It might not be long before a list like this needs some adjusting. Lionel Messi is on an absurd romp, helping Inter Miami raise the Leagues Cup with his ten goals in seven games. He also scored on his MLS debut. 

The Argentine cheat code to one side, the MLS has seen many great national and international players grace its pitches, and these are the ones whom Messi will probably be considered amongst when he hangs up his boots.

Chris Wondolowski 

Taking to the field 410 times in the MLS and 422 times in total MLS competitions, Chris Wondolowski boasts the record for games played in the league and stands among the all-time top scorers.

In the regular season, including the MLS is Back Tournament of 2020, Wondolowski scored 172 goals and set up 41 more. He also played in the CONCACAF Champions Cup with both of his MLS clubs. 

Only recently retired, the striker from California won the MLS Cup twice with the Houston Dynamo, the Supporters’ Shield twice with the San Jose Earthquakes, and he won the MLS MVP Award in 2012. 

Both of Wondolowski’s former clubs look to be in the mix for the playoffs this season, but both are distant outsiders in the soccer betting to claim the title, with Houston out at +4000 and the Earthquakes just behind at +5000. 

Nick Rimando

Another career MLS star, Nick Rimando holds the standard for goalkeeping in the league, and even enjoyed a brief outing in the Copa Sudamericana with D.C. United. 

For the defunct Miami Fusion, D.C. United, and Real Salt Lake City, Rimando amassed 553 total appearances, and in the MLS alone, he managed to keep 155 clean sheets in 514 games.

By the end of his career, the vaunted Californian netminder secured the Supporters’ Shield with D.C. United and hoisted the MLS Cup with both United and Real Salt Lake City. 

Sebastian Giovinco 

Powerpack forward Sebastian Giovinco commenced his career as a youth player at Juventus and would eventually break into the vaunted Italian club’s first team. He even enjoyed a stint in the national team. 

After 20 goals and 24 assists for Juventus, he made the switch to Toronto FC in 2015. In Canada, the Torino native played more games and scored more goals than he ever did for Juve in just a few years. 

In 142 total games, Giovinco scored 83 goals and 51 assists, being a huge factor in Toronto’s 2017 MLS Cup triumph and their Supporters’ Shield win.  

The 2015 MLS MVP Award winner also holds the record for goals from free kicks at 13. David Beckham, by contrast, is joint-fourth on that list with seven. 

David Villa

World Cup-winning superstar striker David Villa was a real coup for the newly-founded New York City FC in 2014. That year, the Spaniard was also joined by Frank Lampard, and Andrea Pirlo the following season.

Villa made an immediate impact and put up a tremendous haul of goals and assists. By his final, 126th game for the MLS club, the Spaniard had scored 80 goals and created 21 more. Only three of those goals weren’t scored in the regular season.

In 2016, Villa landed the MLS MVP Award but couldn’t do enough to help carry New York City to any titles in North America. 

David Beckham

David Beckham made waves when he switched from Real Madrid to Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, predominantly because he was still a huge name in Europe – even if his minutes for Los Blancos had waned. 

The Englishman arrived to much fanfare, and it was well-known from the moment that he stepped off of the plane that he planned to stick around long after his career to found his own MLS club.

On the field, Beckham scored 20 goals and 42 assists in 124 games and was instrumental in Los Angeles Galaxy winning back-to-back MLS Cups and Supporters’ Shields. 

Now, as the owner of Inter Miami, Beckham remains an influential figure in the MLS and is credited as the person who brought Lionel Messi to the league.

Landon Donovan

Arguably the greatest player in MLS history outright, Landon Donovan stands second on the all-time scorers list with 145 goals in 343 games. He’s only behind Wondolowski, but scored at a slightly higher rate of 0.42 to 0.41. 

During his early spells in the MLS, he spent a fair few stints in Germany, going between Bayer Leverkusen and the San Jose Earthquakes between 2001 and 2005, and then arriving in Los Angeles, where he’d also spend time with Bayern Munich and Everton. 

Donovan was at his most illustrious for Galaxy, with four of his six MLS Cup triumphs coming with LA. The centre-forward also managed to secure 157 caps for the US and was named their Footballer of the Year four times. 

Perhaps it’s this that led to the league naming its MVP Award after the prolific forward in 2015 – an award that Donovan himself won once in 2009. 

Clint Dempsey

Born in Texas in 1983, Clint Dempsey moved to Fulham in 2007, marking what would be a long stint away from the MLS after putting up 26 goals and 14 assists in 80 games for the New England Revolution. 

Still in his early 20s when he transferred, Dempsey would be beloved by Fulham fans and Tottenham Hotspur fans, becoming a household name in the UK. 

Then came his long-awaited return to the MLS. In the summer of 2013, Seattle grabbed Dempsey from Spurs, and it immediately helped them to win the Supporters’ Shield and the US Open Cup. 

Two seasons later, they won the MLS Cup, but Dempsey was unable to partake in the playoffs. Even with such a large break in between to play in the Premier League, Dempsey netted 72 goals and set up 35 more in 186 MLS games, adding another seven goals and two assists in the playoffs. 

This season, his former club is right in the mix to win the MLS crown once again. With the Sounders knocking around the top end of the Western Conference, they’re given odds in sports betting lines of +1600 to win it all.

Zlatan Ibrahimović

One of European football’s most prolific and enigmatic strikers, the only recently retired Zlatan Ibrahimović may have only spent a short stint in the MLS, but that showing was incredibly memorable. 

The towering Swede scored a massive 53 goals in 58 games, and was nice enough to give out 15 assists to his fellow Los Angeles Galaxy players. 

Despite scoring 30 goals in 29 games in 2018/19 and 22 goals in 27 games in 2017/18, Ibrahimović would miss out on the Golden Boot by one and two goals in those seasons, respectively, and was overlooked twice for the MVP Award.

Bradley Wright-Phillips

A graduate of the Manchester City academy – before they were buffed up by all of the money in Abu Dhabi – Bradley Wright-Phillips petered around the lower divisions of English football before making the switch to New York.

Joining the New York Red Bulls in July 2013, once Thierry Henry had returned from a quick loan stint back to Arsenal, Wright-Phillips made an immediate impact.

From the 2014 season to the 2018 season, the Englishman was the club’s top scorer, netting 31, 18, 25, 24, and 24 goals in those seasons while helping the club finish atop the regular season standings twice. He’d win the Supporters’ Shield three times with the Red Bulls but never the MLS Cup. 

Now the director of football at the club, the two-time Golden Boot winner happily hung up his boots after additional spells with the Columbus Crew and LAFC with a tally of 114 goals and 28 assists in 231 regular season games. 

Robbie Keane

At a time when LA Galaxy could boast David Beckham and Landon Donovan, the club decided to add Irish sniper Robbie Keane, who more than delivered.

In just 125 MLS regular season games, he scored 83 games and 34 assists, and fired home another nine in the playoffs to help LA lift the Cup in 2011, 2012, and 2014 – after Beckham left. 

The 2014 MVP Award winner finished with 165 games, 104 goals, and 41 assists for Galaxy, being pivotal to the greatest era that the team has experienced and one of the few dynasties of MLS Cup history. 

In the coming years, Lionel Messi and Carlos Vela look to be prime candidates to challenge for a place on this list of the ten greatest players in MLs history.

*Credit for all images in this article belongs to AP Photo*

Ben is very much a sports nerd, being obsessed with statistical deep dives and the numbers behind the results and performances.

Top of the agenda are hockey, soccer, and boxing, but there's always time for the NFL, cricket, Formula One, and a bit of mixed martial arts.