The Major League Soccer is getting bigger every year. It’s a shame to see the departure of world-class players such as Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but the North American competition still has a lot of talent, maybe more than ever. The MLS has always been the perfect league for players who were close to retiring. However, that changed in the last couple of years.
It has become a more attractive option for players from all over the world, especially for those from Mexico’s Liga MX. The MLS teams reinforce their squads with promising and experienced stars to be more competitive every year. Los Angeles Galaxy and the league itself suffered a big loss when Ibrahimovic’s contract ended, but the club signed another world-class player to replace him: Javier Chicharito Hernández.
Forwards and attacking midfielders take the spotlight, as always, but there are some great defenders too, who made enough merits to be among the best in the championship. The league released a list with the best players, but we made some changes. Here are the top 25 players in MLS.
25. Alan Pulido (Sporting Kansas City)
The striker joined the MLS after finishing as the Liga MX top goal scorer with Chivas in 2019. There’s a lot of expectation around the 29-year-old Mexican, who will try to show his scoring abilities in the MLS.
24. Nani (Orlando City SC)
The former Manchester United player had a promising first season in the MLS last year, with 12 goals and 10 assists in 30 games. However, his numbers were not enough to lead his team into the playoffs. Nani will need to show a similar or higher level to send Orlando City to the playoffs for the first time.
23. Alexander Ring (New York City FC)
The Finnish midfielder is definitely a key player for his team. He is the captain of New York City FC and with his leadership helped to put the team among the best of the East. Ring can play in different positions around the midfield, and stands out for his passing and pressing.
22. Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United)
Maybe he has not showed what he is really capable of in the MLS yet, but there’s no doubt that the Argentine is one of the most talented players in the league. Teams from Europe have already been tracking him. This should be Barco’s year, playing alongside Gonzalo Pity Martínez and Josef Martínez in attack.
21. Darlington Nagbe (Columbus Crew)
The midfielder joined Columbus Crew after finishing the 2019 season. It’s his fourth team in the MLS. Nagbe already won the MLS Cup with Portland Timbers in 2015 and with Atlanta United in 2018. He is a player who usually does things right in midfield, controlling the ball and assisting his teammates.
20. Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls)
Last season, the defender could not show the same kind of performances he did in 2018, when he won the 2018 MLS Defender of the Year award. However, Long is still one of the best center-backs in the MLS.
19. Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)
The experienced midfielder is one of the most iconic MLS players at the moment. He has been played in the league for more than seven years now, and always with Portland. Valeri will be surrounded by younger players and he will be the leader of them all. He already won the MLS Cup in 2015 and the 2017 MLS MVP award. In 2019, he made 16 assists in 31 games.
18. Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
The winger had two forgettable seasons full of injuries in 2017 and 2018, but he finally returned fully fit in 2019 and became the unquestionable Comeback Player of the Year. Morris helped his team to clinch the MLS Cup last season and is ready for more. His pace and speed will be crucial for the Sounders attack.
17. Sebastián Blanco (Portland Timbers)
The Argentine playmaker will be crucial for the Timbers in the team’s quest for the title. Blanco, who is always deployed on the left, has showed to be one of the elite players in MLS. He and his compatriot Valeri will be the key for Portland.
16. Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
The striker had some injury problems in the last couple of season, but he will try to stay healthy and prove everyone that he can be one of the most dangerous finishers in the league. He already won the MLS Cup in 2017 and even scored in the final. It’s time for the 30-year-old striker to get back to his best form.
15. Diego Rossi (Los Angeles FC)
The 22-year-old Uruguayan striker has become one of the best forwards in the league. He scored 16 goals in the 2019 season and now he will try to be more consistent with his performances. Fans should enjoy his goal-scoring skills as it’s uncertain how much longer he is going to stay in the MLS.
14. Rodolfo Pizarro (Inter Miami)
He is one of the most important signings in MLS history. The Mexican midfielder left Monterrey from his homeland to join Inter Miami. He has everything to become one of the top players in the league. Pizarro should be the playmaker and the leader of his new team.
13. Cristian Pavón (Los Angeles Galaxy)
The Argentine registered three goals and eight assists in 11 games since he joined the team in August, 2019. The winger is a key player for manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who was also Pavón’s coach in Boca Juniors. With Ibrahimovic’s departure, Pavón will assist Chicharito Hernández in LA Galaxy.
