Zlatan, Rooney and the top 50 players in MLS

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MLS saw several top talents leave the league this winter, but there is still plenty of quality hanging around heading into 2019

Major League Soccer lost several stars this offseason, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney still headline a long list of talent available in the league  

Major League Soccer's current offseason was one that saw more star turnover than any in recent memory. 

Players from all ranges of the spectrum said farewell, from the contingent of young stars like Alphonso Davies and Tyler Adams, to the record-setting transfer Miguel Almiron, and the legendary players who will be extremely tough to replace like David Villa and Sebastian Giovinco. 

Despite this exodus, MLS still has plenty of talent set to be on display in 2019. Not only are new stars arriving, such as Gonzalo 'Pity' Martinez and Nani, but there are big names that are sticking around in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney, as well as top young talents ready to be the next in line for foreign clubs to try and pry away on the transfer market. 

So, who are the best players in MLS heading into 2019? Taking into account factors such as their play in MLS in recent years, transfer value, and potential, here are the top 50 players in the league: 

  1. Getty Images

    #1 Zlatan Ibrahimovic, LA Galaxy

    The Swedish star recorded 22 goals and 10 assists in his first season in MLS, and is poised to improve on those numbers under new LA Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
  2. Tony Quinn/ISI Photos

    #2 Wayne Rooney, D.C. United

    The Manchester United and Everton hero made an immediate impact with D.C. United, helping transform the struggling club into a playoff contender. Rooney's 12 goals and seven assists helped D.C. return to the postseason and earned him MLS Best XI honors.
  3. MARK RALSTON

    #3 Carlos Vela, Los Angeles FC

    It was a debut season to remember for LAFC's Mexico international, posting 14 goals and 13 assists to help the expansion team play some of the most attractive soccer in the league. He threw in a good showing at the 2018 World Cup to boot, and now the 29-year-old playmaker will try to help LAFC make a push for an MLS Cup final appearance.
  4. #4 Josef Martinez, Atlanta United

    After shattering the MLS single-season goal-scoring record and leading Atlanta United to an MLS Cup title, Martinez will now attempt to match or exceed those lofty accomplishments under a new head coach in Frank De Boer. He will also have a new lead playmaker in Gonzalo 'Pity' Martinez, instead of Miguel Almiron, who moved to Newcastle United this winter.
  5. Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

    #5 Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez, Atlanta United

    Fresh off helping River Plate win a Copa Libertadores title, Martinez steps into the void left by Miguel Almiron and he will have some lofty expectations. His technical quality, and a strong supporting cast in Atlanta, should help him contend for MLS Best XI honors. 

  6. Troy Wayrynen

    #6 Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers

    The former MLS Cup winner and MLS MVP nearly added a second title to his resume in 2018, and while the Argentine midfielder saw his goal total dip to 10 in 2018, he remains one of the most dynamic attacking players in the league, averaging double-digit goals and assists for the second straight season.  

  7. Michael Chang

    #7 Nicolas Lodeiro, Seattle Sounders

    The Uruguayan playmaker saw his goal and assist totals increase in 2018, even though his minutes played went down from 2017. He will shift into a central midfield role in 2019, which should help him contend for the league's assist title and could help him add a second MLS Cup to his resume. 

  8. #8 Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact

    Sometimes overlooked because he plays for a traditionally mediocre team, Piatti has long been one of the most dangerous players in MLS. The 34-year-old Argentinian winger tallied 16 goals for the third straight season but set a new personal best with 13 assists in 2018. 

  9. Kim Klement

    #9 Zack Steffen, Columbus Crew

    Due to leave for Manchester City this summer, Steffen has emerged as the U.S. national team's starting goalkeeper and he'll look to help the Columbus Crew get off to a strong start before he joins the Premier League champions in a $10 million move.
  10. Lindsey Wasson

    #10 Raul Ruidiaz, Seattle Sounders

    One of the best MLS acquisitions of last summer's transfer window, Ruidiaz was the driving force behind Seattle's dramatic second-half turnaround. The 28-year-old Peruvian forward rattled off 10 goals in 14 regular season matches, and continued his hot form in the playoffs, where he scored three times in two matches. 

