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Major League Soccer Could Be The Paramount Force In Moving Soccer Forward in The United States

After the U.S Men’s National Team’s underwhelming 1-0 loss against Uruguay, there is plenty of room for reflection.

The loss brought the United States’ tournament run at Copa America to a close. A World Cup that will be hosted on home soil in 2026 breeds timely questions surrounding the best way to assess the growth of football in the country.

The United States’ domestic league, Major League Soccer, may be a crucial platform for the future of soccer in America.

Other leagues in world football are able to create young talents that turn into potential stars in the future. The academies are a pivotal source of development and players can be streamlined into the first team. Development of players in a domestic league provides a glimpse of the standard of football in the country.

For example, in Europe’s conventional top five leagues (Serie A, Bundesliga, La Liga, Premier League, and Ligue 1) some of the most valuable players in the league were born in the country. The trend could provide insight on the ability to produce and retain young talent in academies, and the attractiveness of the league. The best players from a given country playing in their domestic league would signal that players find the league in their home country as a feasible place to play football.

A look at the top five leagues in Europe can provide more context. This table takes a look at the top 10 most valuable players in each domestic league and their nationalities. Each league in Europe’s top five leagues had some of their most valuable players from that country. An example would be Bukayo Saka, a winger for Arsenal, who is English. 

There are zero American players amongst the top ten most valuable players in the MLS.

Most Valuable Players in Top Five Leagues in Europe and their Nationalities – Citizenship (According to Transfermarkt):

Ranked in order from most valuable (1) to least valuable (10): (Example: (2.) denotes – 2nd most valuable player in the Premier League: Phil Foden

*These nationalities are denoted through country of birth or the country the player has chosen to represent on an international level.

Premier League:

2. Phil Foden – England*

3. Bukayo Saka – England*

5. Declan Rice – England*


La Liga:

8. Gavi – Spain*

9. Lamine Yamal – Spain*

10. Pedri – Spain*



1. Florian Wirtz – Germany*

2. Jamal Musiala – Germany*

4. Leroy Sane – Germany*


Serie A:

4. Nicolò Barella – Italy*

7. Alessandro Bastoni – Italy*


Ligue 1:

3. Ousmane Dembélé – France* 

6. Bradley Barcola – France*

7. Leny Yoro – France*


In comparison to Major League Soccer:


*Zero Americans in the Top Ten Most Valuable Players


For a wider context, there are only six American players that are amongst the top 50 most valuable players in Major League Soccer. 

There are 17 English players that are amongst the top 50 most valuable players in the Premier League.

Although the MLS is continuing to grow since its inception in 1993, the lack of perceived American star talent amongst the elite level of the league is alarming.

One to two Americans that could be identified amongst the most valuable players in the league at a given moment would be refreshing. It would signify American academies are producing top talents or top level American players are interested in playing in the United States. 

Is that too much to ask for in a country that has a population of an estimated 340 million people?

This trend can be examined amongst other leagues in world football. This table takes a look at other top domestic leagues in Europe that are not considered in the traditional top five leagues. For another example, the Eredivisie (Netherlands), Liga NOS (Portugal), Danish Superliga (Denmark), Süper Lig (Turkey), Super League (Switzerland).

Most Valuable Players in Other Domestic Leagues and their Nationalities (According to Transfermarkt):


3. Joey Veerman – Netherlands*

4. Brian Brobbey – Netherlands*

6. Lutsharel Geetruida – Netherlands*

7. Jorrel Hato – Netherlands*

8. Mats Wieffer – Netherlands*

9. Jerdy Schouten – Netherlands*

10. Quinten Timber – Netherlands*

Liga NOS:

2. João Neves – Portugal*

3. Antonio Silva – Portugal*

4. Goncalo Inácio – Portugal*

Danish Superliga:

5. Marcus Ingvartsen – Denmark*

6. Nicolai Vallys – Denmark*

10. Elias Jelert – Denmark*

Süper Lig:

1. Ferdi Kadioglu – Turkey*

6. Baris Alper Yilmaz – Turkey*

Super League:

3. Filip Ugrinic – Switzerland*

4. Joël Monteiro – Switzerland*

6. Pascal Loretz – Switzerland*

8. Kastriot Imeri – Switzerland*

In other countries, developing homegrown talents are becoming some of the best players in the league. Also, some of the country’s top players are interested in playing in the domestic league.

The MLS’ growth may be the biggest barometer of the growth of soccer in the country.

The last perceived homegrown American star to leave the league was Ricardo Pepi. Pepi, was developed in the FC Dallas academy, and became arguably the best player in the league for the first team.

Pepi left FC Dallas to join FC Augsburg in 2022 in a $20 million transfer move.

None of the players in the starting XI that were fielded against Uruguay are playing in the MLS. This can provide more credence that the top players in the country could possibly not see domestic league as a viable option to play football at a high level.

The MLS becoming a hub for the top levels of American soccer may be the next step for the United States reaching the pinnacle of the sport.


  • Jaden Dakwa

    I am a sports journalist and I have been writing about football since 2021. Sports, in general, have been a passion of mine since a young age. The Gunners in North London are definitely my favorite team, but I have overwhelming love for the sport of football as a whole. In that aspect of my life, not much has changed.