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Donovan, Beckham among stars as LA Galaxy dominate list


Major League Soccer has unveiled its 25 Greatest, a definitive list of the most decorated and important players in the league’s 25-year history, in the run-up to this year’s MLS Cup match on Saturday.

The list was compiled by a panel of 200 MLS alumni and experts, with an initial 137 nominees eventually whittled down to just 25 of the players who made the biggest impact on the league during its first quarter-century.

Included in the selection are MLS Cup winners, MVPs, Golden Boot winners and All-Stars; as well as players deemed to have made “extraordinary contributions” both on and off the field.

The 25 Greatest features plenty of big names and top players, although many of the global stars who appeared in the league during their careers do not make the list.

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s frankly crazy haul of 52 goals in 56 MLS appearances during his 18-month spell at LA Galaxy is not enough to get him on the list. Thierry Henry — a Premier League great with Arsenal, Champions League winner with Barcelona and world champion with France — is not included despite spending four years with New York Red Bulls. Premier League greats Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, World Cup winners David Villa and Andrea Pirlo and even Kaka, winner of the Ballon d’Or in 2007, also fail to make the cut.

All in all, nine different nationalities are represented, as well as 20 different MLS clubs — with six spots taken by former LA Galaxy players — and six members of the U.S.’s National Soccer Hall of Fame.

The 25 Greatest are also deliberately presented in unranked format as MLS are keen to stress that all the players involved are equally worthy of their places in the pantheon.

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Jeff Agoos

DC United 1996-2000; San Jose Earthquakes 2001-04; MetroStars 2005

A veteran of 134 caps for the USMNT, stoic centre-back Agoos was included in the MLS Best XI on three occasions as well as being a member of the MLS All-Time Best XI in 2005. Having represented the All-Stars on no less than nine occasions, “Goose” was also named MLS Defender of the Year in 2001. He is a five-time winner of the MLS Cup — an exceptional career tally bettered by only one other player, who also features among The 25 Greatest.

Miami Fusion 2000-01; Colorado Rapids 2002-07; Real Salt Lake 2007-present

The only player in history to play 20 seasons in MLS, Beckerman has also made more league appearances (498 and counting) than any outfield player in history. The tenacious midfielder is also a one-time winner of MLS Cup and the Supporters’ Shield, as well as being a nine-time MLS All-Star selection.

David Beckham

LA Galaxy: 2007-12

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Arguably the most influential transfer in MLS history, Beckham’s grand unveiling at Galaxy helped to shape the future trajectory of the entire league like no other before or since. The former England captain won the MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield twice in six seasons and was a member of the Best XI in 2011. Not content with his contributions as a midfielder earning him a statue on Legend’s Plaza, he’s since turned owner and president with his involvement with one of MLS’s newest franchises, Inter Miami.

Carlos Bocanegra

Chicago Fire 2000-03; Chivas USA 2013-14

A reliable presence in the back four for club and country, Bocanegra was voted MLS Defender of the Year twice in a row in 2002 and 2003, living up to the early promise that saw him named Rookie of the Year in 2000.

Dwayne De Rosario

San Jose Earthquakes 2001-05; Houston Dynamo 2006-08; Toronto FC 2009-11, 2014; New York Red Bulls 2011; DC United 2011-13

An attacking midfielder and set-piece specialist, De Rosario scored the vital extra-time golden goal that secured the Quakes the MLS Cup in 2001, earning him Man of the Match honours. A six-time member of the MLS Best XI, winner of the MLS Most Valuable Player award in 2011 and winner of the 2011 MLS Golden Boot, De Rosario scored 104 goals during his MLS career, which puts him ninth on the all-time list.

Clint Dempsey

New England Revolution 2004-06; Seattle Sounders FC 2013-18

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Any player who inspires a fan to get a tattoo of their image has to be considered a great. One of the most gifted players to ever emerge from MLS, Dempsey won the MLS Cup, the Supporters’ Shield and the US Open Cup after being named Rookie of the Year in 2004. A regular presence in the All-Star team, the skilful forward also weighed in with 72 goals and 42 assists during his stints in the U.S. either side of his impressive Premier League career at Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur.

