With more eyes on American soccer than ever before, it is becoming increasingly common to see household names move both to and from MLS. With the game having enjoyed rapid growth in popularity and quality over recent years, the United States has become a hotbed for home-grown and acquired talent.
Shrewd additions and big-money sales have helped to raise standards across the board, with the national game benefiting considerably as the USMNT becomes a squad brimming with pedigree and potential.
World Cup title odds in 2022 may not be siding with Team America just yet, as they sit at +12500 to secure an unlikely triumph in Qatar, but steps in the right direction are being taken. FIFA World Cup news will be dominated by players of American heritage, while many more plying their trade in the USA will make headlines across the globe. Who knows, maybe one of those will go all the way, get their hands on the ultimate prize and add their name to a star-studded list of MLS alumni.
World Cup winners in MLS
With the legendary Frenchman having won just about everything on offer in Europe – including Premier League, La Liga and Champions League titles with Arsenal and Barcelona – 1998 World Cup winner Henry linked up with the New York Red Bulls in 2010 and spent four years in the Big Apple.
One of the classiest playmakers the game has ever seen, Italian maestro Pirlo – who conquered the world with his country in 2006 – saw out his illustrious career with New York City FC between 2015 and 2017.
An icon at AC Milan, with a Ballon d’Or win on his distinguished CV, Kaka lapped up three seasons of sun with Orlando City 12 years after helping Brazil to the most recent of their five World Cup triumphs in 2002.
Good enough to have spent three years at Barcelona, Villa was the first man signed by expansion franchise New York City in 2014, allowing a 2010 World Cup winner with Spain to get a taste of life away from his homeland.
A combative midfielder who became a legend at Bayern Munich, Schweinsteiger helped Germany to World Cup glory in 2014 and moved to America three years later when leaving Manchester United for the Chicago Fire.
A cultured center-half who never looked ruffled, Nesta formed part of Italy’s World Cup-winning squad in 2006 and spent two years with the Montreal Impact towards the end of his playing days.
Hard-working French forward Djorkaeff savored World Cup glory on home soil in 1998 and brought the curtain down on his career in the United States when representing the New York Red Bulls.
He appeared to have the world at his feet when tasting global glory with Brazil in 2002, but a move to Manchester United did not play out as a planned and Kleberson spent time in America with the Philadelphia Union, the Indy Eleven and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
Once the most expensive player on the planet, Denilson’s dancing feet formed part of the same successful Brazil squad as Kleberson. In 2007 he took in a short spell with FC Dallas, but headed home without making much of an impression.
Not just a World Cup winner, but a triumphant captain. Matthaus, who represented the New York Metrostars in 2000, got his hands on the most prestigious of prizes when skippering West Germany to glory in 1990.
There will be plenty of MLS-based talent on show at the 2022 World Cup finals, with the potential there for somebody else to etch their name onto a notable roll of honor.