Major League Soccer wants to be the best league in the world or one of the best leagues in the world by 2026. Well, it all starts happening at the biggest stage, the World Cup. The club team with the most representatives at a World Cup is Juventus, who will almost certainly be represented by USMNT star Weston McKennie.
In the case of MLS, when the league kicked off in 1996, aside from the USMNT there was little chance a lot of teams would field players from the two-year-old league. Still, MLS had many participants at the World Cup in France 98.
The most recognizable was Carlos Valderrama who was a Miami Fusion player when he was captaining Colombia in France but given the schedule of matches the USMNT debuted a few days after one former MLS legend suited up for his national team in France 98.
Jorge Campos is MLS’ first World Cup participant
On June 13th, 1998, El Tri took on South Korea in Mexico’s opening match of the tournament. In goal for Mexico was Chicago Fire’s Jorge Campos. Campos was in the middle of a goalkeeping dual with Zach Thornton at the time and would eventually leave the club to a return to Mexico with UNAM after a successful stint with the LA Galaxy and a rather poor one with the Fire.
Still there was a lot of debate in the Mexican press that the flamboyant Campos would start ahead of Óscar Pérez who seemed to be the more secure keeper. Despite the critics, Campos was a bright spot for Mexico in France 98 playing in all four of El Tri’s games, although this time around his World Cup uniform was kind of tone down to a bright white jersey.