Best South Americans in MLS

The Best South Americans in MLS History

Since the inception of the MLS, several South American footballers have played in the League. Altough it is difficult to select the best South Americans in the MLS history, we’ve managed to select based on their overall personal and club performance.

The presence of soccer players from different continents in the MLS has helped in the improvement of the league. Whether in popularity, standard, or growth; the MLS has witnessed several changes.

Below are some of the best South Americans who through their performances helped shaped the league.

David Ferreira

David Ferreira is a former Colombian attacking midfielder. His career took him to several countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, and the USA. At the latter, he spent about three seasons with FC Dallas where he made his mark on the club and the League.

Following his loan from Brazilian club Atletico Paranaense to FC Dallas in 2009, Ferreira led his team to the MLS Western Conference Championship a year later. That season, he scored eight goals and made 13 assists. Two of those goals were in the Western Conference finals and the MLS Cup final. Unfortunately, his team lost the latter to the Colorado Rapids.

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Major Achievement

Best XI (MLS) 2010
MLS MVP 2010
MLS Western Conference Championship 2010

Luciano Emilio

Former Brazilian striker, Emilio is one of the best South Americans to play in the MLS. He played for D.C. for three years across two stints (2007-2009, 2010).

His first stint was hugely successful as he bagged several awards and a trophy with his team. With 20 goals in the 2007 season, Emilio helped his team win the Supporter’s Shield trophy. Also, that performance earned him the Newcomer’s award, Best Player award, and the League’s Golden Boot.

Major Achievement

MLS MVP 2007
Best XI (MLS) 2007
Golden Boot (MLS) 2007
US Open Cup 2008
MLS Newcomer of the Year 2007
MLS Supporter’s Shield 2007

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Jaime Moreno

Sometimes, being amongst the best is the ability to play at a high level for several years. Former Bolivian forward falls in this category, having spent almost a decade and a half in the MLS.

During that time, Jamie Moreno won several awards and trophies. Also, he created records, including being one of the first players to play in the first 15 MLS seasons. At the time of his retirement in 2010, he was the all-time leading scorer in the MLS.

Major Achievement

MLS Cup 1996, 1997, 1999, 2004
Supporter’s Shield (MLS) 1997, 1999, 2006, 2007
US Open Cup 1996, 2008
BEST XI (MLS) 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006
MVP in MLS Cup
MLS All-Time Best XI 2005

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Carlos Valderrama

Valderrama is not just one of the best South Americans to play in the MLS, he is also one of the greatest South American players. He is regarded by many as the best footballer ever from Colombia. Valderrama played majorly as an attacking midfielder and was known for donning a hairstyle distinct from other footballers.

In 1996, Valderrama moved to Tampa Bay Mutiny in the MLS from Atletico Junior. Interestingly, it was the MLS inaugural season which Valderrama’s team won. Valderrama played a major part in that victory as he became the first player to win the League’s Most Valuable Player award.

His impressive performance continued in the League which resulted in creating the record for the most assist in a single season. The record of 26 assists is yet to be broken to date. By the time he retired in 2002, he was the League’s leading assist record holder. However, that record has since been broken by three other players.

Major Achievement

MLS All-Star of the Year 1996
MVP in MLS (1996)
All-Time Best XI 2005 (MLS)
MLS Single-Season Assist Record Holder
MLS Supporter’s Shield

Josef Martinez

When a player is mentioned in the same light as Leo Messi, it is no mean feat. Venezuelan striker, Josef Martinez is one of the best South Americans to Play in the MLS. He sits behind Leo Messi as the player with goals in most consecutive matches in a regular season.

Following his initial loan move from Torino to Atlanta United in 2017, Martinez has created and broken several records. Despite playing just 20 times in his first season in the MLS, he was included in the MLS Best XI. This convinced Atlanta United to offer him a permanent contract; a decision they must be proud of!

Since then, Martinez has created the record for the most goals scored in a regular-season (31) and the most in a regular and postseason (35). Although the former has since been broken by another player.

Perhaps, his most successful season was the 2018 season when he became the most decorated player in a single MLS season. That season, he enjoyed both individual and team success.

Major Achievement

The MLS Best XI 2017, 2018, 2019
MLS MVP 2018
Golden Boot 2018
MLS All-Star 2018, 2019
All-Star Game MVP 2018 (MLS)
MVP in MLS Cup (2018)
The goal of the Year 2019
US Open Cup 2019
Eastern Conference 2018

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Marco Etcheverry

Etcheverry is the second Bolivian on our list of best South Americans to play in the MLS. He spent 7 years in the MLS with D.C United as a forward who left a huge impression of South Americans in the MLS.

As one of the players who featured in the first 7 MLS seasons, one would have thought that his performance should have been overshadowed by others. However, it has stood the test of time because only a few have had such performance.

He is the first D.C United player to be honored with a tribute match.

Major Achievements

Best XI 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 in the MLS
MLS MVP 1998
All-Star Game MVP 2002 in the MLS
MLS All-Time Best XI
The goal of the Year 1997, 1999 (MLS)
Major League Soccer Cup 1996, 1997, 1999
CONCACAF Champions League 1998
Supporter’s Shield (MLS) 1997, 1999
US Open Cup 1996.


Like many other players from other continents, South Americans have contributed immensely to the growth of the MLS. Some featured in the MLS inaugural season like Valderrama and Moreno, while others joined in the years after like Josef Martinez.

The latter is primed to become the best South American ever to play in the MLS if he maintains his performances over a longer period.

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