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Power ranking Robbie Keane and 12 more of the best footballers to play MLS

With Steven Gerrard today confirming his July arrival to the US, we look at some of the other stars who have graced the league.

N.B. THIS LIST IS based on players’ careers overall rather than on what they specifically achieved in the MLS. In addition, only players who have literally played in the MLS are eligible, hence the exclusion of Frank Lampard, Kaka, Pele, George Best et al.

13. Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders)

MLS Galaxy Sounders Soccer Source: Ted S. Warren

A fine player at his peak, featuring prominently at Inter for a couple of seasons before enjoying a decent spell with Newcastle. He is now impressing in the MLS for the Seattle Sounders.

12.  Landon Donovan (San Jose Earthquakes, LA Galaxy)

MLS Cup Soccer Source: Jae C. Hong

A US legend, Donovan has thrived in the MLS for much of his career. Had he experienced similar success in Europe, he’d undoubtedly be higher on this list.

11. Tim Howard (MetroStars)

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Hull City v Everton - KC Stadium Source: Anna Gowthorpe

Showed his class at the 2014 World Cup, where he almost single-handedly kept the US in games at times (particularly against Belgium). Howard has been a regular at Everton for a number of seasons, but played for MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls) earlier in his career.

10. Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution, Seattle Sounders FC)

MLS Sounders Dempsey Soccer Source: AP/Press Association Images

Consistently an integral member of the US team, Dempsey spent his best years in the Premier League with Fulham, in addition to having a brief spell at Tottenham. His career has been bookended by stints in the MLS, while he recently returned to Fulham on loan.

9. Marco Di Vaio (Montreal Impact)

Marco Di Vaio, Source: Graham Hughes

Featuring for a number of illustrious clubs including Juventus, Valencia and Parma, Di Vaio was undoubtedly a top player on his day. He also enjoyed a late career renaissance in the MLS, scoring 34 goals in 76 appearances for Montreal Impact, before retiring last year.

8. Jermaine Defoe (Toronto FC)

Jermaine Defoe Source: Chris Young

A phenomenally prolific goalscorer of the Premier League era, Defoe has scored well over 100 times in England’s top flight. He now plays for Toronto FC, though rumours of a return to Britain persist.

7. Brad Friedel (Columbus Crew)

Soccer - Friendly International - England v USA - Wembley Stadium Source: EMPICS Sport

Arguably the best American goalkeeper ever, Friedel represented his country at three World Cups and starred in the Premier League for well over a decade (he is even still officially a Tottenham player). Before gaining renown in England, he was impressing Stateside with Columbus Crew.

6. Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls)

MLS Red Bulls Sounders Soccer Source: Ted S. Warren

One of the players partially responsible for Everton’s largely excellent form under David Moyes, the goalscoring midfielder now plies his trade at New York Red Bulls, and enjoys similar levels of success.

5. Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)

MLS Cup Soccer Source: Jae C. Hong

Ireland’s record goalscorer’s Premier League exploits tend to be somewhat marred by his disappointingly short stint at Liverpool, but for years, he was a key player for a Tottenham side chasing Champions League football. He has enjoyed a new lease of life in America after an ill-fated second spell at Spurs, featuring in the MLS Team of the Year for the last three consecutive seasons, in addition to claiming countless other accolades.

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4. Freddie Ljungberg (Seattle Sounders FC, Chicago Fire)

Chelsea Sounders FC Soccer Source: AP/Press Association Images

One of the more underrated members of the famous Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ side, Ljungberg racked up over 200 appearances for Arsene Wenger’s men in total, winning plenty of silverware in the process. He then featured for both Seattle Sounders FC and Chicago Fire during the twilight of his career.

3. David Beckham (LA Galaxy)

Soccer - Major League Soccer - Cup Final - Los Angeles Galaxy v Houston Dynamo - Home Depot Center Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Often gets knocked owing to his obvious appetite for publicity, irrespective of any off-field issues, Beckham was a superb player at his peak. He was a hugely important part of Man United’s treble winners, and helped grow the game in America thereafter, in the process winning over some initially skeptical LA Galaxy fans with a series of fine displays.

2. Roberto Donadoni (MetroStars)

Soccer - Euro 96 - Group C - Italy v Russia Source: EMPICS Sport

Perhaps the first truly legendary player to come to the MLS since its formation in 1993, Donadoni was a key part of the great AC Milan side of the late 80s and early 90s, while also featuring in the Italy squads that went agonisingly close to triumphing in two consecutive World Cups (1990 and 1994). He had a brief but memorable stint at MetroStars, before returning for a second spell at Milan.

1. Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls)

MLS Sporting Kansas City Red Bulls Soccer Source: AP/Press Association Images

Arguably the greatest Premier League player ever, Henry finished his career at the New York Red Bulls. Like Beckham before him, Henry’s move was a major coup for the MLS, with other once-world-class players subsequently following his lead.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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