12. Raúl Ruidíaz (Seattle Sounders)
He has the ability to be in the right place at the right time to score goals. The Peruvian striker became one of the Sounders’ most important signings. He helped the team to clinch the MLS cup in 2019 by scoring 11 goals. Maybe his numbers are not as incredible as Carlos Vela’s, Ibrahimovic’s or Josef Martínez’s, but he still is an outstanding striker.
11. Eduard Atuesta (Los Angeles FC)
The Colombian midfielder showed how important he is for the team during the 2019 season. Although Vela takes all the attention, LAFC wouldn’t work the same way without Atuesta. He made 11 assists last year and proved to be one of the best midfielders in the league. European clubs have already added him to their shortlists.
10. Gonzalo Martínez (Atlanta United)
Will this be Martínez’s year? The attacking midfielder showed glimpses of his skills last season, but failed to fulfill the expectations. However, Pity Martínez is one of the most talented players in the league and fans are waiting to see the level he showed playing for River Plate in the 2018 Copa Libertadores. He led the team to the title, beating arch-rivals Boca Juniors in the finals and winning the South American Player of the Year award.
9. Carles Gil (New England Revolution)
The Spanish midfielder had an outstanding first season in the MLS. He recorded 10 goals and 14 assists in 34 games, making him the winner of the Newcomer of the Year award. He led the Revs to the playoffs last season and is hoping to repeat that in the future.
8. Jonathan dos Santos (Los Angles Galaxy)
The Mexican international has been LA Galaxy engine since he joined in 2017, even with Ibrahimovic in the team. His numbers might not be too impressive as he is not used to score goals or make assists. However, the midfielder became one of the best in his position, thanks to his ability to cover spaces and control the ball.
7. Ike Opara (Minnesota United)
Opara showed how important is to have a solid defense. The center-back recorded an average of 5.3 clearances, 2.6 aerial won, 1.8 interceptions and 1.5 tackles per game for Minnesota. In 2019, he won the Defender of the Year award for the second time in three seasons.
6. Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC)
He arrived at the Canadian team in order to fill Sebastian Giovinco’s shoes. And he did a great job. The former La Liga player recorded 12 goals and 12 assists in his first season with Toronto and helped the team to reach the MLS Cup final. Pozuelo is definitively of the players to watch in the MLS.
5. Javier Hernández (Los Angeles Galaxy)
His experienced in the European soccer made him one of the best Mexican players ever. He played for world-class team such as Manchester United and Real Madrid, and now it’s time for him to show his goal-scoring skills in the MLS. Chicharito is different to Ibrahimovic. Maybe he won’t score as many goals as the Swede superstar, but he will definitively help the team to press and defend.
4. Maxi Moralez (New York City FC)
What a 2019 season for the attacking midfielder! The Argentine recorded 20 assists and scored seven goals in 28 games in 2019. Just one player in MLS history had registered more assists in a single season than Moralez, and was the legendary Carlos Valderrama in 2000, with 26.
3. Nicolás Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders)
The Uruguayan playmaker has always been a talented player, but he surpassed his own level after signing for the Sounders. He led the team as its captain to win the MLS Cup in 2019, his second title in four years with Seattle. He is the engine of the Sounders and one of the league’s stars at the moment.
2. Josef Martínez (Atlanta United)
A true goal-scoring machine! The Venezuelan striker has an amazing record of 82 goals in 92 MLS appearances with Atlanta United. He even found the net in 15 consecutive games in the 2019 season, a new MLS record. With Martínez as the main man in attack, and Barco and Pity Martínez on the sides, Atlanta is a big contender to win the MLS Cup, as the team did in 2018.
1. Carlos Vela (Los Angeles FC)
Just take a look at his numbers. He finished the 2019 campaign with 34 goals (MLS record) and 15 assists in 31 games. Amazing! His team could not reach the MLS Cup final last season, but the Mexican forward won the Most Valuable Player award. It will be very difficult for him to repeat what he did in 2019, that’s for sure. But there’ not doubt that the MLS wouldn't be the same without Vela.