Eight players earn first-ever Best XI accolade; Nashville SC’s Walker Zimmerman earns fifth consecutive Best XI honor
NEW YORK (Tuesday, November 28, 2023) – Major League Soccer today announced the 2023 MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire, which recognizes the league’s top players at each position as determined by members of the media, MLS players, and MLS club technical staffs. Among the group of elite performers from the 2023 MLS regular season are eight players who were selected for the first time.
The MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire represents eight nations and seven clubs, all of which qualified for the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs.
2023 MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire
Goalkeeper: Roman Bürki (St. Louis CITY SC)
Defenders: Matt Miazga (FC Cincinnati), Tim Parker (St. Louis CITY SC), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
Midfielders: Luciano ‘Lucho’ Acosta (FC Cincinnati), Thiago Almada (Atlanta United), Héctor Herrera (Houston Dynamo FC), Hany Mukhtar (Nashville SC)
Forwards: Dénis Bouanga (LAFC), Giorgos Giakoumakis (Atlanta United), Juan ‘Cucho’ Hernández (Columbus Crew)
- Media Assets for the MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire are available HERE.
St. Louis CITY SC, which placed the 2023 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Roman Bürki and defender Tim Parker on this year’s MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire, became the first expansion club to finish atop their conference in its inaugural season. St. Louis produced 56 points in 2023, tying the Chicago Fire in 1998 for the second-most points by an expansion club in their debut season.
The MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire also features 2023 Landon Donovan MLS MVP Luciano ’Lucho’ Acosta and 2023 MLS Defender of the Year Matt Miazga, who guided their team to the league’s best regular season record for the first time in the club’s MLS history. Cincinnati also became the third club in league history to win the Supporters’ Shield title within two years of finishing at the bottom of the standings and claimed the top seed in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Walker Zimmerman earned his fifth consecutive MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire honor, joining Chris Armas, Robin Fraser, Jaime Moreno (each with five), Dwayne De Rosario (six), and Landon Donovan (seven) as the only players to earn the honor at least five times. Hany Mukhtar was named to the MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire team for the third consecutive year. Mukhtar, along with Cincinnati’s Lucho Acosta, became the sixth and seventh players in league history to record at least 10 goals and 10 assists in three different seasons in their MLS careers.
Second-year stars Thiago Almada and Juan ‘Cucho’ Hernández also earned MLS Best XI honors as the South American duo each recorded double-digit goals and assists during the regular season.
Rounding out the midfielders is another first-time MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire selection, Héctor Herrera, who led his team and finished second in MLS with 17 assists in 2023.
MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi winner Dénis Bouanga and 2023 MLS Newcomer of the Year Giorgos Giakoumakis complete the MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire awardees as first-time honorees. Bouanga was the league’s top scorer during the regular season with 20 goals, while Giakoumakis became the second-fastest player in league history to reach double-digit goals to start their MLS career with 10 goals in his first 766 minutes of action.
2023 MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire
Roman Bürki | Goalkeeper | St. Louis CITY SC | Nationality: Switzerland | Born: November 14, 1990 | 1st Selection
Bürki’s 17 wins were the most of any goalkeeper in their first MLS season during the post-shootout era and tied Mark Dodd (Dallas Burn) and Mark Dougherty (Tampa Bay Mutiny) for the most wins including the shootout era (both in 1996). The inaugural captain of the 2023 expansion club St. Louis CITY SC earned an MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire selection for the first time in his career after recording over 100 saves. His 123 saves during the regular season were the second-most in MLS this season and his save percentage (74.5 percent) was the fourth highest among active MLS goalkeepers to play in at least 20 games. The Swiss international produced eight clean sheets and conceded the fewest goals (42) by any goalkeeper to play at least 30 games during an expansion club’s inaugural season in a 34-game season.
Matt Miazga | Defender | FC Cincinnati | Nationality: United States | Born: July 19, 1995 | 1st Selection
The 2023 MLS Defender of the Year, Miazga anchored FC Cincinnati’s back line, starting 27 regular season matches and logging over 2,300 minutes. Miazga led a defense that allowed only 39 goals (1.05 goals per game) in 2023. In 10 of his starts, FC Cincinnati held their opponents scoreless, while Miazga tied for the fourth-most clean sheets among outfield players in the league. Miazga joins teammate Lucho Acosta (2022, 2023) as the only Cincinnati players to be named to the MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire.
Tim Parker | Defender | St. Louis CITY SC | Nationality: United States | Born: February 23, 1993 | 1st Selection
Parker, who finished second in MLS Defender of the Year voting, earns his first MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire selection. The center back helped anchor a St. Louis backline while leading the club to eight shutouts. He tallied a career-best four goals, including the club’s first-ever goal in their inaugural match. The first-time MLS All-Star started 29 games and totaled 2,565 minutes of action while guiding St. Louis to a first-place finish in the Western Conference.
Walker Zimmerman | Defender | Nashville SC | Nationality: United States | Born: May 19, 1993 | 5th Selection
Zimmerman remains the cornerstone of one of the league’s top defenses, which gave up just 32 goals during the regular season, tied for fewest in the league. He became the sixth player in MLS history to be named to the MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire five or more times and has the most selections among active players. The Nashville defender was named an MLS All-Star for the fourth time in his career and concluded the MLS regular season with 1,844 minutes of play in 24 games, while helping club to their fourth consecutive Audi MLS Cup Playoffs appearance. Zimmerman, along with teammates Dan Lovitz and Joe Willis, started and played every minute of the club’s Audi MLS Cup Playoffs history (810 minutes).
