World Cup winners who have played in MLS

Lionel Messi will be the 14th player that have won a World Cup to play in MLS.
Lionel Messi will be the 14th player that have won a World Cup to play in MLS. / Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Winning the FIFA World Cup is a dream for every footballer.

Only a few players have had the honor of lifting the trophy however. And out of all those players, only 13 have also gained experience in Major League Soccer.

With Lionel Messi on his way to MLS, that will make it 14 players that have won the World Cup to play in the league. 

Here are the 13 players who have won a World Cup that have played in MLS so far.

13. Thiago Almada (Argentina 2022)

Thiago Almada recently won the World Cup with Argentina.
Thiago Almada recently won the World Cup with Argentina. / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Thiago Almada transferred from Velez Sarsfield to Atlanta for a league-record $16m last winter. In his first season, he received the 2022 MLS Newcomer of the Year award and led Atlanta United with six goals and 12 assists.

The young Argentine’s fantastic form led to a late call-up to the 2022 World Cup squad as an injury replacement. Though he played just six minutes, Almada still managed to get a chance to lift a World Cup trophy.

12. Blaise Matuidi (France 2018)

Blaise Matuidi's stint with Inter Miami didn't go as planned.
Blaise Matuidi's stint with Inter Miami didn't go as planned. / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Blaise Matuidi played a crucial role in France's successful midfield during the 2018 World Cup.  

Throughout his career Matuidi played 84 games for the French national team. Prior to his move to Inter Miami, he played for both Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

11. Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany 2014)

Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bastian Schweinsteiger had a great career with the Chicago Fire. / David Banks/GettyImages

Bastian Schweinsteiger was the engine of Germany's midfield, making over 100 appearances for Die Mannschaft.

He played in three World Cups, finishing third in 2006 and 2010, but his greatest achievement was winning the 2014 World Cup.

10. Kaka (Brazil 2002)

Kaka was great for Orlando City during his time in the league.
Kaka was great for Orlando City during his time in the league. / Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kaka joined Orlando City in 2015 as a phenomenally decorated player, having won the Ballon d'Or in 2007. Kaka was a key member of the Brazilian national team, scoring 29 goals in 92 appearances. In 2002, Kaka was only 20 years old and played just 18 minutes during the tournament, but he did manage to get his hands on a winners' medal.

During his time with Orlando, he made history by the distinction of scoring the first goal in the club's MLS history.

9. Andrea Pirlo (Italy 2006)

Andrea Pirlo had a rocky time in MLS with NYCFC.
Andrea Pirlo had a rocky time in MLS with NYCFC. / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Midfielder Andrea Pirlo played a crucial role in Italy's victory at the 2006 World Cup. 

He started in all seven games and helped his team secure their fourth World Cup title. He was also recognized as the top assister in the tournament and received the Bronze Ball award for his outstanding performance.

During his time in MLS, Pirlo played 60 games, contributing 18 assists and scoring once. 

8. David Villa (Spain 2010)

David Villa did well for NYCFC.
David Villa did well for NYCFC. / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

David Villa was an integral part of Spain’s 2010 World Cup win. His five goals in South Africa led La Roja to their first World Cup title in history. 

His arrival at NYCFC changed the club for the better, scoring 77 goals over 110 MLS appearances and winning the league MVP award in 2016. 

7. Alessandro Nesta (Italy 2006)

Alessandro Nesta
Alessandro Nesta enjoyed a decent time out with CF Montreal. / Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/GettyImages

Italian defender Alessandro Nesta was a pleasant surprise to MLS, joining the Montreal Impact (now CF Montreal) in 2012. 

Nesta played all three of Italy’s group games in the 2006 World Cup before sitting out the rest of the tournament due to an injury.

6. Kleberson (Brazil 2002)

Foot : Final / Germany - Brazil / Wc 2002
Kleberson played for the Philadelphia Union during his time in MLS. / Tim de Waele/GettyImages

Kleberson was a box-to-box role player who could do a ton of running in the midfield. He started in three out of Brazil’s knockout matches as they went on to win their fifth title. 

In 2013, he had a brief stint with the Philadelphia Union, where he only played in 11 matches.

5. Lothar Matthaus (West Germany 1990)

Lothar Matthaus #10
Lothar Matthaus played for the then New Jersey Metro Stars. / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

Lothar Matthaus, who is often regarded as a major letdown during his time in MLS, scored four goals and led West Germany to victory in the World Cup in Italy 1990.

Ten years later after that he joined the MetroStars from German giants Bayern Munich, only playing 16 times and not scoring. He would then go on to retire at the end of the season. 

4. Denilson (Brazil 2002)

MLS - Chicago Fire vs FC Dallas - September 20, 2007
Denilson played for FC Dallas for one year. / Rick Yeatts/GettyImages

At one point the most expensive player in the world in 1998 when Real Betis paid $35m for his services, Denilson was not too active on the pitch for Brazil, only used as a substitute in Japan/Korea in 2022. 

In MLS, well, he didn’t fare much better - playing eight games and scoring once. 

3. Branco (Brazil 1994)

Branco was the first World Cup winners to play in MLS.
World Cup '94 Football International / Christian Liewig - Corbis/GettyImages

Branco was on the Brazilian team that emerged victorious at the 1994 US World Cup. 

Most well-known for his tackling and dead-ball specialties, Branco joined New Jersey MetroStars (now Red Bulls) in 1997 as a three-time World Cup veteran and one-time winner.

2. Youri Djorkaeff (France 1998)

New York Red Bulls forward Youri Djorkae
New York Red Bulls forward Youri Djorkae / TIMOTHY A. CLARY/GettyImages

Youri Djorkaeff, who played for the French national team during their World Cup triumph in 1998, joined the Red Bulls seven years after the fact.  

He impressed fans and pundits alike with his knack for scoring goals and skillful presence on the field. 

During his two seasons with the team, he scored a total of 12 goals in 45 league matches for the Red Bulls.  

1. Thierry Henry (France 1998)

New England Revolution Vs New York Red Bulls. MLS Eastern Conference Final, second leg. Gillette St
Thierry Henry had great success with the New York Red Bulls in his time with MLS. / Tim Clayton - Corbis/GettyImages

After Djorkaeff left New York, a few years later Henry arrived at the Red Bulls.

And it's fair to say that Henry was a hit in New York, as he scored 51 goals and created 42 more in 100 games.

Henry would return to MLS as manager of CF Montreal in 2020.