Eight breakout stars make first Best XI appearance
NEW YORK (December 2, 2021) – Major League Soccer today announced the 2021 Best XI, a collection of elite performers from the 2021 MLS regular season and one of the most prestigious annual honors a player can receive. The Best XI – recognizing the league’s top players at each position as determined by media, MLS players, and MLS club technical staffs – features some of the league’s most exciting and accomplished talent. Representing eight nations and five clubs – all of which qualified for the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs – the group features a number of breakout stars selected to their first Best XI and several international stars on the brink of helping their national teams qualify for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
2021 MLS Best XI
Goalkeeper: Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
Defenders: Yeimar Gómez Andrade (Seattle Sounders FC), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
Midfielders: Tajon Buchanan (New England Revolution), Carles Gil (New England Revolution), Hany Mukhtar (Nashville SC), João Paulo (Seattle Sounders FC)
Forwards: Gustavo Bou (New England Revolution), Valentín Castellanos (New York City FC), Raúl Ruidíaz (Seattle Sounders FC)
- Download MLS Best XI media assets HERE.
Claiming the Supporters’ Shield and the most points in MLS 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. All clubs that have placed four or more players on the Best XI have either won MLS Cup or the Supporters’ Shield in the same season.
The Best XI defensive group is led by New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner, who this year was named the Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year for the first time while becoming a mainstay between the posts for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Along with Turner, two of the defenders named to the Best XI have also become regulars for their national selections in Concacaf qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Walker Zimmerman, a regular presence for the USMNT in central defense, was named the MLS Defender of the Year for a second consecutive season in 2021 and named to the Best XI for a third time – most of any player in the group. He’s joined by Miles Robinson, another regular for the USA throughout the year, named to his second Best XI. The defensive group is rounded out by Yeimar Gómez Andrade, a first-time Best XI honoree in the same year where he earned a call-up to Colombia's national team for the first time.
Four finalists for the Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player award for 2021 are included in the Best XI, including three midfielders. Carles Gil, who led the league in assists in 2021 for the New England Revolution, was named to the Best XI for a second time, while João Paulo earned the nod for the first time in his MLS career. Also named to the team for the first time is MVP finalist Hany Mukhtar, who led Major League Soccer in combined goals and assists over the 2021 regular season. Gil’s New England teammate, Tajon Buchanan, was also named as Best XI for a first time in a breakout year where he is also leading the Canadian national team’s progress toward FIFA World Cup qualification.
The Best XI attacking group includes the winner of the 2021 MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi, Valentín Castellanos, who paced the league with 19 goals and eight assists this season. Castellanos is also a finalist for the Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player award. Raúl Ruidíaz has earned a Best XI nomination for a second time after netting 17 goals during the season, while Gustavo Bou rounds out the Revolution contingent after netting 15 goals in garnering his first career Best XI honor.
Building on the recent trend of MLS attracting the biggest international stars, the 2021 Best XI ties a record (2016, 2017, 2019) for most players from outside the Concacaf region with seven – Colombia (Yeimar), Spain (Gil), Germany (Mukhtar), Brazil (João Paulo), Argentina (Bou, Castellanos), Peru (Ruidíaz).
2021 MLS Best XI bios:
Matt Turner | Goalkeeper | New England Revolution | Nationality: United States | Born: June 24, 1994
Earning Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors, Matt Turner led the New England Revolution to the club’s first Supporters’ Shield and the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference. 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 men’s national team, contributing to the team’s 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup victory and strong start in World Cup qualifiers. This is Turner’s first Best XI selection.
Yeimar | Defender | Seattle Sounders FC | Nationality: Colombia | Born: June 30, 1992
In his first full season in MLS, Yeimar Gómez Andrade headlined a suffocating Seattle defense that allowed just 33 goals all season – tied for the fewest in the league. Yeimar’s league-leading 86 interceptions accumulated on the year are the most in a single season in MLS since 2018. Yeimar’s strong showing in Seattle earned him a call-up to the Colombian national team for CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying in November. This is Yeimar’s first Best XI selection.
Miles Robinson | Defender | Atlanta United FC | Nationality: United States | Born: March 14, 1997
Winning nearly 70 percent of aerial duels, Robinson has utilized his imposing frame all year long for an Atlanta United side that leads the league in duel success. In the 25 matches in which the defender went the full 90 minutes, Atlanta United conceded an average of just 0.92 goals per match and tallied nine clean sheets. Robinson’s development with Atlanta has led to his emergence as a go-to defender within the USMNT squad – helping the Stars and Stripes 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.
Walker Zimmerman | Defender | Nashville SC | Nationality: United States | Born: May 19, 1993
Leading Nashville SC to new heights in 2021, Walker Zimmerman has been named MLS Defender of the Year for the second straight season and included in the Best XI for three consecutive seasons. Zimmerman led the Boys in Gold to a league-tying 13 clean sheets and 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.
Tajon Buchanan | Midfielder | New England Revolution | Nationality: Canada | Born: February 8, 1999
Breakout Revolution midfielder and promising international star Tajon Buchanan recorded the most combined goals and assists of his career (13) as he led New England to its first Supporters’ Shield in club history. The Revs went unbeaten in the 12 matches in which 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 the Canadians’ success since then, contributing two goals and three assists to position Canada atop the Concacaf standings. This is Buchanan’s first Best XI selection.
Carles Gil | Midfielder | New England Revolution | Nationality: Spain | Born: November 22, 1992
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.
Hany Mukhtar | Midfielder | Nashville SC | Nationality: Germany | Born: March 21, 1995
In his first full season in MLS, 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 season at Nissan Stadium and tied an all-time league record for fewest losses in a regular season at four. This is Mukhtar’s first Best XI selection.
João Paulo | Midfielder | Seattle Sounders FC | Nationality: Brazil | Born: March 8, 1991
Leading a resilient Sounders side to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, João Paulo led 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.
Gustavo Bou | Forward | New England Revolution | Nationality: Argentina | Born: February 18, 1990
In the most prolific attacking season of his 14-year career, Gustavo Bou contributed to New England’s remarkable season with 15 goals and eight 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.
Valentín Castellanos | Forward | New York City FC | Nationality: Argentina | Born: October 3, 1998
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 from July 25 through Sept. 22 earned the Argentine the Golden Boot and a spot among the Landon Donovan MLS MVP finalists. This is Castellanos’ first Best XI selection.
Raúl Ruidíaz | Forward | Seattle Sounders FC | Nationality: Peru | Born: July 25, 1990
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 has recently hit the pitch for la Blanquirroja in CONMEBOL World Cup qualification. This is Ruidíaz’s second consecutive Best XI selection.