Messi, Henry & more: All 16 World Cup winners who played in MLS


The FIFA World Cup trophy has been lifted by a select group of players – 16 of whom also have Major League Soccer experience on their résumé.

New LAFC goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is the latest member of this exclusive group after hoisting soccer's ultimate prize with France at the 2018 tournament in Russia.

These are the unique few who have won the title and played in MLS:


  • Brazil: 1994 World Cup
  • MetroStars: 1997
The World Cup Winners: Blaise Matuidi the latest in exclusive MLS club -

A hardman for the pragmatic Brazilian side that won the World Cup in the US, Branco was known for his tackling and his deadly free kicks, one of which he famously struck against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals of that tournament.

In 1997, with three World Cup tournaments (and one World Cup Trophy) under his belt, he joined the New York Red Bulls and put up one of the most ignominious career stat lines in MLS history: 11 appearances, one goal, two assists and three red cards.


  • Brazil: 2002 World Cup
  • FC Dallas: 2007
The World Cup Winners: Blaise Matuidi the latest in exclusive MLS club -

Once the most expensive player in the world – Real Betis paid $35 million for him in 1998 – Denilson was used mainly as a sub at Japan/Korea 2002, including in the final against Germany.

The Brazilian playmaker joined FC Dallas in August 2007, played eight games, scored one goal, and then … gone.

Youri Djorkaeff

  • France: 1998 World Cup
  • New York Red Bulls: 2005-06
The World Cup Winners: Blaise Matuidi the latest in exclusive MLS club -

Seven years after featuring and scoring for Les Bleus on their march to the title, Djorkaeff joined the Red Bulls, where he quickly became a fan favorite with his silky skills and goals. During two seasons in the Big Apple, he scored 12 goals across 45 league appearances.

Thierry Henry

  • France: 1998 World Cup
  • New York Red Bulls: 2010-14
Thierry Henry

Several years after his 1998 France teammate Djorkaeff departed New York, Henry arrived, brandishing his other-worldly talent and a résumé that included three goals for Les Bleus in their 1998 World Cup triumph.

His numbers with the Red Bulls speak for themselves: 51 goals and 42 assists in 122 league matches, plus one Supporters’ Shield – the club’s first-ever major trophy. Henry later returned to MLS as a manager, serving as head coach of the Montréal Impact in 2020.


  • Brazil: 2002 World Cup
  • Philadelphia Union: 2013
Kleberson PHI

Brazil's Kleberson was a clever, creative "role player" who did a lot of the running and box-to-box work that made the Ronaldo-Rivaldo-Ronaldinho triumvirate look so good. He started in the quarters, semis and final en route to the nation's fifth world title.

In 2013, he spent half a season with the Philadelphia Union, making 11 appearances and scoring a lone goal.

Lothar Matthaus

  • West Germany: 1990 World Cup
  • MetroStars: 2000
The World Cup Winners: Blaise Matuidi the latest in exclusive MLS club -

Largely considered one of the biggest disappointments in MLS history, Lothar Matthaus led the Germans to the World Cup trophy in Italy with four goals.

Ten years later, he joined the MetroStars from Bayern Munich, coasted through 16 appearances (zero goals) and retired at the end of the season.

Alessandro Nesta

  • Italy: 2006 World Cup
  • Montréal Impact: 2012-13
Alessandro Nesta

The Azzurri legend went the distance in Italy’s group openers – including against the USA – then picked up an injury in the third game that forced him out of action for the rest of the tournament. But Alessandro Nesta was there on the podium at the end.

He joined the Montréal Impact (now CF Montréal) midway through the 2012 season and became an integral part of the club’s success: Montréal were 15-9-7 with him in the lineup, as compared to 4-7-3 without him.

David Villa

  • Spain: 2010 World Cup
  • New York City FC: 2015-18
David Villa

El Guaje ("The Kid") was the man for Spain during his 10-year international career. David Villa is the nation's all-time leading scorer with 59 goals in 98 caps. Five of those goals came at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, as Spain captured their first – and so far only – world title.

Upon arriving in the Big Apple ahead of the 2015 season, Villa racked up 77 goals and 26 assists across 117 regular-season appearances. He also took home Landon Donovan MLS MVP honors in 2016.

Andrea Pirlo

  • Italy: 2006 World Cup
  • New York City FC: 2015-17

Il Maestro, midfielder Andrea Pirlo, was one of the most important players on the Italian team that won the 2006 World Cup in Germany, starting all seven games as the Azzurri lifted their fourth World Cup trophy. He tallied three assists at that World Cup and was given the Bronze Ball for his efforts.

