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Vela, Martinez and the top 50 players in MLS

11:01 AM EST 3/1/19
Josef Martinez Carlos Vela Nicolas Lodeiro MLS
MLS saw several top talents leave the league this winter, but there is still plenty of quality hanging around heading back into 2020

Major League Soccer lost several stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney, but the likes of Carlos Vela and Josef Martinez still headline a long list of talent in the league.

Despite this exodus, MLS still has plenty of stars set to be on display in 2020, such as winter signing Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez and last season's big-name adiditions Gonzalo 'Pity' Martinez and Nani. Additionally, the league has a series of 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 in2020? 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.

  • Mauro Manotas

    #1 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 Colombia striker totalled a career high of 19 goals in the 2018 regular season, earning himself a new contract and has since established himself as one of the top young talents in MLS.

  • Julian Gressel Atlanta United

    #2 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. He upped his goal tally with the Atlanta side in 2019 before securing a move to D.C. United in 2020.

  • Alejandro Bedoya

    #3 Alejandro Bedoya | Philadelphia Union

    Philadelphia Union have inherited the veteran leadership experience of Alejandro Bedoya, who exhibits influence on and off the pitch - especially when he took to the on-field microphone to take a stand against gun violence after the mass shootings that occurred in El Paso and Dayton, saying: “Congress, do something now. End gun violence.”

  • Albert Rusnak MLS

    #4 Albert Rusnak | Real Salt Lake

    The Slovakia 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 in both 2018 and 2019 seasons. After signing a new contract with RSL and seeing the team bolster its attack, Rusnak should see his numbers rise.

  • Saphir Taider MLS

    #5 Saphir Taider | Montreal Impact

    A fruitful 2019 loan season with Montreal that produced 10 goals in 37 appearances led to a permanent move for the Algeria midfielder, who will be looking to establish himself following the exit of Ignacio Piatti.

  • Pablo Piatti MLS

    #6 Pablo Piatti | Toronto FC

    After being forced to sit out the start of the 2020 MLS season due to a hamstring strain, the winger will be eager to prove his worth as a Designated Player with the Toronto side as they look to recreate the momentum of reaching the 2019 playoffs.

  • Brian Rodriguez MLS

    #7 Brian Rodriguez | LAFC

    The Uruguay youngster wasn’t able to get his career with LAFC off to the best start after arriving from Penarol in 2019 - for a club record fee of $11.5m, no less but he has all the makings of a goal threat this season.

  • Stefan Frei MLS

    #8 Stefan Frei | Seattle Sounders

    The Sounders veteran is now in his 12th season in MLS and has shown no signs of slowing down or stopping - and already has a trophy-laden cabinet that includes two MLS Cup titles and an MLS Supporters’ Shield.

  • Mark-Anthony Kaye Julian Gressel Atlanta United LAFC MLS

    #9 Mark-Anthony Kaye | LAFC

    The Canada international has had solid successive seasons for LAFC and inhibits the ideal box-to-box midfielder role, a versatile player capable of incredible flair.

  • Ezequiel Barco Atlanta United MLS

    #10 Ezequiel Barco | Atlanta United

    Ezequiel Barco's rough first season in MLS can't take away from the reality that he was only recently a highly-regarded prospect. His display in Atlanta's Concacaf Champions League triumph over Herediano had already garnered attention, and now he has all the makings of becoming the next breakout youth talent in MLS.

  • Reggie Cannon MLS

    #11 Reggie Cannon | FC Dallas

    At just the tender age of 21, Reggie Cannon is already a regular with the USMNT side and a staple in his FC Dallas team. The young defender is set to reach new heights with FC Dallas this season as the club look to retain him in the long-term.

  • Michael Bradley Toronto FC

    #12 Michael Bradley | Toronto FC

    Michael Bradley endured the toughest season of his career in 2018. He looks to have bounced back since, netting three goals in 2019 during the regular season. The USMNT midfielder still 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.

  • Eddie Segura MLS

    #13 Eddie Segura | LAFC

    The Colombia youngster was a staple in the 2019 LAFC side, having played in every regular season match and playing a vital role in the side’s Supporters’ Shield victory.

  • Brad Guzan MLS Atlanta United 03062019

    #14 Brad Guzan | Atlanta United

    With a wealth of experience under his belt, goalkeeper Brad Guzan is Atlanta Untied’s secret weapon - a mainstay in their squad and named as an MLS All-Star in 2018 and 2019.

  • Leandro Gonzalez Pirez

    #15 Leandro Gonzalez Pirez | Inter Miami 

    Leondro Gonzalez Pires was a solid regular at centre-back for Atlanta United for three seasons until 2020, where he will now bolster the defense of new side Inter Miami.

  • Walker Zimmerman

    #16 Walker Zimmerman | Nashville SC

    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. He earned himself a move to Nashville in 2020 after netting four goals during his two seasons with LAFC.

  • Victor Wanyama of Montreal Impact and Kenya Harambee Stars.