Landon Donovan

San Jose Earthquakes 2001-04; LA Galaxy 2005-14, 2016

Donovan has won MLS Cup six times, more than anybody else in the history of the league. He’s second on the all-time goals list with 145, and top in assists with 136. The LA Galaxy legend has also amassed more postseason goals (25) and assists (15) than any other player, which goes some way to accounting for his seven MLS Best XI inclusions (the most ever), his 2009 MVP award, his 2008 Golden Boot, his 14 All-Star appearances, and his well-earned place in the MLS All-Time Best XI.

Marco Etcheverry

DC United 1996-2003

One of the brightest stars in MLS’s early years, Etcheverry quickly established himself as an icon at DC, pulling strings from the heart of their midfield. The big-haired Bolivia international is a four-time member of the MLS Best XI and was named the MLS Most Valuable Player in 1998 before also earning a place in the MLS All-Time Best XI as voted in 2005.

Robin Fraser

LA Galaxy 1996-2000; Colorado Rapids 2001-03; Columbus Crew 2004-05

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Fraser was twice named the MLS Defender of the Year (1999 and 2004) as well as finding his way into the MLS Best XI team on five occasions. The former Galaxy and Rapids man was also twice winner of the Supporters’ Shield and winner of the CONCACAF Champions Cup while representing the MLS All-Stars five times.

Sebastian Giovinco

Toronto FC 2015-18

The diminutive Italian maestro hit the ground running on his arrival in MLS in 2015, delighting Toronto fans with his touch, vision, and creative abilities. The former Juventus player is a three-time member of the MLS Best XI and winner of the MLS Most Valuable Player award circa 2015 (the same year he was named Newcomer of the Year), scoring 68 goals and laying on 52 assists in the space of just 114 league games.

Kevin Hartman

LA Galaxy 1997-2006; Kansas City Wizards 2007-09; FC Dallas 2010-12; New York Red Bulls 2013

One of the greatest goalkeepers in MLS history, Hartman’s looming presence helped deliver trophies, winning two MLS Cups and three Supporters’ Shields, as well as the U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions Cup. Hartman was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and found himself in the MLS Best XI in 1999. His stats are equally impressive, with the former shot-stopper ranking second in terms of all-time goalkeeper wins (180) and total clean sheets (112) in 416 appearances.

Cobi Jones

LA Galaxy 1996-07

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A quick and tricky winger, Jones mustered a total of 91 assists during his MLS career, which puts him ninth on the all-time list. As well as winning 164 caps for the United States, Jones was also a member of the 1998 MLS Best XI, winning two MLS Cups, two Supporters’ Shields, two U.S. Open Cups and the CONCACAF Champions Cup with Galaxy.

Robbie Keane

LA Galaxy 2011-16

Quite simply one of the most prolific strikers to ever play in MLS, Keane scored 83 league goals for Galaxy in just 125 games — putting him 14th on the all-time list. The Republic of Ireland international played a vital part in helping Galaxy to MLS Cup wins in 2011, 2012, and 2014, when he was voted league and MLS Cup MVP.

Columbus Crew 2004-13; Seattle Sounders FC 2014-19

Marshall by name, marshall by nature. The centre-back was voted MLS Defender of the Year in 2008, 2009, and 2014 — more than anyone else in league history. He was also included in the MLS Best XI four times over the course of his 409 career league appearances, winning two MLS Cups, three Supporters’ Shields, and one U.S. Open Cup along the way.

Atlanta United 2017-present

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Martinez’s MLS career is still young, but the hotshot Atlanta striker already has 77 goals in 84 games to his name over the course of his first four seasons. Lethal in the penalty area, the Venezuelan can boast two of the seven highest-scoring single seasons in MLS history, including a then-record 31 goals in 2018. Martinez was voted MLS MVP that same year, and has also won the MLS Cup, the US Open Cup and the Campeones Cup.

Tony Meola

MetroStars/New York Red Bulls 1996-98, 2005-06; Kansas City Wizards 1999-2004

One of the first goalkeepers to emerge from MLS, Meola remains the only shot-stopper to have been named league MVP (in 2000, the same year he was also named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year). Another stalwart to win a century of caps for the USMNT, Meola is also an MLS Cup MVP and a proud member of the All-Time Best XI as voted in 2005.

