Cobi Jones, Jaime Moreno Highlight MLS' Top 30 Players of All-Time
Say what you may about Major League Soccer. But one thing that’s true is there have been many remarkable players that have spent time in a league that has tried to claim its space in world soccer.
From 16 years of MLS come the best 30 players in league history. Some players in this list are a given, while other payers might be a stretch.
Keep in mind that those in this list are players that have devoted their careers to this league, not just use it as a stepping stone to something larger (which I must say isn’t a bad thing necessarily). The players aren't really ranked in any particular order.
Hopefully, I achieved my goal in compiling a list worthy of discussion.
For 14 seasons Pablo Mastroeni has been a diligent defensive midfielder and one of the most hard-nosed players in the league.
One of the many players from the Miami Fusion that were dispersed in 2001, Mastroeni continued his craft at Colorado Rapids, helping them earn the 2010 MLS Cup.
His rough nature often times leaves him open for criticism. It doesn't help that he's received 80 yellow cards throughout his career—most of any other player in MLS history.
Yet, he is still respected by players and fans alike for his dedication and efforts on the field.
Chris Albright entered the league as a forward, assigned to D.C. United through the Project 40 program in 1999. Even though D.C. went on to win an MLS Cup that season, Albright didn't see much playing time.
In 2001 he was traded to Los Angeles, where he slowly drifted to the defense. Eventually Albright became one of the premier outside backs in the league, which earned him the 2005 Best XI selection.
He helped the Galaxy capture the 2002 and 2005 MLS Cups during his six seasons with the club.
He became a free agent after the 2011 season and signed with the Philadelphia Union.
Eric Wynalda was far from ever becoming a lethal striker in MLS. Nevertheless, he was talented and served the league well in the early years of its existence.
Wynalda was allocated to San Jose, where he scored the first goal in MLS history. His three years with San Jose would see him find the back of the net 21 times.
A loan to Mexican club Leon led to Wynalda's ACL and meniscus injury, something he was never able to recover from.
San Jose traded Wynalda to Miami for the 1999 season, and in 2000 he was traded again to New England. Neither squad saw any consistent productivity from Wynalda.
In 2001, he regained some of his form after being traded to the Chicago Fire, his last MLS club. In 21 match appearances Wynalda notched 10 goals—matching his highest total since his first season in 1996.
He finished his MLS career with 34 goals and 37 assists.
Robin Fraser was a solid defender for the 10 years he played in Major League Soccer.
Initially picked by Los Angeles in 1996, he anchored the defense for five seasons, including winning the 1999 MLS Defender of the Year.
Fraser was traded to Colorado before the 2001 season, but wasn't able to recreate the success he had with the Galaxy as a defender.
Finally in 2004, a trade to the Columbus Crew allowed him to re-earn his 1999 crown, when he was again named MLS Defender of the Year. He was the first defender to win the award more than once non-consecutively.
Fraser retired in 2005 as a four-time Best XI (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000).
The marathon man, Chris Klein, has been a respected midfielder among peers. Not the flashiest of players, Klein was, and probably still is, one of the most dependable players in league history,
He started his career in 1998 after being drafted by Kansas City. He helped the club win the 2000 Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup as well as the 2004 U.S. Open Cup.
Klein played a total of 333 games before his retirement, a number that stand as fifth best all-time. He tallied 49 career goals and 69 career assists.
His most notable achievement was with the LA Galaxy in 2008, where he made his 118th consecutive start, breaking the MLS record.
Chicago drafted Chris Armas from Los Angeles through the 1998 Expansion draft, and from it he became the heart of the Chicago Fire.
During his 10 seasons with the club, Armas helped Chicago win its only MLS Cup in 1998.
Armas is a five-time MLS Best XI selection, including consecutive picks from 1998 to 2001. In 2003 he earned a fifth selection as well as MLS Comeback of the Year after recovering from a torn ACL.
The 2007 season served as Armas' last, when he retired with 264 appearances, 12 goals and 48 assists.
He is probably one of the best players in MLS that never had the opportunity to win any hardware, even though he was able to do so as coach later in his life.
As a prolific forward, Kreis earned the 1999 MLS MVP after leading the league in points and goals scored. His last year with Dallas in 2004, Kreis became the all-time leading goal scorer with 89 goals, a record that would stand for three years.
