The MLS is now established as one of the biggest non-European football leagues on the planet, with many eye-catching names flocking to America to earn their crust.
While it comes as no surprise to see many Americans scattered across the MLS, including some that played in the Premier League, the identity of some others comes as more of a shock.
We’ve identified eight players that, when we learnt they’re currently playing Stateside, made our eyebrows enter a different postcode.
One of the leading defenders of his generation, Chiellini swapped Juventus for LAFC last summer – and surprised his new team-mates with his impressive knowledge of the American game.
“He actually surprised me because he literally watches every single MLS game,” Kellyn Acosta said to the Los Angeles Times. “He knows all the players. When he first came in, he already knew my name and where I played previously, and how many games.”
While Chiellini added: “I arrived here in order to enjoy this league, discover new things, understand how is soccer now, at what level, in the U.S. And also in order to understand a different view of the sports business and sports here. It’s a huge difference.”
The European Championship winner has impressed during his early time in the MLS and scored his first goal for his new club during the win over the Portland Timbers in March 2023.
After more than 100 Premier League appearances with Stoke and Liverpool, Shaqiri endured a tough time with Lyon. He opted to cut short his spell in Ligue 1 when Chicago Fire came calling, though, leaving France midway through the European season.
The Switzerland international has scored seven goals in 31 appearances for the club, although Fire finished in a disappointing 12th in the Eastern Conference last year.
After signing a bumper contract with Toronto FC in January 2022, Insigne has made just 13 appearances for his MLS side – albeit scoring six goals when he has taken the field.
A proper Premier League stalwart during the 2010s, turning out for Aston Villa, Liverpool and Crystal Palace, Benteke left Selhurst Park to join Wayne Rooney’s DC United in 2022.
“Christian is a top player who has played at the highest level for a long time,” Rooney said at his unveiling.
“His experience and ability to score goals and help the team will be invaluable. It’s exciting for the team and myself to get him in and playing. He will make a huge difference.”
Benteke has scored four times in 12 appearances for the struggling club.
Klich said an emotional goodbye to Leeds United at the start of 2023 before switching to DC United.
The Poland international made 195 appearances for Leeds and was pivotal in helping the club complete a long-awaited Premier League return under Marcelo Bielsa in 2020.
“I saw that the coach was messing with the squad, throwing other players in different positions, and not taking me into account at all, although, for example, in the previous match I played well,”he said about Jesse Marsch after leaving Elland Road.
“Eventually, I started to get nervous. It was pure ambition.”
Klich has made three appearances for DC United, scoring once, and looks set to be an important part of the MLS side’s midfield.
Wanyama struggled for minutes in England before moving Stateside. The Kenya international had played just four times for Tottenham in the 2019-20 season, prompting him to head to CF Montreal ahead of the 2020 MLS campaign.
Still in his early 30s, the midfielder played more than 150 Premier League games during his time with Spurs and Southampton.
His move to Canada has brought more regular football, and Wanyama played a central role in Montreal’s third-place finish in 2022.
Bernardesechi is only 29, yet the winger who’s shone for Juventus and Italy is currently playing for Toronto FC. We’re genuinely shocked.
But we’re less surprised to learn he’s taken the MLS by storm, scoring 10 times in 19 appearances for his new club.
One of Roy Hodgson’s ill-fated signings at Liverpool, Wilson spent time at Blackpool, Bristol City, Hearts and Rangers before signing for Colorado Rapids in 2018.
The defender has made over 100 appearances for the Rapids, while featuring in a South Park special. At least one of these statements is true…