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Top 10 English players in MLS history

The influence of England on soccer in the United States has been present since the sport was introduced on this side of the Atlantic. And since the advent of Major League Soccer, several dozen English-born players have featured, all making a mark in some way, but some more than others.

With that in mind, here's our list of the Top 10 English players in MLS history, starting with the player who unquestionably transformed the league.

David Beckham - LA Galaxy (2007-12)

Of course you knew Becks was that transformative player, didn't you? Beckham's arrival ushered in a new era of player acquisition in MLS, kicking off the Designated Player era and giving teams a chance to bolster their squads with one (eventually up to three) impact players. That in itself is worthy of inclusion, just for blazing the trail.

But Beckham also contributed on the field, especially in later seasons. Although he arrived in LA injured, missed most of the 2009 season due to a loan move to AC Milan, and was injured for most of the 2010 season, Beckham saved his best for last, helping the Galaxy win the Supporters' Shield-MLS Cup double in 2011 and concluding his stint with the club with another MLS Cup the following year, while posting MLS career highs in goals and assists. Above all, Beckham's Galaxy jaunt both transformed the league itself and helped his team capture silverware, which is a pretty big legacy.

Bradley Wright-Phillips - New York Red Bulls (2013-Present)

Wright-Phillips' initial addition to the Red Bulls in the summer of 2013 was so quiet it hardly made a peep around MLS. The son of legendary Arsenal and Crystal Palace striker Ian Wright and brother of former England international Shaun Wright-Phillips, BWP bided his time his first half-season in MLS before breaking out, in a major way, starting in 2014.

In Wright-Phillips' three full seasons in MLS to date, he has scored 68 goals, won the MLS Golden Boot twice, tied the league record for most regular season goals in a year (27, in 2014), been an MLS All-Star and MLS Best XI selection (2014), and is a finalist for the 2016 MLS MVP award. He's also helped the Red Bulls win two Supporters' Shields, the club's first major trophies. He's already made quite an impact, but if BWP can continue to contribute at such a high level for another season or three, he could become one of the best in MLS history, regardless of nationality.

Dom Dwyer - Sporting Kansas City (2012-Present)

Dwyer's story reflects a different track than the ones taken by Beckham or Wright-Phillips -- a promising youth prospect in England, injuries appeared to derail his dreams of becoming a professional. Instead of giving up, Dwyer managed to push on, earned a college scholarship in the US, and was drafted into MLS out of college.

Dwyer had difficulty initially breaking into Sporting KC's lineup, and was sent on loan to Orlando City, then in USL, in 2013, absolutely lighting up that league and leading the Lions to the league title that year, before returning to Sporting and winning MLS Cup the same season. In 2014, Dwyer broke a club record by scoring 22 goals in a season, finishing second in the league behind only his compatriot Wright-Phillips. And he helped SKC win the 2015 U.S. Open Cup, finishing that year's tournament as joint-top scorer with five goals. After an uncertain start, Dwyer has rightly become a fixture for his club five seasons in.

Liam Ridgewell - Portland Timbers (2014-Present)

Ridgewell joined the Timbers in the summer of 2014, a player with considerable Premier League experience, but considered something of a risk, as a rare defender coming in with the Designated Player tag in MLS. It's safe to say that risk has paid off handsomely, as Ridgewell brought an experienced presence in the Timbers' defense and teamed up with Nat Borchers in 2015 to anchor Portland's run to the MLS Cup title that year. 2016 didn't turn out quite as rosy for the Timbers, but Ridgewell remained an imposing presence on the backline and looks set to continue that role next season.

Frank Lampard - New York City FC (2015-16)

Lampard's inclusion in this list will likely be controversial in some quarters. To be sure, he played just 31 combined MLS regular season and MLS Cup Playoffs games in two years, with his initial arrival for NYCFC's inaugural season delayed by a stint at Manchester City and injuries hampering him throughout his two-year run.

Those are all fair points. Yet when Lampard was on the field, he was productive, especially in 2016. In 19 regular season appearances this year, Lampard scored 12 goals and added three assists. His chemistry with David Villa and Jack Harrison was obvious, and the trio helped fire NYCFC to their first-ever MLS Cup Playoffs berth. Lampard's stint with NYCFC may have been marked by the time he couldn't play, but when he was on the field, he was clearly an asset to his team.

Steven Gerrard - LA Galaxy (2015-16)

And of course, there's Lampard's longtime England national teammate, Gerrard. While he too dealt with a minor injury or two in his stint in MLS, Gerrard, who just announced his retirement as a player, walks away from the Galaxy with a checkered legacy. Did he live up to the expectations of a player who was a Premier League titan? Probably not for most observers. But Gerrard still played his part, scoring a goal and assist in his MLS debut and notching 11 assists in 2016, when the Galaxy were out-of-sorts for most of the season in attack. For most players, hitting 11 assists in 21 appearances would be a terrific return, but perhaps Gerrard's reputation with Liverpool dampened the plaudits for his stint with the Galaxy. 

Nigel Reo-Coker - Vancouver Whitecaps (2013-14), Chivas USA (2014), Montreal Impact (2015)

The box-to-box midfielder bounced around MLS a bit, playing for two of the three Canadian clubs in his time in the league, as well as Chivas USA in their final season, but Reo-Coker brought leadership to every stop along the way. Well known to Premier League audiences in North America, but not quite at the star wattage of the likes of Beckham, Lampard and Gerrard, Reo-Coker (who went by "Reo-C" on the back of his jersey with the Whitecaps) set the defensive tone in midfield and was a mentor to younger players. In his final season in the league, Reo-Coker helped the Impact reach the final of the CONCACAF Champions League, only the second MLS team to reach the final in the tournament's current iteration.

Danny Dichio - Toronto FC (2007-09)

The strapping forward concluded his long career with Toronto FC, becoming the club's first (and still biggest) cult hero in the process. Dichio scored Toronto's first goal in MLS, has a song still sung in his honor by supporters, and made the 24th minute a cherished landmark in every TFC game. Dichio's scoring numbers have since been eclipsed by a number of players, but he remains in the club's top 10 in scoring, and has to be considered one of the most beloved players by his local fanbase of any of the players on this list. 

Darren Huckerby - San Jose Earthquakes (2008-09)

Joining the rebooted Quakes in 2008, Huckerby may not be the first English name on newer MLS fans' lips, but he made a real impact at the end of his career. The experienced winger built up a good reputation in England before moving to San Jose, and was named MLS Newcomer of the Year in 2008. A hip injury the following season ended his career, but in the short time Huckerby was in the league, he became a cult hero for Quakes fans and a player more than capable of making an impact for his team in MLS.

Terry Cooke - Colorado Rapids (2005-09)

In a nice bit of symmetry for this list, Cooke, who was part of the same vaunted "Class of '92" Manchester United academy group as David Beckham, preceded his one-time teammate in MLS, making the jump from England to the Rapids in 2005. Cooke notched 34 assists in 106 MLS regular season appearances, still good for second on the Rapids' all-time list. While Cooke departed Colorado before their MLS Cup triumph in 2010, he proved to be a reliable midfielder during his spell in MLS.