Over the first 19 years of Major League Soccer, seven players have graced MLS fields and fulfilled the one dream that every soccer player has: to lift the FIFA World Cup.
Here are the lucky seven:
Branco | Brazil, 1994 | MetroStars, 1997
The hardman for the pragmatic Brazilian side that won the World Cup in the US, Branco (pictured above, on left with Romario and Dunga) was known for his tackling and his deadly freekicks, one of which he famously struck against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals in Dallas. In 1997, with three World Cup tournaments under his belt, he joined New York for one of the most ignominious career stat lines in MLS history: 11 appearances, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 red cards.
Denilson | Brazil, 2002 | FC Dallas, 2007
Once the most expensive player in the world -- Real Betis paid $35m for him in 1998 -- the Brazilian playmaker was used mainly as a sub in Japan/Korea, including in the final against Germany. He joined FC Dallas in August 2007, played eight games, scored one goal, and then... gone.
Youri Djorkaeff | France, 1998 | New York Red Bulls, 2005-06
Seven years after featuring and scoring for les Bleus on their march to the title, Djorkaeff joined the New York Red Bulls, where he quickly became a fan favorite with his silky skills and goals. In two seasons in the Big Apple, he scored 10 goals in 40 league appearances.
Thierry Henry | France, 1998 | New York Red Bulls, 2010-present
Several years after his 1998 France teammate Djorkaeff departed New York, Henry arrived, brandishing his other-worldly talent and a resume that included three goals for les Bleus in 1998. His numbers since joining the Red Bulls speak for themselves: 44 goals in 100 league matches, plus one Supporters’ Shield -- the club’s first-ever major trophy.
Kleberson | Brazil, 2002 | Philadelphia Union, 2013
A clever, creative “role player” who did a lot of the running and box-to-box work that made the Ronaldo-Rivaldo-Ronaldinho triumverate look so good. Kleberson started the quarters, semis, and final on the way to the nation's 5th 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 | MetroStars, 2000
Largely considered one of the biggest disappointments in MLS history, the center midfielder 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 -- 0 goals -- and retired at the end of the season.
Alessandro Nesta | Italy, 2006 | Montreal Impact, 2012-13
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 he was there on the podium at the end. He joined the Montreal Impact midway through the 2012 season and became an integral part of the club’s success: Montreal were 15-9-7 with him in the lineup; 4-7-3 without him. He retired at the end of the 2013 season.
All photos: Action Images