It wouldn’t come as a major shock to be told that for the many talents that the U.S. possesses, soccer isn’t number one. It isn’t even number two. Soccer just isn’t one of the most popular or relevant sports in the States and perhaps will never be. That being said… soccer has made huge progression over the last twenty years or so, and its increasing relevancy cannot be ignored. The U.S. men’s National team always seems to qualify for the major tournaments, while some stars can be seen coming out these days (see Pulisic at Chelsea or McKennie at Juventus). The league has also attracted some major stars over the years, do you recognize any? Take a look below.
Robbie Keane – LA Galaxy
Robbie Keane is the best Irishman to ever play in Major League Soccer. He is known for his iconic cartwheel goal celebration. Behind a certain Swede, he’s also the league’s second-best natural finisher.
Over the course of his 18-year international career, he made 146 appearances and scored 68 goals for Ireland, which he captained from 2006 to 2016. He is also the only soccer player in history to have scored an international goal in each of the last 19 years. During his European career, he scored 126 goals in the Premier League for six different clubs, finishing as the league’s 15th all-time best scorer. He made his debut for Wolverhampton Wanderers, but is best remembered for his 197 appearances for Tottenham Hotspur, where he scored 80 goals.
David Beckham – LA Galaxy
When Beckham startled the world by joining the MLS from Real Madrid in 2007, he placed the league on the map. Beckham is by far the most recognizable athlete to ever play soccer in the United States, thanks to his modeling and marriage to a Spice Girl.
Beckham will now try to entice even more illustrious names from across the pond as a co-owner of Inter Miami, a newly founded club.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – LA Galaxy
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is like fine wine in that he keeps getting better as he gets older. Ibrahimovic will be remembered for his brash cockiness during interviews and Jimmy Kimmel appearances. He is now challenging for the top goalscorer in Italy with AC Milan. Ibrahimovic should go down as the greatest gifted player to ever play in MLS for what he accomplished throughout his MLS stint, scoring 52 goals in 56 games (while other stars on this list were already past their primes).
Thierry Henry – New York Red Bulls
Thierry Henry, arguably the best player in Premier League history, was an unstoppable force both in Europe and in the MLS.
During the 1998 World Cup, the France international player was a champion. He is also the all-time best goalscorer in France (51). In addition, he was the winner of the UEFA Euro 2000 and the FIFA Conferations Cup 2003.
He was Arsenal’s all-time leading goalscorer in Europe during his career (228 in all competitions). He also won the Premier League twice with Arsenal and twice with FC Barcelona, as well as the FA Cup twice and the Champions League once. During his five-year MLS tenure with the New York Red Bulls (2010-2014), he scored 51 goals.
Wayne Rooney – D.C. United
Wayne Rooney, the lone player from D.C. United to make the list, is ranked No. 4 because he helped improve the team’s quality during his tenure in the nation’s capital.
During the 2018 season, he’ll be known for his last-ditch tackle and cross-field assist to Luciano Acosta, which helped the team win in dramatic fashion. Rooney scored 23 goals in 48 appearances as he lit up the MLS for D.C.
Kaká – Orlando City
Kaká was the only soccer player not named Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Player of the Year award in 2008, before Luka Modric won the Ballon d’Or in 2018. In 2014, he introduced that class to MLS. He was a member of Brazil’s 2002 World Cup-winning, 2005 and 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup-winning teams. He was Orlando’s first ever player.
Andrea Pirlo – NYCFC
During his remarkable career, Andrea Pirlo literally coined the phrase “playing the game at his own pace.” He’s one of the most elegant midfielders the game has ever seen, currently guiding Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus. During his MLS career, he scored 60 goals over three seasons. Pirlo also led the club to the playoffs in its second and third seasons.