  11. Harry How

    #11 Diego Rossi, Los Angeles FC

    European clubs looking for the next breakout talent like Miguel Almiron can start their search in Los Angeles, where the 20-year-old Uruguayan sensation enjoyed an outstanding first season in 2018. Rossi totaled 12 goals and nine assists last season and should improve on both numbers in 2019. 

  12. #12 Darwin Quintero, Minnesota United

    The speedy Ecuadorian forward was a dream for Minnesota United, giving the Loons the kind of game-changing attacking threat they had sorely lacked. He posted 11 goals and 15 assists in his first season in MLS, and should improve on those numbers after the Loons significantly upgraded their roster this winter.
  13. Tim Clayton

    #13 Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls

    The 33-year-old English striker has become as close to an automatic goal-scorer as MLS has ever seen, becoming the first player in league history to notch 15 goals in five consecutive seasons. He scored 20 in 2018 and has shown no signs of slowing down. 

  14. Kelley L. Cox

    #14 Maxi Moralez, New York City FC

    The diminutive Argentine playmaker has replaced David Villa as NYCFC's most influential player, emerging as the team's leader in 2018. His 18 assists ranked him among the league's leaders and he also improved his goal total with eight on the season. 

  15. Elsa

    #15 Kaku, New York Red Bulls

    The Paraguayan national team midfielder enjoyed a solid first season in MLS, helping the Red Bulls win the Supporters' Shield. He drew transfer interest from Club America this winter, but the Red Bulls held on to him, and will be expecting him to be more of a goal-scoring threat in 2019 along with being the team's primary assist man.  

  16. Jason Getz

    #16 Luciano Acosta, D.C. United

    Wayne Rooney's arrival not only helped transform D.C. United into a playoff team, it also helped Acosta realize his potential as one of the league's best playmakers. The 24-year-old Argentine played his way into MLS Best XI honors by amassing 10 goals and 17 assists in 2018. It helped spark transfer interest from Paris St. Germain, though D.C. United reportedly turned the offer down when the clubs couldn't agree on a fee.
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    #17 Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto FC

    Replacing someone like Sebastian Giovinco as Toronto FC's creative talisman is an impossible task, but the Canadian club will be hoping the Spanish midfielder can help fill the void. Set to be acquired as TFC's latest designated player, Pozuelo has the quality to be among the league's best from day one.
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    #18 Marco Fabian, Philadelphia Union

    Acquired by the Union on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt, Fabian will be hoping a change of scenery helps him recapture his best form. The Union will be hoping he can fill the void left by the departure of 2018 MLS assist leader Borek Dockal.  

  19. Craig Mitchelldyer

    #19 Sebastian Blanco, Portland Timbers

    The 2018 season saw Blanco reach a new level with the Timbers, posting double-digit goals and assists during the regular season before delivering three goals in the playoffs to help the Timbers reach the MLS Cup final.
  20. USA Today

    #20 Ezequiel Barco, Atlanta United

    It might surprise some to see Barco high on the list after his lackluster debut season with Atlanta United, but his rough first year in MLS can't take away from the reality that he was a highly-regarded prospect just a year ago and he'll have a chance to emerge as a key contributor for the MLS champions in 2019. His display in Atlanta's Concacaf Champions League triumph over Herediano is a good sign he's ready for a big season.
  21. Isaiah J. Downing

    #21 Andre Blake, Philadelphia Union

    The 28-year-old Jamaican goalkeeper has been one of the most consistent netminders in MLS for several years, and will be favored to add another Goalkeeper of the Year award as he leads an improved Union side in 2019.
  22. Jonathan Daniel

    #22 Jonathan Dos Santos, LA Galaxy

    Though he hasn't quite made the impact expected of him when he signed as a designated player with the LA Galaxy, Dos Santos showed his high quality at various times in 2018, and he should be one of the leading beneficiaries of the arrival of Guillermo Barros Schelotto as the Galaxy's new head coach. 