Luciano ‘Lucho’ Acosta | Midfielder | FC Cincinnati | Nationality: Argentina | Born: May 31, 1994 | 3rd Selection
Acosta led MLS with 31 goal contributions (17 goals, 14 assists) in the 2023 regular season en route to capturing the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award. In June, Acosta became the eighth active MLS player and 28th player in league history to record at least 50 goals and 50 assists. The following month, he captained the 2023 MLS All-Star team against Arsenal and afterward returned to MLS play, becoming the only active player and the 14th overall in league history to record over 70 assists and at least 50 goals. As captain of the Orange and Blue, the Argentine’s 43 regular-season assists since 2021 are the second-most in MLS during that time, and no other MLS player has more goal contributions than Acosta’s 136 (58 goals, 78 assists) since his MLS debut in 2016.
Thiago Almada | Midfielder | Atlanta United | Nationality: Argentina | Born: April 26, 2001 | 1st Selection
Almada, the 2023 MLS Young Player of the Year, led the league and set a club record for assists in a single season with 19. In just his second MLS season, Almada became one of only 11 players to produce at least 19 assists in a year and was the youngest player to do so at 22 years old. In addition to leading his team in assists, he was also led Atlanta Untied in shots (109) and key passes (77). The Argentine international and World Cup champion was named a 2023 MLS All-Star and recorded the second-most goal contributions (30) during the 2023 MLS regular season. Since joining Atlanta United in 2022, Almada has the second-most assists (31) and fourth-most goal contributions (48) in the league over that span.
Héctor Herrera | Midfielder | Houston Dynamo FC | Nationality: Mexico | Born: April 19, 1990 | 1st Selection
Herrera earns his first MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire selection after contributing 17 assists during the 2023 regular season, which was a single-season club record. The distributor aided the Dynamo to a 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup qualification after winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The team’s captain, the Mexican international scored four goals across 30 regular-season games and guided the club to their first Audi MLS Cup Playoffs appearance since 2017.
Hany Mukhtar | Midfielder | Nashville SC | Nationality: Germany | Born: October 3, 1998 | 3rd Selection
Nashville SC midfielder Hany Mukhtar earned his third consecutive MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire honor after scoring 15 goals in 2023. With that feat, he became the eighth player in league history to score at least 15 goals in three consecutive seasons. Mukhtar has produced 88 goal contributions (54 goals, 34 assists) since the start of 2021, 11 more than the next closest player. He also contributed to the club’s nine home wins in 2023 while matching a team-high with 13 regular-season wins. The German playmaker, along with Dan Lovitz, Joe Willis, and Walker Zimmerman, has started every Audi MLS Cup Playoff match in club history.
Dénis Bouanga | Forward | Los Angeles Football Club | Nationality: Gabon | Born: November 11, 1994 | 1st Selection
Bouanga recorded six goals and one assist in the final three games of the regular season to secure the 2023 MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi, finishing the season with 20 goals in 31 regular-season games. His six goals were tied for the second-most by a Golden Boot winner in his final three matches of a season, trailing Alex Pineda Chacón, who scored seven in his final three games for the Miami Fusion in 2001. He led MLS with five multi-goal games, reaching double-digit regular season goals in LAFC's 11th game of the season. As a result, Bouanga tied for the sixth-fastest player in league history to hit 10 goals from the start of a season. Bouanga’s dominant goal scoring helped the defending MLS Cup presented by Audi champions finish third in the Western Conference en route to their fifth Audi MLS Cup Playoffs appearance. Bouanga was a perfect 3-for-3 in penalty-kick goals and added seven assists in 2,533 minutes of play.
Giorgos Giakoumakis | Forward | Atlanta United | Nationality: Greece | Born: December 9, 1994 | 1st Selection
Giakoumakis, the 2023 MLS Newcomer of the Year, scored 17 goals and provided three assists in 27 regular-season games in his debut MLS season, finishing in a tie for second in the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi race. The Greek international was named to the 2023 MLS All-Star team and had the league’s best goals-per-90-minutes mark (0.85) with a minimum of 1,500 minutes played. Giakoumakis got off to a fast start for Atlanta United, scoring in seven of his first 10 MLS matches, becoming just the seventh player in league history to accomplish the feat.
Juan ‘Cucho’ Hernández | Forward | Columbus Crew | Nationality: Colombia | Born: April 20, 1999 | 1st Selection
In his first full season with the Black & Gold, Hernández made his way into the MLS record books by producing the second-fastest hat trick from the start of a game, scoring three goals in just 22 minutes and 51 seconds against the Chicago Fire on September 20. He led the Columbus Crew to a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference, contributing 16 goals and 11 assists with a league-leading 165 shots. The Colombian striker sat atop the MLS rankings in shots on target (58), was second in goals inside the 18 (15) and ranked third in goals (16) while starting all games in which he played. The forward set a new club record with a goal contribution in nine consecutive matches (April 29 to June 17, 2023), which was the longest streak in MLS since 2019. Hernández also became the second player in club history to record 25-or-more goal contributions in their first 30 matches.
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Based in Fort Mill, S.C., Continental Tire the Americas, LLC manufactures and distributes a complete premium line of passenger, light truck and commercial tires for original equipment and replacement markets. Our ultra-high, performance tires include award-winning technologies that focus on safety, help save money, and reduce CO2 emissions. Continental’s premium products are available at leading independent tire dealers, car dealers, and mass retail companies across North America. Continental Tire is a proud supporter of AMG Driving Academy, BMW Performance Driving Centers, College Basketball, Gunther Werks, Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, Major League Soccer (MLS), ROUSH Performance, Stadium Super Trucks, Toyota’s GR Cup, Universal Technical Institute, USF Pro Championships, and the WNBA.