    #17 Victor Wanyama | Montreal

    Victor Wanyama arrived as Montreal Impact’s Designated Player in 2020 after five seasons with Tottenham Hotspur, setting up team-mate Saphir Taider in his club debut during the first leg quarter-final of the Concacaf Champions League against C.D. Olimpia.

  • Romain Metanire

    #18 Romain Metanire | Minnesota United

    A promising 2019 season in which the Madagascar international comfortably settled as his side’s first-choice right-back led to a spot in the playoffs, with more exciting displays sure to come this season.

  • Diego Chara Portland Timbers 2018

    #19 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.

  • Edison Flores

    #20 Edison Flores | D.C. United

    The Peru international became D.C. United’s club-record transfer when he moved from Morelia for a $5m fee. A star at international level - Peru’s third-active goal-scorer -  will no doubt be an integral part in Ben Olsen’s revamped team.

  • Alexander Ring NYCFC

    #21 Alexander Ring | NYCFC

    Alexander Ring inherited the captain’s armband from David Villa, who left NYCFC for Vissel Kobe in 2019, and for good reason. The former Finland international has been pivotal in central midfield for his side, his versatility an important cog in the team’s machine.

  • Sebastian Blanco MLS Portland Timbers 2018

    #22 Sebastian Blanco | Portland Timbers 

    The 2018 season had seen Sebastian 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.

  • Jurgen Locadia

    #23 Jurgen Locadia | FC Cincinnati

    A tally of 62 goals in the Eredivisie with PSV caught the attention of FC Cincinnati (after a spell with Brighton) to loan the striker, who will have to repeat his impressive strike tally for the MLS side to exercise the option to buy.

  • Diego Valeri MLS Portland Timbers 08062017

    #24 Diego Valeri | Portland Timbers

    The former MLS Cup winner and MLS MVP in 2017 nearly added a second title to his resume in 2018, and while the Argentina midfielder saw his goal total dip to 10 in 2018, he has remained one of the most dynamic attacking players in the league, and managed to average double-digit goals and assists in his second straight season.

  • Miles Robinson Atlanta United MLS 04072019

    #25 Miles Robinson | Atlanta United

    Pressure has already started to mount on the shoulders of Atlanta United youngster Miles Robinson, who was already named in the MLS Best XI in 2019 after impressive showings in his club that included an MLS Cup victory.

  • Heber

    #26 Heber | NYCFC

    Heber adapted to life in MLS from Croatia seamlessly, ending the 2019 season as NYCFC’s top-scorer with 15 goals - and he is sure to add even more to his strike tally.

  • Jamiro Monteiro MLS

    #27 Jamiro Monteiro | Philadelphia Union 

    A fruitful loan spell with Philadelphia Union in 2019 that produced four goals and nine assists led the midfielder to transfer to the club permanently in 2020, where he will no doubt continue to wreak havoc.

  • Darlington Nagbe

    #28 Darlington Nagbe | Columbus Crew

    An impressive showing for Atlanta United where he won the MLS Cup led to a move to Columbus for the midfielder, where he will hopefully capitalise on the previous season’s showings.

  • Jordan Morris 2019

    #29 Jordan Morris | Seattle Sounders

    Despite missing the whole of the 2018 season due to a devastating ACL injury, Jordan Morris more than bounced back when he finally regained his fitness the next campaign - scoring 13 goals in 30 apps in 2019 - and will no doubt shine as an even brighter star.

  • Nani MLS Orlando City 02212019

    #30 Nani | Orlando City

    Signed to help fill the star void left by the departure of Brazilian legend Kaka, Nani joined Orlando City at the age of 32 and has still been a dangerous winger/forward for a Lions team who were desperate to shake off a nightmare 2018. He netted 12 goals in 33 appearances in 2019, and continues to be looked up to by his team-mates for his wealth of experience.

  • Alan Pulido MLS

    #31 Alan Pulido | Sporting KC

    Impressive showings during his four seasons with Liga MX side Guadalajara earned Alan Pulido a move to Sporting KC for 2020, his €9.2 million fee a reported club-record.

  • Aaron Long MLS Red Bulls 11112018

    #32 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.  

  • Lucas Zelarayan MLS

    #33 Lucas Zelarayan | Columbus Crew

    An attacking midfielder who’s as dangerous as an attacking threat as he is skilled with defensive duties, Lucas Zelarayan got his debut as a Columbus player in style when he netted the match-winning goal against NYCFC in December 2019.

  • Cristian Pavon

    #34 Cristian Pavon | LA Galaxy

    His loan move from Boca Juniors proved so successful that his spell was extended for the 2020 season, registering eight assists in just 11 appearances to make a name for himself as one of the league’s most dangerous attacking threats.

  • Gonzalo Pity Martinez MLS River Plate 12092019

    #35 Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez | Atlanta United

    After helping River Plate win a Copa Libertadores title, Martinez was expected to shoulder into the void left by Miguel Almiron. After some initial growing pains at the start of his time in Atlanta, he has since settled into his groove with the side. His technical quality, and a strong supporting cast in Atlanta, should help him contend for MLS Best XI honors. 

