Thiago Almada becomes first active World Cup finalist in MLS history

Thiago Almada

Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada has already made history – and soon might establish some more.

On Tuesday, Almada became the first active MLS player to make a FIFA World Cup final when Argentina defeated Croatia 3-0 in their semifinal matchup.

With that milestone, and by default, Almada would become the first active MLS player to win a FIFA World Cup should La Albiceleste complete the job on Sunday against whoever wins the France-Morocco semifinal later today.

Almada, 21, has played just six minutes in Qatar after subbing into Argentina’s Group C-clinching 2-0 victory over Poland. While his role has been limited, it’s still a notable accomplishment for a youngster who’s gone from senior squad debutant in September to possibly joining an esteemed list.

MLS has 12 prior World Cup winners, though all arrived in the league during their career’s twilight. They include some legends of the game:

  • Kaka – Brazil: 2002 & Orlando City SC: 2015-17
  • Bastian Schweinsteiger – Germany: 2014 & Chicago Fire FC: 2017-19
  • Andrea Pirlo – Italy: 2006 & NYCFC: 2015-17
  • Thierry Henry – France: 1998 & New York Red Bulls: 2010-14

Almada’s career is on the other end, joining Atlanta last winter via a reported league-record $16 million transfer from Velez Sarsfield. He became the 2022 MLS Newcomer of the Year and led the Five Stripes in goal contributions (18) via 6g/12a.

That impressed Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni enough to call in Almada as an injury replacement, days before the tournament began. And now he’s teammates with none other than Lionel Messi, one match away from adding a World Cup trophy to their ledger.

Almada’s future seems destined for a top European league, though for now he’s repping Atlanta on the world stage. He's also the last man standing from the league's 36-player group in Qatar.