Top 10 Greatest MLS Players of All Time: 2023 Edition

Top 10 Greatest MLS Players of All Time: 2023 Edition

MLS earns praise as one of the world’s fastest-growing leagues thanks to the class of players that have featured in it.

We recognize these players and their contributions to the league.

Therefore, we have compiled the most outstanding ten and will discuss their MLS career highlights.

We base our greatest MLS players of all time ranking on the significance of these players’ MLS careers and their achievements during their spell with MLS Clubs.

It is noteworthy to note that some of these stars are ranked among the greatest soccer players of all time.

Greatest MLS Players of All Time

10. David Beckham

David Beckham
Source: Wikimedia

The former England international undoubtedly had a stellar career in Europe, largely featuring for Manchester United and Madrid and getting heavily involved in both club’s success.

More importantly, Beckham played a pivotal role in bringing the MLS into the limelight after securing a move to LA Galaxy for a former record lucrative contract.

Beckham contributed to his team on and off the pitch.

He would help the club pull off a lucrative $20 million shirt sponsorship deal after his highly popularized move.

Despite two loan spells to AC Milan, the English midfielder elevated LA Galaxy’s success throughout his five-year stay.

Beckham won ten trophies with LA Galaxy, including the MLS Cup, Supporter’s Shield, and Western Conference Playoffs.

He was also named ESPY Best MLS Player in 2008 and 2012.1

9. Jeff Agoos

Jeff Agoos
Source: Wikimedia

Forwards and highly prolific midfielders appear on this kind of list more often than not.

Little wonder Jeff Agoos was appointed to serve as the Vice President of Competition for MLS.

Jeff is revered as one of the best defenders in Major League Soccer history and has the records to prove his reception.

Agoos spent a decade in the league, featuring for DC United and San Jose Earthquakes.

His stints were successful with five MLS Cups, two Supporter’s Sheilds, the 1996 U.S. Open Cup, the 1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup, and the 1998 InterAmerican Cup.

He was named MLS Best Defender in 2001 and appeared in five MLS All-Stars and three MLS Best XI.

Agoos was also named among the MLS All-Time Best XI and was inducted into the 2009 National Soccer Hall of Fame.2

8. Carlos Valderrama

Carlos Valderrama
Source: Wikimedia

The Colombian soccer legend was famous for his hairdo, but also earned praise for his playing style.

Carlos Valderrama was a renowned deep-lying playmaker who racked up 114 assists in 177 MLS matches.

He spent five seasons in the league and set up 26 goals for his teammates in one of those seasons, setting a playmaking record yet to be broken.

Valderrama won the inaugural MLS Supporters’ Shield with Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1996, being named that year’s MVP and appearing in its Best XI.

He had featured in five MLS All-Stars and three MLS Best XIs when he retired in 2002. He was named to the MLS All-Time Best XI in 2005.

7. Zlatan Ibrahimović

Zlatan Ibrahimović
Source: Wikimedia

LA Galaxy acquired Zlatan Ibrahimović in 2018 on a two-season deal worth $7.2 million per season, one of the biggest in MLS history.3

While Zlatan’s spell with LA Galaxy resulted in no trophies, he won several individual league and club honors.

His debut is one to remember as he announced his presence in the MLS with a brace.

One of those goals was a 45-yard stunner that won the Goal of the Season award.

Despite his short stint in the MLS, Ibrahimović would be remembered as a league legend, scoring 53 goals in 58 games.

He was named MLS Newcomer of the Year in 2018 and appeared in the All-Star and Best XI that year and the following year.

Ibrahimović also won the Best MLS Player ESPY Award in 2019 and the MLS Greatest Goal Award for his debut MLS strike in 2020.4

LA Galaxy appreciated the Swedish striker not minding his expensive contract.

He emerged as the club’s Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019, also winning the Golden Boot and Goal of the Year awards.

6. David Villa

David Villa
Source: Wikimedia

David Villa would become one of the MLS all-time best after becoming New York City FC’s first-ever designated player in 2014.

The Spaniard did not inspire New York City FC to any major trophy during his four-year stint, but his honors prove how unplayable he was.

He won the MLS MVP Award in 2016 and the Best MLS Player ESPY Award in 2017.5

He appeared in the MLS Best XI in both years and featured in the MLS All-Star between 2015 and 2018.

Villa also won every major award available for his position on the club level and tallied 77 goals in 117 appearances.

5. Diego Valeri

Diego Valeri
Source: Wikimedia

Valeri’s technical prowess places him among MLS greats as he became Portland Timbers’ creative lynchpin and the key to the team’s attack.

The Argentine was a reputable playmaker but could put in the shift and produce goals from the middle of the park.