  • Diego Rossi MLS LAFC 05132018

    #36 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 Uruguay sensation enjoyed an outstanding first season in 2018. Rossi totaled 12 goals and nine assists in his debut campaign before going on to register 16 strikes in 2019.  

  • Rodolfo Pizarro

    #37 Rodolfo Pizarro | Inter Miami

    The Mexico International had impressed during his time with Monterrey, which earned him a move to Inter Miami for a reported $12m fee. The midfielder has all the potential to add creativity  to the David Beckham-owned MLS side as he's long been one of the top midfielders in North America.

  • Gustavo Bou

    #38 Gustavo Bou | New England Revolution

    The former Racing Club forward was an immediate fit with the Revs, providing the club with a go-to goalscorer to lead the attack. He will be looking to capitalize on his form since joining MLS in 2019, having led the Revs to the playoffs last season.

  • Jonathan Dos Santos 04142018

    #39 Jonathan Dos Santos | LA Galaxy

    Though he hasn't always made the impact expected of him when he signed as a Designated Player with the LA Galaxy, Dos Santos has showed his high quality at various times since his arrival in 2017 - and he should be one of the leading beneficiaries under head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

  • Maxi Moralez MLS NYCFC 03312018

    #40 Maxi Moralez, New York City FC

    The diminutive Argentina playmaker replaced David Villa as NYCFC's most influential player, having emerged 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 the following campaign.

  • Chicharito Galaxy 2020

    #41 Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez | LA Galaxy

    Perhaps the league's’ most famous star after impressive stints at the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid - not to mention being the standout talisman for El Tri - he hasn’t had the best of luck in recent seasons, but has the opportunity to set the record straight once again in 2020 as he joins the LA Galaxy.

  • Jozy Altidore Toronto FC MLS 2018

    #42 Jozy Altidore | Toronto FC

    Despite an injury-ridden 2018 where Jozy Altidore was limited to just 13 MLS appearances, the U.S. men's national team star bounced back the following season with 12 goals in 25 appearances - and looks set to return as one of the league's goal-scoring leaders in 2020 if he can stay healthy.

  • Raul Ruidiaz MLS Seattle Sounders 12042018

    #43 Raul Ruidiaz | Seattle Sounders

    One of the best MLS acquisitions in recent years, Raul Ruidiaz broke records for being the fastest player to score 10 goals (taking 14 games) - and etched himself into club lore permanently when he netted the third goal in Seattle's 3–1 home victory over Toronto in the 2019 MLS Cup Final.

  • Eduard Atuesta MLS

    #44 Eduard Atuesta | LAFC

    Eduard Atuesta has been a crucial force as a midfielder in the LAFC side that has had star player Carlos Vela dominating the headlines, but he has been the behind-the-scenes puppeteer of creativity, registering 11 assists while serving as one of the league's best midfielders

  • Carles Gil MLS New England Revolution 02072019 NER

    #45 Carles Gil | New England Revolution

    Carles Gil burst onto the MLS scene seamlessly once he arrived in 2019, his goal on his debut against FC Dallas a sign of his potential. He hasn’t disappointed - he netted 10 goals in the regular season for the Revs in 2019 which led him to be named MLS Newcomer of the Year.

  • Ike Opara MLS

    #46 Ike Opara | Minnesota United

    The centre-back has played an instrumental role in Minnesota United’s improved form since his arrival in 2019, earning himself a place in the MLS Best XI as well as being named the MLS Defender of the Year at the end of his debut season for the club.

  • Pozuelo Toronto FC

    #47 Alejandro Pozuelo | Toronto FC

    Replacing someone like Sebastian Giovinco as Toronto FC's creative talisman is an impossible task, but the Canadian club have placed their trust in the Spanish midfielder can help fill the void. Pozuelo possessed the quality to be among the league's best from day one, and was named in the MLS Best XI in 2019.

  • Nicolas Lodeiro MLS Seattle Sounders 07152018

    #48 Nicolas Lodeiro | Seattle Sounders

    The Uruguay playmaker bagged an MLS-high goal tally of 11 strikes in 2018, and has enjoyed a glittering career in the Pacific Northwest - winning the MLS Cup in 2016 and 2019.

  • Josef Martinez Atlanta United Campeones Cup 2019

    #49 Josef Martinez | Atlanta United

    After shattering the MLS single-season goal-scoring record with 35 strikes in 2018 and leading Atlanta United to an MLS Cup title, Martinez has continued to match expectations under coach Frank De Boer, although a major injury will keep him out for 2020.

  • Carlos Vela LAFC 2020

    #50 Carlos Vela | Los Angeles FC

    The Mexico star has arguably been the brightest star of MLS, scoring a record-setting 34 goals in 2019 and 15 assists to boot. His trademark is flitting past defenders alongside his quick pace and dribbling skills, helping lead a record-breaking LAFC attack.