By 2005, Kreis moved to Real Salt Lake as its first player for the expansion team. In the same season, he became the first player to reach the century mark in goals.
After the 2007 season, Kreis retired from professional play with 74 assists and 108 goals—good for fifth all time.
John Harkes played for D.C. United in 1996 after stints across England and helped the club win the 1996 and 1997 MLS Cup.
His three years in D.C., Harkes worked well with Marco Etcheverry to help bring success to the club that has never been matched.
Harkes played for the Crew through the 2001 season, but an injury-filled 2002 season eventually forced him to retire. Harkes retired with 42 assists and 16 goals under his belt.
In 2005, Harkes was honored by being inducted in the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
His arrival to New England after a rocky stint with 1860 Munich was a revelation as he ended the season second in goals scored, first in season points and second in the MLS MVP ballot.
Twellman was integral to a dominating New England squad that was unstoppable in the 2000s, capturing the 2007 U.S. Open Cup. However, that success didn't translate to playoff success. Even though he led New England to four MLS Cup finals (2002, 2005, 2006, 2007), the squad ended up on the losing end of each one.
A two-time Best XI, Twellman's individual accolades also include the 2005 MLS MVP and Golden Boot award before his retirement after the 2010 season.
With D.C. United he won three MLS Cups (1996, 1997, 1999). When Agoos joined San Jose in 2001, he went on to win two more MLS Cups (2001, 2003).
He moved to New York for his last season in MLS before retiring after the 2005 season.
Agoos was a three-time Best XI selection and was named the 2001 MLS Defender of the Year. In 2009, he was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
In seven seasons with the Fire, Razov tallied 78 goals and was pivotal to the team's MLS Cup and three U.S. Open Cup titles.
In 2005 Razov found himself back home in Southern California, playing for Chivas USA. His four seasons with the club saw him reach personal landmarks. In 2007 he became the third player to reach 100 career regular-season goals.
His final tally of 114 career goals upon his retirement has him listed as fourth all time. However, he leads the all-time shots (926) and shots on goal (441) standings.
The best years of Tyrone Marshall were when he commanded the LA Galaxy's back line.
The Jamaican's MLS career started in 1998 after Colorado drafted him, but he quickly was shipped to Miami. For three seasons, Marshall played for the Fusion, drifting from his forward position to a center-back slot.
After Miami folded, Los Angeles picked him up in 2002. He helped the Galaxy win its first MLS Cup later that season and again in 2005.
In 2007, Los Angeles traded Marshall to Toronto FC, and two years later he saw himself with the Seattle Sounders. In Seattle, he was an important part of the squad that won the 2009 and 2010 U.S. Open Cups.
After the 2011 season, he was picked up by Colorado once again.
Andy Williams' resiliency in this league is only matched by the number of different teams he has played for.
On 2005, after Real Salt Lake chose him in the expansion draft, Williams became the first player to play for six different teams (Columbus, Miami, New England, New York, Chicago, Salt Lake).
In 2009, he helped Real Salt Lake capture the MLS Cup. It was a small, bright light in a year where he suffered through his wife's cancer diagnosis.
Williams was also integral in the amazing run RSL had in the CONCACAF Champions League, where it fell short from becoming the first MLS team to do something with the new format after losing in the finals.
The Jamaican international retired from MLS at the end of the 2011 season with 332 games played, 60 goals and 40 assists.
Brian McBride has only played for two different MLS clubs while playing in Europe in the interim. But the legacy that he has left stateside has made him the most recognizable American-born forward in league history.
His eight years with the Columbus Crew since the inception of the league led McBride to a fruitful European career.
McBride returned to his hometown in 2008, playing for the Chicago Fire during the last three years of his soccer career.
In the more than 10 combined seasons in MLS, McBride retired with 80 regular-season goals, 52 assists and 220 appearances.
Raul Diaz Arce
Raul Diaz Arce composed one third of the dangerous triangle that D.C. United fielded in the mid-'90s. The Salvadorian forward was integral to United's first two MLS Cups in 1996 and 1997—combining for 46 goals those seasons—and made Diaz Arce one of the most prolific goal scorers in the league.
In a shocking move, however, the man was traded to the New England Revolution, and subsequent trades thereafter eventually led to his MLS downfall.
He returned to United for the 2000 campaign, but two years later was traded one last time to Colorado.