Jaime Moreno

DC United 1996-2002, 2004-10; MetroStars 2003

Moreno has won just about all there is to win — four MLS Cups and Supporter’s Shields, two U.S. Open Cups and a CONCACAF Champions’ Cup. The Bolivian attacker is the fourth-highest goal scorer in MLS history having amassed a grand total of 133 goals, as well as 102 assists. As such, he is one of only two players in MLS history to have more than 100 goals and 100 assists to his name.

Eddie Pope

DC United 1996-2002; MetroStars 2003-04; Real Salt Lake 2005-07

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Another legendary name from the early days of the league, Pope won the MLS Cup three times, including in 1996 when he scored the game-winning golden goal to secure the cup for D.C. in the first ever inaugural championship game. Four-time member of MLS Best XI and member of the MLS All-Time Best XI (2005), Pope was also named MLS Defender of the Year in 1997.

Predrag “Preki” Radosavljevic

Kansas City Wizards 1996-2000, 2002-05; Miami Fusion 2001

“Preki” remains the only player ever to win two MLS MVP awards (1997 and 2003) and the first to top the MLS scoring charts twice. The Serbia-born U.S. international scored 79 goals overall (putting him 20th on the all-time list) and provided 112 assists (fifth most) while winning one MLS Cup, two Supporters’ Shields, and one U.S. Open Cup with the Wizards.

Steve Ralston

Tampa Bay Mutiny 1996-2001; New England Revolution 2002-10

Ralston the assist machine recorded a huge total of 135 league assists in 378 appearances during his MLS career, which puts him second on the all-time list, also scoring 76 goals. Having been branded the league’s first ever Rookie of the Year in 1996, he went on to be named to the MLS Best XI on three occasions and also won the Supporters’ Shield and U.S. Open Cup.

Miami Fusion 2000-01; DC United 2002-06; Real Salt Lake 2007-19

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Rimando is a constant in MLS, with the seasoned goalkeeper the all-time leader in league appearances (514), goalkeeper wins (223), clean sheets (154) and successful saves (1,701). Rimando has also saved more spot kicks (27) than any other goalkeeper in MLS history, famously including two penalties at the end of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals while with D.C. United. He is also a two-time winner of MLS Cup (MLS Cup MVP in 2009) and a two-time Supporters’ Shield winner.

Carlos Valderrama

Tampa Bay Mutiny 1996-97, 1999-2001; Miami Fusion 1998-99; Colorado Rapids 2001-02

One of the most recognisable players of his generation, Valderrama even looked good in one of the worst kits ever worn on a soccer field. The Colombian midfielder chalked up 114 assists during his time in MLS, including a single-season record of 26 back in 2000. Valderrama was named MLS Most Valuable Player in the league’s inaugural season after impressing with Tampa Bay, ultimately landing himself a berth in the MLS All-Time Best XI almost a decade later.

Portland Timbers 2013- present

With 88 assists and counting, Valeri is 10th on the all-time list of MLS creators and, thanks to his tally of 84 goals, the Argentine attacking midfielder is also one of only three players in history to reach both 80 goals and 80 assists during their careers. The Timbers fan favourite has been named in the MLS Best XI on three occasions while also taking the MLS Most Valuable Player honours in 2017. Add to that an MLS Cup in 2015 (after which he claimed the MLS Cup MVP award) and it’s abundantly clear why Valeri is already rated among the best.

San Jose Earthquakes 2005, 2009-present; Houston Dynamo 2006-09

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Having buried 166 goals in 381 games, Wondolowski is clear at the summit of the MLS goal-scoring charts as the league’s all-time leading marksman. As if that wasn’t enough to cement his credentials, the Quakes striker was named MVP in 2012, the season in which he equalled the then-record for goals scored in a single season (27). The two-time MLS Cup champion has also twice won the MLS Golden Boot (2010 and 2012) while being named in the MLS Best XI on three occasions. And, when he’s not playing, he’s watching his team play with fans in the crowd!

New York Red Bulls 2013-19; LAFC 2020-present

Wright-Phillips is also a two-time Golden Boot winner, having also matched the then all-time single season scoring record (27 goals) for the Red Bulls back in 2014. The former Manchester City and Southampton striker has scored 116 goals since making the move to MLS, which puts him sixth on the league’s all-time list. Wright-Phillips briefly played alongside older brother Shaun at Red Bulls before leaving last year to join LAFC.





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