season is now underway following the winter break. It is the 28th incarnation of the top football league in the United States and Canada and over the years there have been some iconic players.

From homegrown stars, to global celebrities, to unheralded journeymen who have found their home in the US, there has always been an interesting mix of players in the league.

Here are some of the greatest players of all time to grace the MLS across the pond.

5. David Beckham

The MLS received attention worldwide when David Beckham announced he was leaving Real Madrid for LA Galaxy ahead of the 2007 season. The then 31-year-old was hoping to be the figurehead to propel the league to stardom.

While there was obviously a healthy dose of cynicism attached to the deal, Beckham was still a serious footballer at this stage and was still being picked for England duty, despite being in his 30s.

He was also a terrific signing for Galaxy and he helped take them to two MLS Cup titles in 2011 and 2012.

Beckham also netted seven of his trademark free-kicks while in California with only three players scoring more in the league’s history.

4. Bradley Wright-Phillips

Before swapping the UK for the US, Wright-Phillips was essentially a jobbing EFL forward and was hovering between the Championship and League One.

He had a pretty good goalscoring record in England but that improved significantly when he made the move to New York Red Bulls in 2013.

Wright-Phillips, brother of Shaun and son of former Arsenal forward Ian, had a phenomenal goalscoring record for the Red Bulls and stayed there for seven seasons as he became the main man up top.

He scored 126 goals in 240 appearances in all competitions and, following short spells with Los Angeles FC and Colombus Crew, he retired in 2022.

3. Chris Wondolowski

No other player has scored as many goals in the MLS than US international Wondolowski.

In a 16-year career between 2005 and 2021, the striker, nicknamed ‘Wondo’ scored 171 goals.

Most of his time in the division was spent with San Jose Earthquakes and he remained very loyal to the club despite never challenging for too many major honours (the 2005 and 2012 Supporters’ Shield trophies aside).

He was also a regular for the Stars and Stripes’ National team between 2011 and 2016, netting 11 goals in 35 caps.

He signed off his professional career in 2021 with a goal in a 1-1 draw versus FC Dallas.

2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic only spent a short time in America but he absolutely blitzed the league despite being at an age – 36 – when most players have already hung up their boots.

The Swedish forward has always been one for the limelight so a move to the Hollywood city was always a match made in heaven and he did not disappoint.

In two years at the club, between 2018 and 2019, he scored 53 goals in 58 games and his best was in his debut during a 4-3 comeback win against rivals Ls Angeles FC.

Ibrahimovic struck a half-volley from 45 yards out and owned the stage at Galaxy for two years thereafter.

1. Landon Donovan

Donovan was one of the biggest stars in US football in the noughties and early 2010s.

His career is littered with trophies and medals and the majority of it was spent with LA Galaxy, where he played 317 games and scored 141 goals between 2005 and 2016.

In that time, he won four MLS Cups and two Supporters’ Shield trophies.

He also had loan spells at Bayern Munich and Everton during his time there and, in truth, had the ability to pursue a longer-term career in a better league.

However, he remained put and is adored by Galaxy fans to this day.

A sports journalist for over 15 years, Aidan has been part of written and audio coverage on a wide-ranging number of events. Having played and coached at amateur level, he offers in-depth insight and opinion into the world of football in particular.
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