MLS has always been a spending league, the league at various points in its history has spent the big bucks to bring in players that can elevate their teams. With the designated player rule, teams have gone out into the market and have signed many high-profile talents for high transfer fees.
In 2022, MLS clubs continue to spend a record amount on incoming talents, this offseason FC Dallas brought in Argentine creative midfielder Alan Velasco for $7 million and Orlando City brought in Facundo Torres for $10 million, both club records.
In this article we will review who are the highest incoming transfers in MLS history, this list will seem pretty recent, but that is because just as MLS is selling players at a high value, the league's teams are buying them as well. Here are the top incoming MLS transfers in league history!
Giovani dos Santos - $7 Million
In a move the Galaxy would most likely like to have back, the Mexican international came to MLS at $7 million. A career of underperforming, Giovani dos Santos did just that in Los Angeles with 26 goals in 77 games mixed with up and down performances. dos Santos had his contract bought out by the club to easy his departure.
Alan Velasco - $7 Million
19-year-old Argentine creative midfielder Alan Velasco made a surprise move to FC Dallas in 2022. Velasco was one of the Argentine league’s best players and played 48 games with Independiente before his big move to MLS and FC Dallas.
Sebastián Driussi - $7 Million
Sebastián Driussi has been a smash hit for Austin FC, playing at an MVP level in 2022. Driussi was the spark Austin needed to be taken seriously in MLS and has transformed himself into one of the best players in all of MLS.
Xherdan Shaqiri - $7.5 Million
Veteran Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri comes to the Chicago Fire after stints at Lyon, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, and Liverpool, among others. On the international side Xherdan Shaqiri is a three-time World Cup veteran for Switzerland. “We’re extremely pleased to formally welcome Xherdan Shaqiri to the Fire,” sporting director Georg Heitz said in a press release. “Xherdan is a game-changing player and someone who will bring joy to our supporters and the city of Chicago.”
Lucas Zelarayán - $8 Million
The now Armenian international came to MLS in 2020 and has been a highlight reel free kick taker and one of the best creative midfielders in all of MLS. Zelarayán won the 2020 MLS cup with the Columbus Crew.
Miguel Almirón - $8 Million
Before becoming one of the league’s highest ever outgoing transfer Miguel Almirón came to Atlanta United at $8 million. Miguel Almirón came as the best player in the Argentine league, dominated the league, and left for a record near $27 million transfer fee to Newcastle United.
Brian Rodríguez - $8 Million
Uruguayan international Brian Rodríguez was brought for a record $8 million from Peñarol to LAFC. Rodríguez showed flashes of brilliance but never took the league by storm, scoring only 8 goals in 55 games. Rodríguez’s desire to move to Europe forced a loan to Almería, when he returned to MLS after a rough spell in Spain the midfielder came back with a better head on his shoulders but again pushed for a move to LigaMX side Club America only four months later.
Alexandru Mitriță - $8.8 Million
The Romanian midfielder came to NYCFC in 2019 and was not as impressive as the team would have liked, playing 46 games and scoring 16 goals. Mitriță has been loaned three times since his big money move to MLS.
Matías Pellegrini - $8.91 Million
Young Argentine midfielder Matías Pellegrini was bought for $8.9 million from Estudiantes de La Plata. Unfortunately for Pellegrini he was loaned out to USL side Fort Lauderdale CF in 2021 after Inter Miami failed to comply with MLS roster mandates and correct number of Designated Players. Pellegrini played only 19 games and scored 1 goal for the club and is now with NYCFC.
Clint Dempsey - $9 Million
The greatest American soccer player of all-time returned to MLS from Tottenham at a record $9 million. The Seattle Sounders saw vintage Dempsey with great skill and great goals. Dempsey was forced to retire due to a heart issue but played 115 games and scored 47 goals.
Javier Hernández - $9.4 Million
Chicharito is MLS and the Los Angeles Galaxy’s ultimate prize catch, after a disastrous 2020, Javier Hernández came back full throttle in 2021 but injuries caught up with him yet again but he still managed 17 goals in 21 games. Entering 2022, Chicarito has only played 33 games and scored 19 goals.
Alan Pulido - $9.5 Million
Often injured Alan Pulido cost Sporting KC $9.5 million; he has been worth every penny when he has played. Injuries have derailed what should be a success case in MLS as Pulido will miss all of 2022 with a knee injury.