  23. USA Today

    #23 Bastian Schweinsteiger, Chicago Fire

    The German legend may be 34 and at the tail end of his career, but Schweinsteiger remains a top-quality player. He should be even more influential in 2019 as he moves back into his natural central midfield role after being deployed in central defense for much of last season.
  24. Jonathan Daniel

    #24 Alberth Elis, Houston Dynamo

    Another MLS player foreign clubs will start paying more attention to in the transfer market, Elis is a 23-year-old attacking standout with game-changing speed. He produced 11 goals and 10 assists in 2018 despite the Dynamo struggling through a rough regular season, which led to transfer interest this winter. 
  25. #25 Nani, Orlando City

    Signed to help fill the star void left by the departure of Brazilian legend Kaka, Nani joins Orlando City at the age of 32 and should still be able to be a dangerous winger/forward for a Lions team looking to shake off a nightmare 2018.
  26. #26 Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls

    One of the breakout players of 2018, Long was the leader of the best defense in MLS, earning Defender of the Year honors. He also broke through with the U.S. national team and earned a big new contract as interest from European clubs has grown considerably.  

  27. Mike DiNovo

    #27 Felipe Gutierrez, Sporting Kansas City

    Though injury forced him to miss a chunk of the 2018 season, Gutierrez still showed his considerable quality when he was healthy. The 28-year-old Chilean delivered seven goals and two assists last season, numbers he should shatter as he leads a revamped Sporting KC side in 2019.
  28. Vaughn Ridley

    #28 Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC

    It was a rough 2018 for the USMNT striker, as injuries limited him to 13 matches, but there is no denying that the 29-year-old is still one of the best strikers in MLS. If he can stay healthy, and TFC can add some playmakers to provide service, Altidore should be back among the league's goal-scoring leaders in 2019.
  29. #29 Alexandru Mitrita, New York City FC

    Being called a potential Sebastian Giovinco-like addition for NYCFC, Mitrita has the unenviable task of trying to fill the void left by David Villa's departure for Japan. It's an unfair label because's he's more of a winger/playmaker type than striker like Villa, but he'll still have the heavy expectations.
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    #30 Diego Chara, Portland Timbers

    Defensive midfielders rarely get the credit they deserve, and Chara is one of the league's true unsung heroes, doing the heavy lifting in Portland's midfield to free up Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco. The 32-year-old Colombian is a key reason why the Timbers have a good chance of making another run at the MLS Cup final.
  31. Jeffrey Swinger

    #31 Albert Rusnak, Real Salt Lake

    The 24-year-old Slovakian playmaker has been a bit of an enigma for Real Salt Lake, but there's no denying he is one of the league's most dangerous players when he's on his game. Rusnak notched 10 goals and seven assists in 2018. After signing a new contract with RSL and seeing the team bolster its attack, Rusnak should see his numbers rise.
  32. #32 Ilie Sanchez, Sporting Kansas City

    The Spaniard is another vastly underrated defensive midfielder, and Sporting KC players would likely vote him the team's most important player. A product of Barcelona's La Masia, Sanchez is the heartbeat of Sporting KC's midfield and a key reason SKC is a legitimate MLS Cup contender.
  33. Brett Davis

    #33 Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Atlanta United

    Arguably the most talented defender in MLS, Gonzalez Pirez sharpened his game in 2018 and was a key reason behind Atlanta United's march to the MLS Cup title. The 27-year-old Argentine central defender possesses the mouth-watering combination of size, speed and technical quality and generated some transfer interest this winter, but will stay put and look to help the Five Stripes add another title.
  34. Getty Images

    #34 Michael Bradley, Toronto FC

    A potential Top 10 player on this list a year ago, Bradley endured the toughest season of his career in 2018. The 31-year-old USMNT midfielder remains a very influential presence in TFC's midfield and he should return to his top form now that he won't have to spend time serving as an emergency central defender.
  35. Shaun Clark

    #35 Adama Diomande, Los Angeles FC

    The former Hull City striker enjoyed a successful first season in MLS, scoring 12 goals in 18 matches after reunited with Bob Bradley during the middle of the season. Now, with a full preseason to adapt to his new team, the 29-year-old Norwegian has the ability to push for 20 goals in 2019.
  36. #36 Kemar Lawrence, New York Red Bulls

    The best left back, and arguably the best defensive fullback in MLS, Lawrence was a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year after playing an instrumental role in the Red Bulls boasting the stingiest defense in the league. The 26-year-old Jamaican defender should be on the radar of European scouts with his speed and one-on-one defensive skills.
  37. Michael Chang

