MLS and Colombia go hand by hand, since the league kicked off in 1996 there have been Colombian players at every position and from many walks of life. Without question the most recognizable Colombian to play in MLS is none other than Carlos Valderrama.
Other notable Colombian players have been Adolfo Valencia, Anthony De Avila, and Juan Pablo Angel. The South American country consistently exports many players year after year to the league. Not only that, but two of the leagues father & son players have hailed from Colombia: Adolfo and Jose Valencia and David and Jesus Ferreira.
One thing that stuck out while compiling this list was the number of players that suited up for FC Dallas, one of the best clubs at identifying Colombian talents. Of the 15 players, six played for FC Dallas. Here are the 15 greatest Colombian imports to play in MLS.
15. Juan Toja
The defensive midfielder came to FC Dallas after playing a handful of games at River Plate and quickly established himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in the league. Juan Toja played two seasons in Dallas and was an MLS All-Star, he scored 8 goals in 43 games before being sold to Romanian club Steaua București. Toja would return to the league in 2012 and play two seasons for the New England Revolution.
14. Michael Barrios
The small Colombian winger, Michael Barrios, came to MLS from unknown club Uniautónoma, with little fanfare Barrios carved out an exceptionally good career in MLS. With over 170 games for FC Dallas he scored 31 goals and provided 40 assists. Speedy, tricky, dangerous, Barrios was almost sold to San Lorenzo of Argentina and is a fan favorite in Dallas. As of 2021 Barrios will play for the Colorado Rapids.
13. Wilman Conde
Wilman Conde came to MLS at the bargain price of $300,000 and was a best eleven defender. One of the best hard man in the league, Conde was clutch for the Chicago Fire in their last playoff runs during 2007-2010. In 2009 he was the Fire’s best defender and would move to Liga MX for a short spell before returning and retiring with the New York Red Bulls.
12. Jámison Olave
The defender came to MLS in 2008 and was a rock at the back for Real Salt Lake. Jámison Olave was a leader, a two-time All-Star, and had great speed to match his imposing strength. Olave won the MLS Cup in 2009.
11. Diego Serna
Diego Serna might have been a headcase at times in his MLS career, but numbers don’t lie, Serna scored 52 goals in 100 games for the Miami Fusion. The Colombian striker was originally a midfielder and was moved up top to fill the lack of goals for the now defunct Miami club. Serna’s heyday was in Miami afterwards his career plummeted, but with the Fusion Serna was one of the most dangerous strikers in MLS in 1998-2001.
10. Darwin Quintero
Darwin Quintero found a new life in MLS, and during his time with Minnesota United and now with the Houston Dynamo, Quintero has been a spark of offense for those teams. At 33 his better years may be behind him but since his arrival in 2018, Quintero has provided some highlight reel plays.
9. Fredy Montero
The at times frustrating Fredy Montero is one of the most recognizable forwards in all of MLS. Be it in Seattle or Vancouver, Montero put the ball in the back of the net. He never scored more than 14 goals in one season, but Montero has had three stints in MLS and is once again on the Sounders books for the 2021 season.
8. Carlos Valdés
Elegance at the back, Carlos Valdés was only around for two seasons with the Philadelphia Union but was pure class. Valdés was named to the All-Star game roster in 2012 and despite enjoying his time in MLS he had to leave in order to stay in the Colombian National team fold. In total he played 75 games and scored 3 goals.
7. Leonel Álvarez
Leonel Álvarez was one the league's main attractions when it kicked off in 1996, the long-haired rugged holding midfielder was very recognizable to fans from the 1994 World Cup. Álvarez would have two stints in MLS with the then Dallas Burn and later New England Revolution, he was an MLS All-Star and best eleven in 1996.
6. Fabián Castillo
The speedy winger Fabián Castillo electrified MLS and the FC Dallas fans for six seasons playing in 159 games and scoring 34 goals. Castillo was a fast runner, great dribbler, and elegant goal scorer, his good play in MLS earned him 3 CAPS with Colombia and a move to Europe.
5. David Ferreira
One of the best number 10’s in MLS history David Ferreira pulled all the strings in FC Dallas for five seasons. Ferreira was an MLS MVP and best eleven in 2010 where FC Dallas came up short in the final. He played in 117 games and scored 26 goals.
4. Diego Chará
People always think about Diego Valeri when mentioning the Portland Timbers, but Diego Chará has been with the Timbers since day 1. With 282 games under his belt Diego Chará has been leading the Timbers midfield for 11 seasons now. Rugged, vocal, and a great passer, Chará is one the best holding midfielders in league history.
3. Juan Pablo Ángel
One of the first big name DP’s to come to MLS, Juan Pablo Ángel was nothing but goals for the New York Red Bulls, LA Galaxy, and Chivas USA in his six years in MLS. 72 goals in his 152 games Angel was a league best eleven in 2007. A club legend at Red Bull, the Colombian striker won’t be forgotten by the Red Bull fans anytime soon.
2. Óscar Pareja
Before he was one of the best coaches in the league, Óscar Pareja’s MLS journey began as a player for the New England Revolution in 1998, but it was in Dallas where he became one of the best Colombian imports ever. A leader, example, and everyday workhorse Pareja was an MLS best eleven in 2002.
1. Carlos Valderrama
Is there a more recognizable Colombian soccer player than Carlos Valderrama? In 1996 El Pibe came to MLS and was one of those star players who stole the show. In MLS Carlos Valderrama played for 3 teams and he is 4th in all-time assists at 114. El Pibe was the league MVP in 1996 and is on the league's all-time best 11. Player, Star, Ambassador, El Pibe did it all in MLS, all that was missing was an MLS Cup.