The top 10 European players in MLS history - ranked

Zlatan Ibrahimovic famously appeared for LA Galaxy in 2018 and remains one of the team's most famous players
Zlatan Ibrahimovic famously appeared for LA Galaxy in 2018 and remains one of the team's most famous players / Shaun Clark/Getty Images

Throughout its history, MLS has hosted a variety of European players across the league.

From coast to coast, former Champions League figures arrived to revolutionize American football. In the east, Andrea Pirlo and David Villa inspired a new style of playing to the newly conceived New York City FC, while on the west, David Beckham and Robbie Keane linked up to become a force to be reckoned with. 

Fans can continue to expect familiar faces to join the league, but for now, these are the top 10 European players in MLS history...ranked.

10. Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)

Robbie Keane
Robbie Keane taking a penalty for LA Galaxy / Shaun Clark/Getty Images

Robbie Keane remains the best Irishman to ever play for an MLS side.

After signing for LA Galaxy in 2011, Keane went on to score 104 goals in six seasons and earned 2014 MLS MVP honors in the process. He also led his side to win the MLS Cup on three different occasions while stateside.

9. Bastian Schweinsteiger (Chicago Fire FC)

Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bastian Schweinsteiger playing for Chicago Fire FC / Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The German midfielder chose Chicago Fire FC in 2017 as the final stop in his illustrious career.

He scored eight goals in 85 appearances during his three seasons with the MLS side, but provided more off the pitch.

Schweinsteiger is credited with changing and inspiring a determined mindset in the team’s locker room, using past experiences to guide young players.

8. Frank Lampard (NYCFC)

Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard playing with MLS team New York City FC / Michael Stewart/Getty Images

During his time in the Premier League, Lampard became known for being one of the greatest goal scoring midfielders in history, and hoped to carry that over when he joined NYCFC on a two-year contract.

In 2015, he signed with the New York City-based team before quickly joining the club’s English counterpart Manchester City on loan. Lampard eventually played in the American league, making 15 appearances and recording three assists.

7. David Villa (NYCFC)

David Villa
David Villa as New York City FC's first ever player / Mark Brown/Getty Images

David Villa shocked the world when he joined NYCFC in 2015 as the team’s first ever player. In just four seasons, Villa became the league’s fiercest scorer with 77 goals.

Besides Andrea Pirlo, no New York City FC player has come close to defeating his record at the club. Villa eventually departed NYCFC in 2018 for the Japanese league.

6. Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy)

Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard playing for LA Galaxy after joining MLS in 2015 / Shaun Clark/Getty Images

The former Premier League star left Liverpool FC to join MLS side LA Galaxy in 2015, on an 18-month deal worth around £4m.

His arrival ended a 27-year run at Liverpool,  inspiring excitement over seeing the player’s involvement with another club. He went on to make 30 overall appearances, providing five goals and 12 assists. 

Though he left Los Angeles in 2016, he remains one of the club’s most famous faces.

5. Andrea Pirlo (NYCFC)

Andrea Pirlo
Andrea Pirlo sporting New York City FC gear pre-match / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

The Italian sensation joined New York City FC in 2015 after parting ways with Juventus.

Pirlo famously scored 60 goals over the course of three seasons, overachieving compared to anyone’s wildest expectations.

Along with Frank Lampard and David Villa, Pirlo elevated the team’s status to gain international recognition.

4. Wayne Rooney (D.C. United)

Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney taking a corner for D.C. United / Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Wayne Rooney signed for D.C. United in 2018 on a three-and-a-half year contract, occupying a Designated Player spot on the club’s roster.

The nation’s capital rallied around the former Premier League player, quickly becoming a team and league favorite.

The famous goal he scored from inside D.C. United’s half will never be forgotten.

3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Tristan Blackmon
Zlatan Ibrahimovic famously scoring for LA Galaxy / Harry How/Getty Images

No one could ever forget Zlatan’s involvement in MLS, both on and off the pitch. Beyond phenomenal goals, Zlatan provided headline post-match interviews on a weekly basis.

He joined LA Galaxy in 2018, and went on to score an astonishing 52 goals in 56 games.

Zlatan remains one of the most talented players to grace MLS, and he knows it. 

2. Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls)

Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry scoring for the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Final - Leg 1 / Mike Stobe/Getty Images

As one of Europe’s greatest, Thierry Henry joined MLS in 2010 from FC Barcelona on a multi-year contract, taking up a Designated Player spot.

During his time with the league, Henry scored 51 goals over the course of five seasons. He eventually retired in 2014, but made his way back to MLS as a manager for the Montreal Impact. 

1. David Beckham (LA Galaxy)

David Beckham
David Beckham playing for Los Angeles Galaxy / Jeff Gross/Getty Images

David Beckham is arguably the most famous European player to grace the MLS fields.

His signing with LA Galaxy put the league on the map, gaining immediate popularity and international stardom. In 2007, he made the shocking move from Real Madrid to Galaxy, a decision no one really understood at the time.

Beyond his 20 goals in 124 appearances, Beckham inspired a new way to look at football in the United States. 

Since his departure, Beckham has continued his involvement with the league by becoming current part-owner of the expansion team Inter Miami CF.