10 Greatest footballers to have played in MLS

With Lionel Messi inarguably the biggest star to be joining the American soccer league, let’s find out who used to compete at the Major Soccer League or MLS in short.

Messi reveals he choose Inter Miami is because of Barcelona

Messi is now joining football icon David Beckham’s Inter Miami as no more hope for the Catalan giants to re-sign their legend after he left Paris Saint-Germain.

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It many not be sitting on the same levels with top five European competitions with the likes of Premier League, La Liga or Bundesliga, but MLS – which was founded in 1993, is surely among top destinations for legendary footballers who are past their prime.

Lionel Messi set to join David Beckham's Inter Miami
Lionel Messi set to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami

And the competition has witnessed strings of stars banging goals and showboating for decades, let’s us list out them all for you ahead of Messi’s arrival.

Gonzalo Higuain

First and biggest Inter Miami’s signings so far, of course, we are not counting Messi just yet.

The prolific top scorers from Napoli, Real Madrid and Juventus was Beckham side huge star when he joined in 2020.

It’s not his best period of the decorated career, but the Argentinian delivered with 21 goals and 11 assists across 61 games before announcing his retirement from football in 2022.

Robbie Keane

Following Beckham’s footstep, the Irish legend joined LA Galaxy and pulled impressive successes since his arrival in 2011.

Before his spell with Galaxy, Keane was among the best scorers for Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Inter Milan and West Ham United.

The prolific striker went on to win MLS MVP in the 2013/14 while won one Supporter’s Shield and three MLS Cup titles

Frank Lampard

One of Chelsea and world football greatest players of all time who won Premier League titles, UEFA Europa League and Champioins League among other triumphs, Frank Lampard spent the last few years in the MLS as he joined New York City in 2015 for a 2-year spell.

Lampard joined NYCFC for its inaugural MLS season in 2015 and scored 15 goals in 29 total appearances for the Cityzens. He led the club to the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2016, appearing in both legs of an Eastern Conference playoff series loss to Toronto FC.

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 01: Midfielder Frank Lampard #8 of New York City FC celebrates after the match vs D.C. United at Yankee Stadium on September 1, 2016 in New York City. New York City FC defeats D.C. United 3-2. (Photo by Michael Stewart/Getty Images)

David Villa

David Villa was a major signing for the MLS as a whole when the Spaniard joined New York City in 2014 from Atletico Madrid. Before coming to the USA, Villa had won the FIFA World Cup and the Euros with Spain. He had also won the UEFA Champions League, the La Liga and Club World Cup among other trophies with FC Barcelona. He was the MVP during the 2015-16 season of the MLS. 

Thierry Henry

Premier League winner, Champions League winner and World Cup winner, Thierry Henry had a massively successful career at elite clubs like Arsenal and Barcelona.

He joined NY Red Bulls in 2010 before deciding to retire in 2015 as a player.


Kaka is one of the best footballer of his generation, having won Serie A, Champions League and Ballon d’Or with AC Milan and also conquered the FIFA World Cup with Brazil.

The Brazilian played for Orlando City in the MLS and left his impact impressively.

In 2015, Kaká made 28 MLS appearances, all of them starts, playing 2439 minutes and registering nine goals and seven assists. He was selected to be the MLS All-Star captain for the AT&T MLS All-Star game against English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur, where he would go on and score the opener and assist the game-winning goal, being named the MLS All-Star MVP.

He was also voted to the MLS Team of the Week on four occasions (week 1, 4, 11 and 30)

Andrea Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo is one of Italy’s all-time greatest footballers. During his playing days, he won multiple titles with clubs like Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus. The two-time UCL winner and a FIFA World Cup winner joined New York City FC in 2015 before retiring in 2018 as a player. 

David Beckham

In 2008, MLS sent shock waves across the world when it announced the landmark signing of David Beckham from Real Madrid. 

In the years following the deal, it remains one of, if not the, most influential moments in league history as he was one of the most recognizable and decorated figures in world football. And when Beck set his feet on American soil, he played an significant role in revolutionizing the whole competition.

Aside from back-to-back MLS Cup victories (2010/11 and 2011/12), the talent winger’s true mark on the league will be the institution of the Designated Player rule.

The rule, which some refer to as “The Beckham Rule”, allows each team to sign a maximum of three players to contracts that exceed a certain monetary threshold and without which, there would have never been so many talents and legends ended up playing ball in the MLS.

What else? Beckham also improved the business structure of the league, having paved ways for jersey sponsorship and sky-rocketed the broadcast value. Before the 2015 season, MLS agreed to a new eight-year deal with ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision worth $90 million per year, per Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald.

Wayne Rooney

The English great is Man United’s all-time leading goalscorer and their fan’s favorite leader.

He signed for DC United in 2018 from Everton and produced great moments for the club. If we have to pick any of those moments from the Five-time Premier League winners at DC United, it has to be this one:

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan came and conquered, like he has always done during his glittering career.

He was the great figure and serial winner with European top teams like Ajax, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, PSG and Munited. He joined LA Galaxy with instant impact in 2018, following his departure from Man United. When people thought he came to America to enjoy before retirement, he proved them wrong.

Now that, he retired from football, here is among the ridiculous things that the Swedish legend had done during his spell in MLS:

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