The MLS is 25 years old and has gone from strength to strength in recent seasons. With plenty of world class players opting to make the journey to North America in their twilight years, the league has seen its reputation grow and is increasingly attracting high quality players in their prime. Naturally the UK, just a short flight across the pond, has been a natural stopping off point for some of the Premier League’s stars over the years and a number of English players have decided to show their skills in the MLS. With one of England’s greatest recent players and former LA Galaxy star, David Beckham, starting a new franchise this season, we thought it was time to look at the best English players in MLS history
Best English players in MLS history
Wayne Rooney (DC United)
Rooney had been heavily linked with a move to America in latter stages of his career, so an eventual move to DC United was not surprising when he joined in 2018. Rooney showed that he had not lost any of his finishing ability scoring 23 goals in 48 appearances averaging almost a goal every two games.
His scintillating form helped him make consecutive appearances in the MLS All-Star Game in both 2018 and 2019 as well as DC United’s MVP award for 2018. The short stint ended at the end of the 2019 season, where a move to Derby County was put together for the all-time England top goalscorer to wind his career done.
Liam Ridgewelll (Portland Timbers)
Liam Ridgewell could always be classed as a reliable Premier League defender during his prime and Portland Timbers decided to sign him as a marquee player when his West Brom contract expired at the end of the 2013/14 season. The result was a good relationship for both sides with Ridgewell’s no-nonsense approach earning him many plaudits.
The Englishman scored 6 in 97 games for The Timbers, helping his team to claim the 2015 MLS Cup. He also earned a spot in the 2014 MLS All-Star Game underlining the role he played in helping Portland become of the league’s top sides and ensuring that he would go down as one of the best English players to appear in the MLS.
Frank Lampard (New York City FC)
Following on from a brief link-up with Manchester City, Lampard moved to the US to join their sister side New York City in 2015 as a swan-song to his playing career. Lampard still managed to dominate in the midfield during the year and a half he spent over there scoring 15 goals in 29 games.
He was in particularly rich form in 2016 where he scored 12 goals in 19 games, showcasing the form that made him such a top star. This earned him a spot in the 2016 MLS All-Star game underlining the success and influence he enjoyed during his short time in the league. It was a fitting end to a stunning career with Lampard retiring at the end of the 2016 MLS season for good.
David Beckham (LA Galaxy)
By far the most famous Englishman to play in America, David Beckham shocked the world when he moved to LA Galaxy from Real Madrid in 2007. Was it a move just for money? Not at all. Becks spent 5 seasons with the Galaxy and made a telling contribution during his time there.
Scoring 12 goals in 97 games may not sound impressive but that also comes with consecutive MLS Cup wins in 2011 and 2012 as well as two Best MLS Player awards in 2008 and 2012 at the ESPY’s.
The knock-on effect of Beckham joining LA Galaxy was that other top names began to see how strong the MLS had become and arrived from Europe in the following years and he has paved the way for many recent stars. Unquestionably the greatest English player to feature in the MLS.
Danny Dichio (Toronto FC)
Canada may have had even less love for football than the US but that didn’t stop Danny Dichio from heading over to the MLS to lead the line for new club Toronto FC in 2007. He made an immediate impact scoring the club’s first-ever goal and carried that legacy on in 2008 where he scored 5 goals with 5 shots underlining his pedigree from years gone by.
Whilst not winning any trophies as a player with TFC, Dichio has become a major influence behind the scenes with Toronto being part of a backroom setup that transformed the team into one of the top sides of the league. Dichio’s presence as head of the youth squad has helped the Canadian side develop into a nightmare for any time that crosses north of the border.
Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls, LA FC, Columbus Crew)
When he first started in England, Bradley Wright-Phillips was overshadowed by the success of older brother Shaun and struggled for any consistent form. His switch in 2013 to the US was a masterstroke and showed that goals are always possible If you are the son of Ian Wright.
With pace and precision in his wheelhouse, Bradly Wright-Phillips was a superstar for New York Red Bulls scoring a staggering 109 goals in 198 games during his 6-year stint with them. This included the best return of 27 goals in 32 games in 2014 and no less than 2 MLS Golden Boot awards in 2014 and 2018 as well as becoming NY Red Bull’s all-time leading goalscorer.
A move to LA FC in 2020 proved to be just as fruitful scoring 9 goals in 18 games and winning the 2020 MLS Comeback of the Year award. He may never have received an England call-up or played for traditional powerhouses like his brother and father but that still hasn’t stopped him from filling up his trophy cabinet full of awards as one of the best English players in the MLS.
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