Brian Fernández - $9.9 Million
When the Portland Timbers bought Brian Fernández from Necaxa at $9.9 million they wanted goals, they got goals, but also a world of problems. On the field Fernández scored 11 goals in 19 games, off the field, unfortunately the player suffers from a long-standing drug problem. The Timbers terminated the contract and afterward when Brian Fernández returned to Argentina he went missing for 24 hours while playing for Colon de Santa Fe and even received death threats from his own father.
Jozy Altidore - $10 Million
Jozy Altidore came to Toronto FC to help ignite the struggling franchise and get his career back on track after a rather dismal spell in the Premier League. Altidore paid off big, scoring clutch goals and winning the 2017 MLS Cup.
Michael Bradley - $10 Million
Michael Bradley got the deal of a lifetime going to Toronto FC and earning one of the highest salaries in MLS for over 4 years. Bradley was an on again off again starter at Roma when Toronto FC came knocking. Bradley would help elevate the club to championships and continues to be a reference for the team in 2022.
Facundo Torres - $10 Million
The former Peñarol star moved to Orlando City for a $10 million transfer fee plus add-ons. Torres is a young and up and coming player in Uruguay and will be the main point of attack for the Lions. Torres is considered one of the top prospects in South America.
Jermain Defoe - $10 Million
English forward Jermain Defoe came to MLS in 2014 and played only 19 games for Toronto FC scoring 11 goals. It was said that Defoe was not happy in Toronto and returned to England where he continues to play till this day.
Cucho Hernandez - $10 Million
Colombian striker Cucho Hernandez comes to the Columbus Crew on a $10 million transfer and a well traveled career which saw him play and score goals at Wolves, Mallorca, and the Colombian national team.
Alejandro Pozuelo - $ 11 Million
Alejandro Pozuelo arrived at Toronto FC from Genk at $11 million and he has been an MVP caliber signing since. With 22 goals in 72 games the Spanish international has been an MLS MVP in 2020 as well as an MLS All-Star, and two-time MLS best eleven. Pozuelo is now with Inter Miami.
Talles Magno - $12 Million
The 18- year-old Brazilian prodigy was purchased by NYCFC for $12 Million from Brazilian giants Vasco da Gama. Talles Magno played over 50 games for Vasco and represents Brazil at the youth level.
Luiz Araújo - $12 Million
According to sources Atlanta United paid $12 million for the Brazilian midfielder. Luiz Araújo came to MLS after a championship run with Lille in France and has played very well for the five stripes since his arrival in 2021.
Rodolfo Pizarro - $12 Million
Mexican international Rodolfo Pizarro was brought from Monterrey for $12 million. His time at Inter Miami was a resounding flop; the Mexican scored only 7 goals in 46 games and was ineffective in nearly every match he played. Pizarro was loaned to Monterrey for 2022.
Brenner - $13 Million
Sao Paulo youngster Brenner made an unlikely move to FC Cincinnati and MLS at $13 million. The young forward has already played for the Brazilian U-17’s and scored 13 goals in 32 games for the Brazilian giants, his move comes as a message that FC Cincinnati is ready to make the playoffs in MLS. In 2021 Brenner scored 8 goals in 33 games for a sorry Cincinnati team.
Ezequiel Barco - $15 Million
The former Independiente midfielder, Ezequiel Barco, was a huge splash signing by Atlanta United back in 2018. Barco’s MLS time was been rather incomplete, his ability and scoring power has come in spurts, he had 17 goals in 81 games with 2021 being his best season. It’s Barco’s maturity that came under question, he had personal issues with a teammate’s girlfriend during the Tata Martino era, under Frank de Boer all of Atlanta was a mess, and when things looked good in 2021 Barco was loaned to River Plate for 2022 since the club has had problems selling the player for the fee they desire.
Gonzalo "El Pity" Martínez - $15.5 Million
Gonzalo "El Pity" Martínez signed via River Plate at a near $16 million, the former South American player of the year was a major disappointment. Often too hot and cold to properly lead Atlanta United, in only 1 and a half season an unexpected offer from Saudi team Al-Nassr came and he was sold, and Pity became one of the most expensive outgoing and incoming transfers in MLS history.
Thiago Almada - $16 Million
The highest incoming transfer fee ever paid in MLS history belongs to Thiago Almada who comes to Atlanta United from Vélez Sarsfield. At Vélez, Almada showed a lot of grace and creativity and is considered one of Argentine soccer’s best prospects. It took nearly 1 year for Atlanta United to complete the transfer, but Almada is once again a clear message that the 5-stripes want to win now and sell big.