Top 10 Best Signings in MLS History

Hayden Bird@haydenhbirdCorrespondent IApril 3, 2012

Top 10 Best Signings in MLS History

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    Though a comparatively young league, Major League Soccer has experienced its fair share of boom and bust signings.

    Every season, teams roll the dice on big-money pickups (ahem, L.A. Galaxy and New York Red Bulls), while others shop for bargains.

    Yet since the league's inaugural season in 1996, a few signings have truly been great for their respective teams.

    Here's a list of some of the best. Apologies if your favorite didn't make the list, but keep in mind I tried to quantify "best signings" as cost versus league value.

    In other words, Becks and Henry won't be found here (Becks was a lot of money for one title and the jury is still out on the prolific Henry).

10. Carlos Ruiz (2002), L.A. Galaxy

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    That Ruiz is No. 10 shows the quality of this list. The Guatemalan scored MLS's goal of the decade, narrowly beating out another one of his own goals.

    He was picked up by the Galaxy in 2002 and had one of the best rookie seasons in league history. Scoring 24 goals and winning the MLS Golden Boot, Ruiz led L.A. to the MLS Cup.

    Notching 16 postseason goals, Ruiz is the undisputed MLS record holder for playoff tallies.

9. Taylor Twellman (2002), New England Revolution

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    By far the Revolution's all-time leading goal scorer (101), Twellman almost didn't end up in MLS at first.

    In fact, a little-known fact is that he was offered a chance to play for the Kansas City Royals as a shortstop.

    And even after he chose soccer, Twellman moved to Germany to sign with 1860 Munich.

    His stint in Germany was not to his liking, though, and he moved back to MLS, where a grateful Revolution swooped in.

    During his tenure, the club achieved success (though, notably not in the MLS Cup). He's still revered as a club legend despite a series of concussions which forced an early retirement.

8. Guillermo Barros Schelotto (2007), Columbus Crew

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    Few would have ever thought that Schelotto would have ever left Argentina. Fewer still would have thought it possible that he would end up in MLS.

    Yet that's exactly what happened in 2007, as the playmaker left vaunted Boca Juniors.

    The Crew were incredibly fortunate to secure his services, as he would go on to be selected in the MLS Best XI in both 2007 and 2008, winning league MVP in 2008 as well.

    And his individual success translated into team success in 2008 when the Crew won the MLS Cup.

7. Brian McBride (1996), Columbus Crew

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    He's still arguably the greatest forward in the history of American soccer. But aside from his exploits at the international level (particularly the 2002 World Cup), McBride was a legend with the Columbus Crew.

    After playing briefly in Germany, McBride returned to the U.S. in time to be the first overall pick in the inaugural MLS draft in 1996.

    He didn't disappoint, scoring what was at the time a record 62 goals for the Crew, also notching a remarkable 45 assists. 

6. Carlos Valderrama (1996), Tampa Bay Mutiny

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    One of the most unique characters in the history of MLS, Valderrama was one of the league's original superstars.

    Clearly, however, there was more to him than his distinctive hair style. Linking together 114 career assists, he sits second all time in the category.

    And his play helped to lend credibility to the league in its early days, showing Americans what true poise and vision meant in the passing game.

5. Preki (1996 and 2002), Kansas City Wizards

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    The only two-time league MVP, Preki was a mysterious force prior to coming to MLS. Born in the former Yugoslavia, he was not highly sought after in the early days of MLS.

    But Wizards executives probably still hail the day they acquired Preki, as he's still the MLS all-time leader in points (270).

    Winning the 2000 MLS Cup, he also showed that his personal success didn't come at the cost of the team.

4. John Harkes (1996), D.C. United

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    His reputation proceeded him even before joining D.C. United in MLS's first season. He won England's Goal of the Year in 1990 after beating English legend Peter Shilton from 35 yards out as a member of Sheffield Wednesday.

    And when he arrived in D.C., Harkes promptly led United to back-to-back titles and a U.S. Open Cup crown.

    Perhaps more remarkably, he also led United to win the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1998, the first time a U.S. team had ever won.

3. Landon Donovan (2005), L.A. Galaxy

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    I chose the Galaxy as the team that gets credit here and not the Earthquakes because San Jose only acquired Donovan on loan, as opposed to a full signing.

    And L.A. certainly bent over backwards to get him. They had to trade away leading scorer Carlos Ruiz (our No. 10 entry) in order to get on top of the MLS allocation order, but it proved to be worth it.

    He's tallied an impressive 83 goals in 168 games since joining, all the more astounding considering he's not an out-and-out striker (usually playing more as a midfielder).

    As the most recognizable American soccer player, he more than warrants a high place on this list, as his commitment to MLS is commendable.

2. Marco Etcheverry (1996), D.C. United

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    One of the most talented players to ever play in MLS, Etcheverry averaged more than an assist every two games (101 in 191 league games).

    And he was acquired for very little, arriving in 1996 as an unknown quantity.

    Yet he made his mark almost instantly, leading the team to three MLS Cups in his tenure and winning league MVP in 1998.

    He's still considered one of Bolivia's greatest players ever, and one of the best bargains in MLS history.

1. Dwayne De Rosario (2001), San Jose Earthquakes

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    De Rosario has probably the most impressive resume in the history of MLS.

    Since arriving in San Jose in 2001, he contributed five goals and four assists in only 1,072 minutes, helping the Earthquakes to an MLS Cup (where he won MLS Cup MVP for scoring the game-winner in the final).

    After the franchise moved to Houston in 2006, De Rosario continued to dominate, guiding the team to back-to-back MLS Cups. During this time, he also played a key role in the MLS All-Stars success against both Chelsea and West Ham United.

    Other impressive accomplishments are his two-time goal of the year awards (2004 and 2005), his all-time lead in MLS Cups won by one player (four) and the fact that he's the defending league MVP.

    So while all of this was not done with only one team, generally every team that's acquired him could place him on this list. That means he wins the overall ranking, in my opinion. Can you name someone more worthy?