HomeSportsEvery MLS player to win the World Cup - Thiago Almada joins...

    Every MLS player to win the World Cup – Thiago Almada joins the list

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    Thiago Almada made history on Sunday as the only active MLS player to win the FIFA World Cup.

    The Atlanta United playmaker was added to Argentina’s roster as a late injury replacement and even made the field as a late substitute in their 2-0 win over Poland in the group stage.

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    Despite limited minutes, Almada impressed, having 15 touches of the ball and completing all 13 of his passes while creating one big chance.

    But while Almada, 21, is the only active MLS player to lift the trophy, he becomes the 13th addition to a list of players to feature in the league to have won the World Cup at some point in their careers.

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    Here are the other 12…

    World Cup '94 Football International

    Branco played a crucial role for Brazil in 1994. / Christian Liewig – Corbis/GettyImages

    Branco only stayed with the MetroStars for a brief period in 1997, making a handful of appearances, but he certainly left his mark on Brazil’s 1994 World Cup triumph.

    The former left-back was an unused substitute for their first four matches at the tournament before getting the nod in the quarter-finals against the Netherlands, scoring a stunning late free-kick to deliver a 3-2 win. Branco played every minute from there and even scored in Brazil’s shootout win over Italy in the final.


    Matthaus didnt’ particularly enjoy himself in MLS. / MAUREEN BOYCE/GettyImages

    Lothar Matthaus was long past his best by the time he joined MetroStars in 2000, where he played just 16 times before swiftly retiring. However, he’s rightly remembered as one of the greatest German players of all time, even scoring four goals as captain to help his nation lift the 1990 title.

    New York Red Bulls forward Youri Djorkae

    Djorkaeff rekindled some former magic with RBNY. / TIMOTHY A. CLARY/GettyImages

    Unlike the two players above, Youri Djorkaeff was able to recapture some of his former glories during his two seasons in MLS, with the attacking midfielder hitting 13 goals and 10 assists in 43 appearances across all competitions for the New York Red Bulls. That came following a distinguished career in top European leagues, turning out for the likes of Monaco, PSG, and Inter.

    Djorkaeff scored once in France’s run to the 1998 World Cup.

    MLS - FC Dallas Sign Denilson - Press Conference - August 27, 2007

    Denilson’s stay in MLS was brief. / Rick Yeatts/GettyImages

    Once the most expensive player on the planet, Denilson was mainly used as a substitute in Brazil’s 2002 World Cup triumph but certainly earned his medal. What he didn’t earn was much acclaim in MLS, playing just eight games for FC Dallas, scoring once before swiftly returning to his homeland with Palmeiras.

    Thierry Henry

    Henry delivered the goods in New York. / Mike Stobe/GettyImages

    As you’ve probably noticed, New York has always had a big pull on the game’s biggest stars. However, where some struggled in the Big Apple, Thierry Henry certainly did not.

    The French icon – part of the 1998 World Cup-winning side – posted a phenomenal 94 direct goal involvements (52g/42a) in 135 RBNY appearances across all competitions winning the 2013 Supporters’ Shield among a host of individual honors.

    One of the best the league has ever seen.

    Alessandro Nesta

    Nesta enjoyed a solid stay in MLS. / Derek Leung/GettyImages

    At least in his own position, Alessandro Nesta is just as iconic as Henry and while he didn’t quite experience the same level of success as the Frenchman in MLS, he definitely made his mark.

    The Montreal Impact (now CF Montreal) were a far better outfit with him in the team than out, and the Italian left the club with a Canadian Championship title alongside his 34 appearances.

    Kleberson remains in MLS to this day.

    Kleberson remains in MLS to this day. / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Kleberson’s key role in Brazil’s 2002 victory came as a huge shock to some given his lack of success in England with Manchester United. However, he was always an important piece for his country, doing the dirty work behind the likes of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.

    The former midfielder spent just half a season with the Philadelphia Union in 2013, but did go on to coach the club’s academy MLS NEXT Pro teams. Kleberson remains in the United States as assistant coach of NYCFC.

    David Villa

    Villa was a huge success for NYCFC. / Tim Clayton – Corbis/GettyImages

    David Villa arrived in MLS as Spain’s all-time top goal scorer and a serial winner for both club and country, so there was little doubt he would make his presence felt.

    The forward amassed 80 goals during his 126-game stay with NYCFC, helping the club finish in the top three of the Eastern Conference in three of his four MLS seasons.

    Winner of the 2016 MLS MVP award, Villa remains NYCFC’s record goalscorer to this day.

    Andrea Pirlo

    Pirlo spent three seasons in MLS. / Tim Clayton – Corbis/GettyImages

    Andre Pirlo didn’t reach the heights of Villa for NYCFC, but was steady enough, hitting one goal and 12 assists in 60 matches.

    The Italian will, of course, go down as one of the greatest deep-lying midfielders of all time thanks to his successes with AC Milan and Juventus, as well as at the 2006 World Cup.


    Kaka is arguably Orlando City’s greatest-ever player. / Chris McEniry/Overflow Productions, Inc./GettyImages

    Kaka was only 20 years old when Brazil won the 2002 World Cup, featuring for just 18 minutes in the tournament. Of course, he would go on to become an all-time great, picking up 92 caps while lifting almost every major club honor you can think of – as well as the 2007 Ballon d’Or award.

    The attacking midfielder didn’t let up when he joined MLS, either, hitting 25 goals in 78 appearances for Orlando City across all competitions and staying active with the Brazilian national team. However, he was unable to guide the Lions into the MLS Cup Playoffs.

    Bastian Schweinsteiger

    Schweinsteiger enjoyed three seasons in MLS. / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages

    Bastian Schweinsteiger was the rock of the German midfield during three World Cups, finishing third in 2006 and 2010 before winning the title in 2014.

    Germany’s fourth all-time appearance holder moved to MLS in 2017 and although his raw numbers don’t suggest much success (eight goals, 15 assists), he maintained strong form with the Chicago Fire. Those numbers are so low because, in fact, Schweinsteiger transitioned as a center-back.

    Blaise Matuidi

    Matuidi was vital to France’s 2018 success. / Ira L. Black – Corbis/GettyImages

    Blaise Matuidi was one of the unlikely heroes of France’s 2018 success and just two years later, his glittering spell in Europe ended as he moved to Inter Miami.

    Of course, that transfer became extremely controversial, with the Herons found to have broken league rules to make it happen. On the pitch, it wasn’t much better, with Matuidi playing looking quite average across 48 appearances.

    At 35 years old, Matuidi is now a free agent.

    Watch the story of Charlotte FC’s journey to MLS in 90min’s The Making of Charlotte FC, presented by DoorDash, on 90min channels now. Subscribe to our new US YouTube channel.

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