By Dylan Butler | Posted 23 days ago

GOAT. Its a term reserved for the elite in a sport, for those who have excelled like few others. 


Greatest of all-time. Major League Soccer has been home to some special players over the past two-and-a-half decades. This is a list that could have been expanded. But were keeping it a super exclusive, and somewhat subjective, club. 


No. 1 Landon Donovan 


MLS GOAT? Definitely. US mens national team GOAT? Oh yeah. Look, the leagues annual MVP award is called the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award. 


That probably tells you everything, but heres even more reasons. Donovan was named to the MLS Best XI a record seven times, won six MLS Cup titles, was the leagues leading scorer with 145 goals when he retired, was the leagues MVP in 2009, a year after capturing the Golden Boot as the leading scorer. 


Donovan was also named an MLS All-Star 14 times, also the most of any player in league history.


No. 2 David Beckham 


The Designated Player rule. Inter Miami CFLionel Messi competing in MLS. Theres a direct correlation to David Beckhams signing with the LA Galaxy to all of those things. 


Beckham arrived in Los Angeles in 2007 and brought with him worldwide eyeballs not seen before in MLS. He backed up the hype, of course, by helping lead the Galaxy to a pair of MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield titles. He was a member of the MLS Best XI in 2011 and was a three-time MLS All-Star selection. 


Part of his contract included an opportunity to become an MLS owner, which he did when he joined Jorge Mas to form Inter Miami CF and, subsequently, convinced Messi and friends Sergio BusquetsJordi Alba and Luis Suarez to join. 


No. 3 Lionel Messi 


OK, haters we know. Lionel Messi has played in SIX MLS matches and has one goal and two assists. But theres been no bigger signing in league history, yes, even bigger than Beckham, and the early returns, especially in Leagues Cup last year, prove Messi should continue to dominate MLS like he did La Liga, Ligue 1, heck even the World Cup. 


Hes a reigning World Cup winner who just won a record eighth Ballon dOr award as the greatest player on the planet. You think he wasnt making this list? 


No. 4 Chris Wondolowski


He didnt win a Ballon dOr, never won a World Cup, never played in Europe. paparazzi were never stationed outside his home. Yet, no one scored more goals in MLS history than Chris Wondolowski, the ultimate blue-collar goal scorer. 


Wondo” scored 171 goals in a storied MLS career that included five trips to the MLS All-Star game, an MLS MVP award in 2012, three selections to the MLS Best XI and twice won the leagues Golden Boot. 


No. 5 Clint Dempsey 


If Donovan isnt the greatest American player, it might be Clint Dempsey, who had 72 goals and 42 assists in his MLS career, with a successful stint in England sandwiched between. 


Donovan was named to the MLS Best XI twice, was a six-time MLS All-Star, the MLS Rookie of the Year in 2004 and won an MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield and a US Open Cup. 


No. 6 Zlatan Ibrahimovic


Zlatan Ibrahimovics time in MLS was like a double rainbow — short, but unforgettable. 


He made just 56 appearances for the LA Galaxy across two seasons, but scored 52 goals, including a stunning 45-yard half volley on his debut. That was the MLS Goal of the Year in 2018, a year Ibrahimovic was named MLS Newcomer of the Year. He was named an MLS All-Star and Best XI in both of his MLS seasons before returning to Europe with AC Milan.


No. 7 Thierry Henry 


Another global icon who landed in MLS, Thierry Henry spent four magical seasons with the New York Red Bulls from 2010-2014. The former French World Cup champion scored 51 goals in 122 appearances with the Red Bulls, 


Henry was named to the MLS All-Star game four times, Best XI three times and guided the Red Bulls to the 2013 Supporters’ Shield, the clubs first.


No. 8 Carlos Vela 


Carlos Vela was the first player signed by LAFC ahead of their expansion season and the former Mexican national team star paid back that confidence 10-fold, helping establish LAFC as an MLS powerhouse almost immediately. 


Vela was a three-time MLS All-Star and a three-time Best XI selection. He was named MLS MVP in 2019, a year he won the Golden Boot award with a single-season record 34 goals to go along with 15 assists as LAFC captured the Supporters’ Shield title. Vela also won MLS Cup in 2022.


No. 9 Sebastian Giovinco


Sebastian Giovinco was at the heart of Toronto FCs rise to the top of the MLS mountain. The Atomic Ant” was named to the MLS Best XI three times and was named MLS Newcomer of the Year, MLS MVP and captured the Golden Boot in a magical 2015 season. 


Giovinco had 68 goals and 52 assists in just 114 regular season matches and helped guide Toronto FC to the rare treble (MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield and Canadian Championship) in 2017. 


No. 10 Tony Meola 


We couldnt just have goal scorers could we? An argument could be made for Tim Howard, Kevin Hartman, Andre Blake or even Nick Rimando. But none of those goalkeepers was named MLS MVP. Thats just what Meola won in 2000, the first, and only to this point, keeper to win that award. 


Meola was named an MLS All-Star five times, MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2000 and MLS Cup MVP that year when he helped lead Kansas City to the title. The former USMNT standout was also named MLS Best XI in 2005. 




Get updates on the launch of OSDB Plus and sign up for the OSDB Newsletter.