Diaz Arce retired from MLS play in 2001 with 82 career regular-season goals and as the second-leading career goal scorer of all time—which since then has been surpassed.
Brian Ching was drafted by the LA Galaxy in 2001 but was released a few years later.
He was picked up by San Jose in 2003 and quickly stood out as an offensive power until he suffered an injury that August.
After recovering from his torn Achilles and returning in 2004, Ching earned the MLS Comeback Player of the Year and the Golden Boot.
In 2006 he moved to Houston with the rest of the club and helped the team capture the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cups.
Recently he was involved in a controversy after expansion team Montreal Impact chose an unprotected Ching from Houston in the 2011 Expansion draft. Ching threatened the move with retirement, but eventually it led to him being traded back to Houston.
To date, Ching has played in 189 matches while scoring 77 goals and tallying 28 assists.
Peter Nowak already had a lustrous career before arriving to MLS in 1998 to play for the Chicago Fire in the team's inaugural season.
But Nowak didn't come to the U.S. to retire, but to establish himself as a great midfielder.
He led the Fire to its only MLS Cup in 1998, the same year of its expansion, a feat not replicated by any team. Nowak also led the Fire to two U.S. Open Cups in 1998 and 2000.
In Nowak's five seasons playing with Chicago, he tallied 26 goals and 48 assists in 114 regular-season appearances. He was also recipient of the 1998 MLS Cup MVP.
Dwayne De Rosario
Canada's most skillful and versatile attacking midfielder, Dwayne De Rosario, has been a destructible force since entering the league in 2001.
De Rosario played for the San Jose Earthquakes for five seasons, helping the club capture two MLS Cups.
When the franchise moved to Houston in 2006 and was re-branded the Dynamo, De Rosario moved with the team and helped the new squad capture two consecutive MLS Cups in its first two seasons.
In 2009, De Rosario was traded to Toronto FC and in 2011 was traded to the New York Red Bulls, and finally to D.C. United, where he regained his form and earned both the 2001 MLS MVP and Golden Boot awards.
De Rosario's current 93 goals is good for seventh all time. He is the only player to be selected for the MLS Best XI in six different seasons.
When one thinks of consistency in MLS, one has to think about Steve Ralston. He played for 15 seasons—his first six came with the Tampa Bay Mutiny and last nine with the New England Revolution after the Mutiny closed shop.
The midfielder was a rookie when the league started in 1996, and he immediately made a name for himself earning the Rookie of the Year Award.
He helped New England capture the 2007 U.S. Open Cup and the 2008 North American SuperLiga before retiring two years later.
Ralston left Major League Soccer as the all-time assist leader with 135. He also ranked second behind Kevin Hartman for games (378) and minutes played (33,142).
Eddie Pope was a reliable defender for D.C. United for seven seasons starting in 1996 and even scoring the game-winning goal that gave D.C. the inaugural MLS Cup trophy.
He was also integral in helping D.C. capture the 1998 CONCACAF Champions' Cup and Interamerican Cup, where he again scored the game-winner against Vasco da Gama.
Pope was a four-time MLS Best XI selection (1997, 1998, 2003, 2004) and was selected as the 1997 MLS Defender of the Year.
He was elected into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2011.
Tony Meola is more famously known as the U.S. goalkeeper that helped the U.S. return to World Cup play in 1990 and to a surprisingly successful campaign four years later.
So when MLS was created in 1996, he was allocated to the NY/NJ Metrostars where he played for two years.
Before the 1999 season, he was traded to the Kansas City Wizards. He swept the league awards a year later after leading Kansas City to its only MLS Cup title.
Meola's 16 shutouts that season weren't only a new league record, but also earned him the MLS MVP, the Goalkeeper of the Year and the MLS Cup MVP awards.
The Metrostars, re-branded the New York Red Bulls, re-aquired Meola after the 2004 season. His duration with the restructured New York club only lasted two years.
Meola ended his MLS career in 2006 with 62 regular-season shutouts and a 1.43 goals against average.
Jones helped the Galaxy win almost every single trophy, including the 2002 and 2005 MLS Cup and the 2000 CONCACAF Champions' Cup.
The man with the most recognizable dreadlocks would torch opponents along the flanks with his acceleration and speed.
