It used to be David Beckham. Then it was the era of Thierry Henry. Then cometh Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and multiple players who’ve come from the top of the European game to try their hand at Major League Soccer. It’s taken time with these and the likes of David Villa, Wayne Rooney, and even Gareth Bale – but now the league’s best players aren’t exclusively European imports. Below, we review the best MLS players in 2023.
Best MLS players 2023
10. Brandon Vazquez, FC Cincinnati
The emergence of FC Cincinnati wasn’t solely on one man yet a star performer was Brandon Vazquez. The American forward had struggled in key performance indicators for an attacking player in his prior seasons with Atlanta United and even his first two seasons with Cincinnati.
The third season in the orange-and-blue was the charm as he notched 18 goals and eight assists, making him one of the most productive players in the league.
Pat Noonan has brought in some interesting talents to TQL Stadium with players like Marco Angulo, Sergio Santos, and one-time Chelsea player Matt Miazga. These additions aren’t likely to endanger Vazquez’s position.
Moreover, foster more time for overall team possession and foster his chances up top. He’s expected to keep it going having already scored this calendar year, in USA’s international friendly against Serbia in January.
9. Jesús Ferreira, FC Dallas
There might not be a better embodiment of the American dream in Major League Soccer. The 22-year-old striker moved to Dallas, Texas at the tender age of 10. Since emerging as a soccer talent he’s been on the books at FC Dallas and has since gone on to represent the USMNT despite having been born in Colombia.
It’s not just heart-warming prose, however. He’s got the goals to back it up, scoring 18 in 2022 – as FC Dallas made it to the Western Conference semi-finals.
Ferreira made one appearance at the World Cup in Qatar, starting the knockout game against the Netherlands. To keep his place in the national team, he’ll have to keep his form up – having not featured in the January friendly against Serbia.
8. Christopher McVey, Inter Miami
In such lists, it’s always hard for defenders to reap the plaudits given the statistical bias to load on the love for attackers. Christopher McVey, however, makes a very compelling case. As a team still trying to find its feet in Major League Soccer, the Swedish right-back naturally has a lot to do while turning out at the back for Inter Miami.
He started every regular season game for David Beckham’s franchise and was incredibly efficient with his distribution game as over 80% of his passes found their intended target, including a lot of long passes. He also showed an ability to win balls, being successful in the majority of his tackles.
Having obtained an American passport in January 2023, McVey becomes a lot more valuable across the league to other teams as he can be treated as a domestic player going forward.
7. Diego Fagundez, Austin FC
After 10 years at New England Revolution, it was a long shot that Diego Fagundez was going to ever reach the higher echelons of the game.
After sliding down the ranks, he jumped at the chance to join Austin FC where he could secure a starting spot. The Uruguayan attacking midfielder has been praised for his chance-creation as well as a penchant for free-kick accuracy.
6. Andre Blake, Philadelphia Union
Another position that can be hard to praise through numbers is the goalkeeper. Jamaican shot-stopper Andre Blake does his best to buck that trend.
Putting in outrageously good performances between the sticks for Philadelphia Union. Playing all of the 34 regular season games last season, he only conceded 26 goals, picking up 15 clean sheets along the way. This of course led to him becoming the goalkeeper of the year and being named in the Best XI, putting him among the top MLS players right now.
5. Mateusz Klich, D.C. United
The former Polish international and Leeds United midfielder, Mateusz Klich, decided to move to D.C. United.
This came after he fell out of favour with Jesse Marsch. He was, however, a mainstay of the Marcelo Bielsa era at Elland Road in both the EFL Championship and Premier League. Reprising his infamous 43 shirt number, Klich will bring stability and quick key passes in the middle of the park.
This stature from across the pond will instantly make him one of the Best MLS players in 2023.
4. Luciano Acosta, FC Cincinnati
The preseason predictions are most certainly heightened at TQL Stadium after the success of last year.
Luciano Acosta was once linked with Paris Saint-Germain and with a 2022 like his, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t have flourished in Europe. Now aged 28, he might be firmly planted on this side of the Atlantic but he’s going to crop up in various best MLS players 2023 accolades for sure.
This is largely due to his attacking versatility. While usually deployed at the attacking end of midfield, he’s shown the capability to play as a forward as well as in the center. His tactical awareness is among the best in the division as he releases the ball in the best way, seemingly every time.
That coupled with his through ball and key pass skill makes him an exceptional teammate to have. If there’s no good pass on, he’s also got a great shot on him, amassing 12 assists and 10 goals in the league.
3. Daniel Gazdag, Philadelphia Union
The Hungarian came to prominence when he famously scored the fourth against England at Molineux, in a game which sealed the Three Lions’ fate of relegation in the UEFA Nations League with a 4-0 loss. Hungary by comparison was elated at a marquee win against one of the most highly rated footballing nations.
Daniel Gazdag has been doing this all season with Philadelphia Union, becoming one of the primary reasons why the club did so well in 2022. Nobody scores 22 goals without having obvious talent. What is remarkable, however, is his accuracy, as over 60% of his shots were on target. Subsequently, he scored many goals, only behind Hany Mukhtar in the entire division.
2. Lorenzo Insigne, Toronto FC
Almost certainly one of the highest-paid players in MLS this season, Lorenzo Insigne remains to be one of the top MLS players right now. The Toronto FC facelift has a distinct Italian feel with the iconic Insigne in the ranks.
The former Napoli stalwart might have struggled to attain instant success for the Canadian club yet had a decent return.
Having joined mid-season he made only 11 appearances, however, notched up six goals and two assists in his cameo role. As he familiarises himself with his team, and the league and potentially gets a better grasp of the English language, there’s no reason why he can’t electrify the league.
1. Hany Mukhtar, Nashville SC
Sometimes the stats do the work for you.
Hany Mukhtar isn’t just a football analyst’s dream but a steely character too. His goal tally for 2022 stood at 23 last season, making him the top-scorer in the league. Six of which might have been from the penalty spot, however, that goes to vindicate he’s able to step up in the big moments. In all, this accounted for over 40% of all Nashville’s goals in 2022.
His goals weren’t the only factor contributing to him being named the Landon Donovan MVP for 2022 but also his assists, with 11 throughout the campaign, meaning he had at least one direct goal contribution across the regular 34-game season. There’s no reason to think he won’t be one of the best MLS players in 2023 as with his goal tally he’ll top multiple power rankings charts.