World Cup Winners: 13 MLS players who lifted the ultimate prize


Soccer's ultimate prize, the FIFA World Cup Trophy, has been lifted by only a select group of players – 13 of whom have also added Major League Soccer experience to their impressive résumés.

Atlanta United's Thiago Almada is the latest to join this unique group after hoisting the World Cup Trophy with Argentina on Sunday following a thrilling victory over France via penalty kicks. The Atlanta star became the first active MLS player to win the title.

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


  • Brazil: 1994 World Cup
  • MetroStars: 1997
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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 in 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
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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. In two seasons in the Big Apple, he scored 12 goals in 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 Final win.

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 Montreal 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 on the way 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
  • Montreal 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 Montreal 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
  • NYCFC: 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 97 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
  • NYCFC: 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 was the top assist man at that World Cup and was given the Bronze Ball for his efforts.

Now the manager at Fatih Karagümrük S.K. in Turkey, 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 prior to 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: 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 CM 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 was 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 on Aug. 20, 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

Almada joined Atlanta last winter via a reported league-record $16 million transfer from Velez Sarsfield and earned 2022 MLS Newcomer of the Year honors in his first season. He led the Five Stripes in goal contributions (18) with six goals and 12 assists.

His efforts earned him a late call-up to Argentina's 2022 World Cup-winning squad as an injury replacement. The 21-year-old played just six minutes in Qatar after subbing into Argentina’s Group C-clinching 2-0 victory over Poland.