His first MLS season saw him tally 10 goals and 13 assists to become the Newcomer of the Year in 2013 and appear in the league’s Best XI.

He finished his MLS career with 100 goals and 104 assists, becoming the third MLS player in history to record at least 80 goals and set up 80 for his teammates.

Valeri helped the Timbers win the MLS Cup in 2015 and the MLS is Back Tournament in 2020.

His honors include the MLS Cup Most Valuable Player Award in 2015, the MLS MVP Award in 2017, and four MLS All-Star and Best XI appearances.

4. Robbie Keane

Robbie Keane
Source: Wikimedia

Robbie Keane is most popular among Spurs fans as a club legend. However, his spectacular MLS career places him among the league’s all-time bests.

The Ireland International was a versatile forward known for his playmaking ability and eye for goals.

He displayed his ability during his six-season spell with LA Galaxy, scoring 104 goals in 165 appearances.

2014 seemed to be the highlight of Keane’s MLS career, winning the MLS Cup and being named the tournament’s MVP.

He also won the league’s MVP that year.6

Keane would leave the MLS as one of the most successful European imports, lifting four trophies with the club, including three MLS Cups and the 2011 Supporters’ Shield.

He won two MLS Player of the Month Awards and four LA Galaxy Most Valuable Player of the Year Awards.

Keane also featured in the 2015 All-Star and appeared in the Best XI between 2012 and 2015.

3. Sebastian Giovinco

Sebastian Giovinco
Source: Wikimedia

Giovinco signed a five-year deal with Toronto FC, making him the then-MLS’s highest-paid player as he bagged more than $7 million annually.7

Investing that much in the Italian ultimately paid off.

During his stay, the Canadian side won the MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield, and three consecutive Canadian Championship titles.

Giovinco was a reputable scorer and playmaker thanks to his vision, dribbling skills, and excellent link-up play.

As such, he won several individual league awards, including the Golden Boot, MVP Award, and Newcomer of the Year Award, before leaving for Saudi League in 2019.

He also recorded 68 goals and 52 assists in 114 regular-season games, 111 of which he started.

The G/A tally shot up to 83 goals and 64 assists in 142 appearances for Toronto FC.

2. Chris Wondolowski

Chris Wondolowski
Source: Wikimedia

How could this list be complete without the league’s greatest scorer?

Chris Wondolowski is the highest-scoring footballer in Major League Soccer history, with 171 goals across 18 seasons.

While Wondolowski is not as popular as some European imports, he holds the record as the only player in MLS history to record double figures of goals in ten consecutive seasons.8

He also holds the record for most MLS away goals.

Wondolowski finished his MLS career with two MLS Cups and Supporters’ Shields. He won two MLS Golden Boot Awards and was the 2012 MVP.

The former United States international also appeared in three MLS Best XIs and five MLS All-Stars.

1. Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan
Source: Wikimedia

Landon Donovan is the MLS’s greatest footballer of all time, with many records and honors to support his claim.

He was a versatile forward respected for his speed, stamina, intelligence, and technical prowess that saw him record 147 goals and 136 assists in 340 Major League Soccer games.

Donovan’s medal safe is packed with individual and team glory among which are thirteen MLS All-Star and seven Best XI appearances.

He was named the MLS All-Star Game and MLS Cup MVP twice and won the league’s MVP Award in 2009.

Donovan won six MLS Cups with LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes.

He also won two Supporters’ Shields with the earlier and the 2005 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Wrap Up

Major League Soccer has been around almost as long as the English Premier League, and with recent progress in the MLS, both leagues have attracted intense comparisons.

However, there is a sharp contrast between both leagues.

While the EPL is renowned as home to some of the world’s best players, MLS is mocked as a retirement home to European exports.

Old or not, some of these European exports who dominate the greatest MLS players of all time list have helped homegrown talents reach their potential and massively performed for their respective teams

References & Notes

Facts Sources:
  1. Beckham named ‘Best MLS Player‘. MLS Soccer
  2. Red Bulls’ Jeff Agoos gets inducted into National Soccer Hall of Fame. Daily News
  3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic sets MLS salary record at $7.2 million. USA Today
  4. Zlatan Ibrahimović Stunner voted Greatest Goal presented by AT&T. MLS Soccer
  5. New York City FC forward David Villa wins 2016 Landon Donovan MLS MVP. MLS Soccer
  6. LA Galaxy’s Robbie Keane named Major League Soccer MVP. ESPN
  7. Italy attacker Sebastian Giovinco to join Toronto FC in July. ESPN
  8. Sporting Kansas City 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1 | 2019 MLS Match Recap. MLS Soccer

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