Now the manager at Sampdoria in Serie B, Pirlo had one goal and 18 assists in 60 games for NYCFC during his MLS stay.


  • Brazil: 2002 World Cup
  • Orlando City SC: 2015-17
Kaka Orlando goal

Kaka was one of the most decorated players to ever join MLS when he became Orlando City's first signing before the 2015 season. The former Ballon d'Or winner (2007) was just 20 years old when Brazil won the World Cup in 2002, and he played only 18 minutes in that tournament. He later became a staple for the national team, appearing in 92 games and scoring 29 goals.

He scored the first goal in Orlando's MLS history and wrapped up his Florida stay with 24 goals and 22 assists in 75 matches.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

  • Germany: 2014 World Cup
  • Chicago Fire FC: 2017-19
Bastian Schweingsteiger

Schweinsteiger was long the heartbeat of Germany's midfield, making 121 appearances to place fourth all-time on the Die Mannschaft list. He featured at three World Cups, including third-place finishes in 2006 and 2010, though the highlight was certainly in 2014 when Germany lifted the World Cup trophy in Brazil.

The final triumph was a 1-0 extra-time victory over Argentina, one where the center-mid lasted the entire 120 minutes en route to glory. Schweinsteiger retired after the 2019 season, having played 85 games for Chicago Fire FC. His stat line might've been higher – though eight goals and 15 assists were still solid – had he not played more center back than midfield.

Blaise Matuidi

  • France: 2018 World Cup
  • Inter Miami CF: 2020-21

A veteran of two World Cups, Matuidi won it all with France in Russia 2018 as a key cog of Les Bleus' dominant midfield, which also included the likes of N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba. In total, the former Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus stalwart featured 84 times for his national team – most notably starting France's 4-2 win over Croatia in the 2018 World Cup final.

Matuidi joined Inter Miami CF as a Designated Player in August 2022 and made his official debut a month later against Nashville SC. He registered 2g/2a in 47 appearances for the Herons.

Thiago Almada

  • Argentina: 2022 World Cup
  • Atlanta United: 2022-Present
Thiago Almada - tight shot

Almada joined Atlanta in early 2022 via a reported league-record $16 million transfer from Vélez Sarsfield and claimed MLS Newcomer of the Year honors while also earning a late call-up to Argentina's 2022 World Cup-winning squad as an injury replacement. The then-21-year-old played just six minutes in Qatar after subbing into Argentina’s Group C-clinching 2-0 victory over Poland.

Year two with the Five Stripes was equally impressive, as Almada tallied 30 goal contributions (11g/19a) and captured the 2023 MLS Young Player of the Year award while reportedly increasing interest from several high-profile European suitors.

Lionel Messi

  • Argentina: 2022 World Cup
  • Inter Miami CF: 2022-Present
Messi up close

While already an undisputed all-time great, Lionel Messi officially cemented his GOAT status in late 2022 by leading Argentina to World Cup glory. The FC Barcelona icon's heroics in Qatar catapulted his legend into another stratosphere and, shortly after, he began his latest career chapter with a mid-2023 move to MLS side Inter Miami CF.

His first half-season in the league was the stuff of legends, with Messi inspiring the Herons to a historic 2023 Leagues Cup title run while earning a record eighth Ballon d'Or award. Stay tuned for more from Messi and Co. in 2024.

Sergio Busquets

  • Spain: 2010 World Cup
  • Inter Miami CF: 2022-Present

One of three Barça legends to join Miami in the summer of 2023 (along with Messi and Jordi Alba), Busquets also has the distinction of being a World Cup winner. Just a year after earning his first senior cap, he played almost every minute of Spain's run to the 2010 crown in South Africa as La Roja's steady, holding midfielder.

He's arguably been the best No. 6 in the world ever since, writing his name into the FC Barcelona history books before signing with the Herons midway through the 2023 MLS season.

Hugo Lloris

  • France: 2018 World Cup
  • LAFC: 2024-Present

The captain of France's 2018 championship side in Russia, Lloris is the latest high-profile signing pulled off by John Thorrington and the LAFC front office.

After a legendary decade-plus run at EPL side Tottenham Hotspur, the 37-year-old is set to take over goalkeeping duties for the Black & Gold during the 2024 season as John McCarthy and Maxime Crépeau leave in free agency.