The best of the best. Major League Soccer on Thursday unveiled the 2021 Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position.
The XI – determined by media, MLS players and MLS club technical staffs – represents eight nations and five clubs, all of which qualified for the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.
After lifting the Supporters’ Shield with the most points in MLS regular-season history, the New England Revolution’s placement of four players on the Best XI is tied for the second-most in league history (D.C. United: 1997, 2006; Chicago Fire FC: 1998, 2003; LA Galaxy: 2010, 2011) behind only the Miami Fusion’s five in 2001.
In the most prolific attacking season of his 14-year career, Gustavo Bou contributed to New England’s remarkable season with 15 goals and nine assists. En route to a Supporters’ Shield, Bou cemented the Revs atop the Eastern Conference early in the year with a burst of 11 goals in just 13 matches played from late May to early August. This is Bou’s first Best XI selection.
2021 MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi
Leading NYCFC to the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference, Valentín “Taty” Castellanos scored a league-high 19 goals to claim the 2021 MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi. Castellanos’ late-season surge of nine goals in 11 matches earned the Argentine the Golden Boot and a spot among the Landon Donovan MLS MVP finalists. This is Castellanos’ first Best XI selection.
Seattle Sounders FC talisman Raúl Ruidíaz led the Western Conference side in goals for the fourth straight year as he racked up 17 scores on the season. Serving as the impetus for Seattle’s attacking success, the Sounders outscored opponents by 20 goals in matches in which Ruidíaz found the back of the net. Ruidíaz has represented Peru on the international level since 2011 and recently hit the pitch for La Blanquirroja in Conmebol World Cup qualification. This is Ruidíaz’s second consecutive Best XI selection.
Breakout Revolution midfielder and promising international star Tajon Buchanan recorded the most combined goals and assists of his career (13), helping New England capture their first-ever Supporters’ Shield. The Revs went unbeaten during the 12 matches in which the 22-year-old scored or assisted. Buchanan made his debut with Canada’s national team earlier this year in World Cup qualification and has proven to be vital to Les Rouges’ success since then, contributing two goals and three assists to position Canada atop the Concacaf standings. This is Buchanan’s first Best XI selection.
2021 MLS Comeback Player of the Year
The catalyst behind New England’s record-breaking year, Carles Gil’s 18 assists and four goals led the MLS original club to a Supporters’ Shield and broke the all-time MLS points record in the process. A Landon Donovan MLS MVP finalist, Gil also earned MLS Comeback Player of the Year honors following his sensational season. This is Gil’s second Best XI selection and first since 2019.
Leading a resilient Sounders side to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, João Paulo paced Seattle in assists (11) and accurate passes (1,525) by more than 350 passes. Of João Paulo’s three goals on the season, two were in contention for the AT&T 5G Goal of the Year, making the Landon Donovan MLS MVP finalist the only player to appear on the list twice. This is João Paulo’s first Best XI selection.
During his first full MLS season, Hany Mukhtar burst onto the scene in a big way – recording a league-high 28 combined goals and assists. Mukhtar’s match-tying goal on Decision Day preserved Nashville’s unbeaten year at Nissan Stadium and tied an all-time league record for fewest losses in a regular season (4). This is Mukhtar’s first Best XI selection.
Winning nearly 70% of aerial duels, Robinson has utilized his imposing frame all year long for an Atlanta United side that leads the league in duel success. During 25 matches in which the defender played the full 90 minutes, ATLUTD conceded an average of just 0.92 goals and tallied nine clean sheets. Robinson’s development has fueled his emergence as a go-to USMNT defender, helping the Yanks to the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup crown as he contributes to World Cup qualification. This is Robinson’s second Best XI selection after making his Best XI debut in 2019.
In his first full MLS season, Yeimar Gómez Andrade headlined a suffocating Seattle defense that allowed just 33 goals – tied for the fewest in the league. Yeimar’s league-leading 86 interceptions are the most in a single season in MLS since 2018. Yeimar’s strong showing in Seattle earned him a call-up to Colombia's national team for Conmebol World Cup qualifying in November. This is Yeimar’s first Best XI selection.
2021 MLS Defender of the Year
Leading Nashville SC to new heights in 2021, Walker Zimmerman was named MLS Defender of the Year for the second straight season and was included in his third straight Best XI. Zimmerman led the Boys in Gold to a league-tying 13 clean sheets as they went unbeaten at Nissan Stadium. The Georgia-born defender has accumulated 22 caps for the USMNT and helped the United States win the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
2021 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year
Matt Turner led the New England Revolution to their first Supporters’ Shield and the Eastern Conference's top overall seed. Turner’s 17 wins in 28 matches are tied for the most this season. Turner has emerged as a breakout star for the United States, contributing to the team’s 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup title and strong start in World Cup qualifiers. This is Turner’s first Best XI selection.