    #37 Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders

    If it's tough to believe Roldan is just 23, it's because he has already put together four strong seasons as a regular starter for the Sounders, developing into one of the most complete midfielders in the league. Roldan has broken into the USMNT picture, and recently earned a new contract.
  38. #38 Romain Alessandrini, LA Galaxy

    The French midfielder has put together outstanding numbers in each of his two seasons in MLS, delivering 13 goals and 12 assists in 2018. The 29-year-old winger should benefit from a second season alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
  39. Bob Levey

    #39 Mauro Manotas, Houston Dynamo

    One of the breakout attacking stars of 2018, Manotas was the leading figure in Houston's run to the U.S. Open Cup title. The 23-year-old Colombian striker totaled 19 goals during the regular season, earning a new contract and establishing himself as one of the top young talents in MLS.
  40. #40 Cristian Espinoza, San Jose Earthquakes

    The 23-year-old Argentinian forward joins the Earthquakes on loan from La Liga side Villarreal, and should combine with Nick Lima to give San Jose one of the more dynamic right flanks in MLS
  41. Harry How

    #41 Walker Zimmerman, Los Angeles FC

    Another American defender who emerged as a top MLS standout in 2018 was ZImmerman, who turned his strong form with LAFC into a look from the U.S. national team, and a new contract. The 25-year-old defender has developed into a goal-scoring threat as well, netting four goals in two of the past three seasons.
  42. Adam Hagy/USA Today

    #42 Julian Gressel, Atlanta United

    One of the unsung heroes on Atlanta United's title run, Gressel followed up his 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year campaign with an even better second season, emerging as a real attacking threat as a right wingback, with the versatility to help the Five Stripes play a variety of systems. The 25-year-old German has already begun drawing interest from European clubs.
  43. Ron Chenoy

    #43 Tim Melia, Sporting Kansas City

    He may not be making a big transfer move, and may not generate as many highlight-reel saves as some other top MLS goalkeepers, but Melia's steady play in net for Sporting KC has earned him a reputation as one of the league's best. The 32-year-old American has done enough to earn a USMNT look.
  44. Lachlan Cunningham

    #44 Nick Lima, San Jose Earthquakes

    One of the breakout players of the January USMNT camp, Lima has re-emerged as a top MLS defender after being part of San Jose's forgettable 2018, which dropped Lima off the radar before his impressive showing for the United States. The 24-year-old right back should benefit considerably from the arrival of Matias Almeyda as San Jose coach, and has already impressed USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter.
  45. Kirk Irwin

    #45 Federico Higuain, Columbus Crew

    The Argentinian playmaker turned 34 in 2018, but you can argue he enjoyed as good a season in 2018 as any during his time in MLS. Gonzalo Higuain's older brother provided six goals and nine assists, modest numbers that don't tell the full story of his influence.
  46. #46 Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City

    The former USMNT midfielder has made a smooth transition to the right back position, and was arguably the best right back in MLS in 2018. The 32-year-old still gets up and down the wing like a player in his 20s, as evidenced by his 15 combined assists over the past two seasons.
  47. Anne-Marie Sorvin

    #47 Chad Marshall, Seattle Sounders

    He may be 34, but Marshall is still very much one of the best central defenders in MLS. His play in 2018 was a major reason why Seattle was able to turn things around in the second half, and he will be vital to the Sounders' chances of winning a second title in four years.
  48. Vincent Carchietta

    #48 Matt Hedges, FC Dallas

    One of the top central defenders in MLS for several years now, Hedges has become a bit of a forgotten man due to his lack of USMNT opportunities, but the 28-year-old defender is going to be a key to Dallas finding success as it prepares for a youth movement.
  49. #49 Damir Kreilach, Real Salt Lake

    One of the best under-the-radar signings of 2018, Kreilach emerged to be RSL's most influential player after arriving last winter. The 29-year-old Croatian midfielder delivered 12 goals and eight assists during the regular season, then starred in RSL's playoff run.
  50. Thearon W. Henderson

    #50 Vako, San Jose Earthquakes

    Overlooked on an atrocious Earthquakes team in 2018, the 26-year-old Georgian forward was one of the team's lone bright spots, scoring 10 goals in his first season in MLS and showing off the quality that made him a designated player signing.