In his time with the Galaxy he played over 300 games and tallied 91 assists with 70 goals.
Jeff Cunningham is the leader in all-time career goals after finding the back of the net 134 times with five different teams.
He was signed by Columbus in 1998 and for seven seasons showed the league how much of an offensive threat he was, scoring 62 goals for the Crew.
Cunningham stayed with Dallas until 2010 and eventually returned to the Crew for the 2011 season. He wasn't able to regain his form, only scoring two goals in 21 games. After the season, he became a free agent and currently plays for Comunicaciones in Guatemala.
Besides leaving MLS as the highest all-time goal scorer, Cunningham is also a three-time Best XI selection (2002, 2006, 2009) and a two-time Golden Boot winner (2006, 2009).
Predrag Radosavljevic, more famously known as Preki, played all but one season with the Kansas City Wizards. In 2001 he played for the Miami Fusion but found his way back to Kansas City the following year.
Preki helped the Wizards capture the 2000 Supporters' Shield as well as the MLS Cup. Four years later, he led Kansas City to the 2004 U.S. Open Cup.
After 10 years playing in the league, Preki found the back of the net 79 times and tallied 112 assists—good for third all-time—in 242 regular-season matches.
His recorded shots (773) and shots on goal (323) are also good for Top Five of all time.
Preki retired in 2005.
Considered by many as the best goalkeeper MLS has produced, Kevin Hartman's longevity in MLS has allowed him to shatter several goalkeeper records.
His 10 years with the LA Galaxy (1997-2006) earned him six major cups—two MLS Cups, two Supporters' Shield and two U.S. Open Cups—as well as the 1999 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
The Galaxy shipped Hartman off to Kansas City before the 2007 season, where in 2009 he broke the all-time MLS saves record, as well as the record for most consecutive minutes played in MLS.
In 2010, Hartman signed with FC Dallas and a year later became the first goalkeeper to record 100 clean sheets.
He currently leads the all-time saves record with 1376 saves and the all-time clean sheets record with 106 while posting a 1.20 goals against average.
Landon Donovan has become the face of the league since his arrival by loan through Bayern Leverkusen.
Donovan is a five-time member of the MLS Best XI, was awarded the 2009 MLS MVP award and the 2001 MLS Cup MVP.
He is currently third in the all-time goal list with 115 goals.
As one of the best midfielders to play in MLS, Carlos Valderrama came from Colombia to partake in the inaugural Major League Soccer season in 1996. In that year he won the MLS MVP, leading the Tampa Bay Mutiny to the MLS Supporters' Shield.
Nine season later, Valderrama played in 175 regular-season matches with three different teams and earned 114 assists—which lands him in second all time for career assists.
He spent most of his career with the Tampa Bay Mutiny, but also played for the Miami Fusion and retired with the Colorado Rapids in 2003.
Before Landon Donovan claimed the No. 10 spot for the LA Galaxy, it was Salvadorian midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos who claimed the honor.
For eight seasons, the 5'6" midfielder was the general of the Galaxy, unifying the defense and offense and creating huge success for the team early in the life of the league.
He played over 200 games for LA, scored 35 goals and made 80 assists. Cienfuegos retired in 2003 but was named technical coach for the LA Galaxy Academy in 2011.
Marco Etcheverry was nicknamed "El Diablo" not just for his intimidating look, but for his diabolical antics on the field. He was one of the best, if not the best, to don the No. 10 jersey in Major League Soccer.
During his eight seasons with D.C. United, "El Diablo" helped the team earn every major piece of hardware in the '90s. His recorded assists (101) are ranked fifth of all time.
Etcheverry, the first of two Bolivians on this list, was part of the MLS Best IX on four occasions. He also won MLS Goal of Year twice and was named league MVP in 1998.
Jaime Moreno is considered by most as the best player in the history of Major League Soccer.
His 15-year career, all but one season played with D.C. United, has included a plethora of team and individuals landmarks, including the only player tallying 100+ goals and 100+ assists.
The former Bolivian forward ranks second in all-time career goals (133), fourth in the all-time career assists (102) and second in all-time career shots on goal (394).
Moreno is recipient of four MLS Cups and Supporter's Shields, two U.S. Open Cups and one CONCACAF Champions Cup and Copa Interamericana.
He retired as a five-time MLS Best IX and the 1997 MLS Cup MVP.