Top 10 MLS players who have made it in Europe

Isaiah Mmachi

Due to their performance and potential, top European teams are increasingly targeting Major League Soccer (MLS) players.

The players are also motivated to move to European clubs to further their careers and compete at a higher level.

The improvement and development of the MLS have also contributed to more talent moving abroad. But which players have moved to Europe from the MLS?

Here is a look at the top ten MLS players who have made it in Europe and significantly impacted their respective clubs.

1. Alistair Johnston

Alistair Johnston running
Alistair Johnston. Image: Instagram/alistairjohnston
  • Position: Right-back
  • Current Team: Celtic FC
  • Previous Teams: Vaughan Azzurri, Nashville SC, CF Montréal
  • Nationality: Canadian
  • Date of Birth: 8 October 1998

Alistair Johnston is a Canadian professional footballer. He plays as a right-back for Celtic FC in the Scottish Premier League.

The Canadian national moved to Celtic FC in December 2022. The Scottish Premier League side paid £3.5 million for Johnston, which allowed them to sign him for five years.

Before moving to Celtic FC, Alistair played for CF Montreal in Canada, Nashville SC, and Vaughan Azzurri. Furthermore, Johnston plays for his Canadian men’s national team.

2. Alphonso Davies

Alphonso Davies running
Alphonso Davies. Image: Instagram/alphonsodavies
  • Position: Left-back, Winger
  • Current Team: Bayern Munich
  • Previous Teams: Whitecaps FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Bayern Munich II
  • Nationality: Canadian
  • Date of Birth: 2 November 2000

Alphonso Davies is one of the top MLS players who have made it in Europe. He plays as a left-back or winger for Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.

The Canadian footballer signed for Bayern Munich in July 2018 after agreeing a 6-year contract. Bayern Munich paid $13.5 million, with performance-related bonuses that total $22 million.

Davies’ transfer to Bayern Munich became the most expensive transfer from the MLS then. Before Bayern Munich, Davies played for Vancouver Whitecaps FC. He also plays for the Canadian Men’s National Team.

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3. Ismael Kone

Ismael Kone running towards a ball
Ismael Kone. Image: X/Jessaroo1881
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Current Team: Watford FC
  • Previous Teams: CF Montreal
  • Nationality: Canadian and Ivorian
  • Date of Birth: 16 June 2002

Ismael Kone is one of the current MLS players in Europe. He is a midfielder for Watford in the EFL Championship.

The Watford midfielder was born in Ivory Coast. However, he represents the Canadian men’s national team.

Before joining Watford FC, Ismael Kone played for CF Montreal in Canada. Watford FC signed him in December 2022 after paying a transfer fee of between £8 and £10 million and agreeing to a four-and-a-half-year deal.

4. Jack Harrison

Jack Harrison running
Jack Harrison. Image: X/Everton_Extra
  • Position: Winger
  • Current Team: Everton FC
  • Previous Teams: New York City FC, Manchester City, Middlesbrough, Leeds United
  • Nationality: English
  • Date of Birth: 20 November 1996

Jack Harrison is one of the MLS players transferred to Europe. Initially, Jack Harrison spent his youth career in England playing for Liverpool and Manchester United.

The English player then moved to the United States and continued his youth career at Black Rock FC and Manhattan FC. He finally joined New York City FC to kick-start his senior career.

After New York City, he returned to England in January 2018 and signed for Manchester City.

In 2021, Jack Harrison officially signed for Leeds United on a three-year contract for a transfer fee of £11 million. As of 2023, Harrison is on loan at Everton FC.

5. Matt Turner

Matt Turner holding a ball
Matt Turner. Image: X/MenInBlazers
  • Position: Goalkeeper
  • Current Team: Nottingham Forest
  • Previous Teams: Jersey Express, New England Revolution, Richmond Kickers, Arsenal
  • Nationality: American
  • Date of Birth: 24 June 1994

Matt Turner is an American professional footballer who plays as a goalkeeper for Nottingham Forest in the English Premier League.

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The American goalkeeper moved to Europe in February 2022 to join Arsenal for a transfer fee of £5.9 million.

In August 2023, Arsenal sold Matt Turner to Nottingham Forest for $12.75 million. As a result, Turner agreed a four-year deal with Forest. He also plays for the USA men’s national team.

Before moving to Europe, he played for Jersey Express, New England Revolution, and Richmond Kickers.

6. Mark McKenzie

Mark McKenzie
Mark McKenzie. Image:X/ Ekremkonur
  • Position: Center-back
  • Current Team: Genk
  • Previous Teams: Bethlehem Steel, Philadelphia Union
  • Nationality: American
  • Date of Birth: 25 February 1999

Mark McKenzie is an American professional footballer. He plays as a center-back for the Belgian Pro League club Genk.

The American center-back signed for Genk in January 2021 from the Philadelphia Union. The MLS team sold him for $6 million, including performance-based add-ons.

McKenzie previously played for Bethlehem Steel. He has also played for the USA U18, 20, and 23 between 2017 and 2019. In 2020, he debuted for the USA men’s national team.

7. Miguel Almiron

Miguel Almiron
Miguel Almiron. Image: Instagram/miguel_almiron
  • Position: Attacking Midfielder, Right Winger
  • Current Team: Newcastle United
  • Previous Teams: Cerro Porteño, Lanús, Atlanta United
  • Nationality: Paraguayan
  • Date of Birth: 10 February 1994

Miguel Almiron is one of the MLS players who went to the Premier League. He played for Atlanta United before moving to Newcastle United in January 2019.

Almiron joined Newcastle United for an undisclosed fee on a five-and-a-half-year deal, which was later believed to be around £24 million. The amount became a club and MLS player fee record.

Besides Atlanta United, the Paraguayan midfielder played for Lanus and Cerro Porteno. Almiron currently plays for the Paraguayan men’s national team.

8. Ricardo Pepi

Ricardo Pepi
Ricardo Pepi. Image: X/EaglePepi
  • Position: Striker
  • Current Team: PSV Eindhoven
  • Previous Teams: FC Dallas, North Texas SC, FC Augsburg, FC Groningen
  • Nationality: American
  • Date of Birth: 9 January 2003

Ricardo Pepi is one of the top MLS players who have gone to Europe. He is a striker for PSV Eindhoven of the Eredivisie.

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After signing with Bundesliga club FC Augsburg, the American striker relocated to Europe in January 2022.

The Bundesliga club paid $20 million plus add-ons, making him one of the most expensive MLS players to sign for a European club.

However, FC Augsburg loaned Pepi to FC Groningen in September 2022 and sold him to PSV Eindhoven in August 2023 for $9.3 million.

Pepi plays for the USA men’s national team and previously played for FC Dallas and North Texas SC.

9. Timothy Ream

Timothy Ream sitting at a pitch
Timothy Ream. Image: X/alfklly
  • Position: Center-back, Left-back
  • Current Team: Fulham
  • Previous Teams: Chicago Fire Premier, New York Red Bulls, Bolton Wanderers
  • Nationality: American
  • Date of Birth: 5 October 1987

Timothy Ream is one of the MLS players who have made it in Europe. He is a left-back or center-back for Fulham in the English Premier League.

Timothy moved to Europe in January 2012 after agreeing to a three-and-a-half-year contract with Bolton Wanderers for £3.1 million. In August 2015, he signed for Fulham FC and has been with the team since.

The Fulham center-back previously played for Chicago Fire Premier and New York Red Bulls in the MLS. He has also had a successful career with the USA men’s national team.

10. Tyler Adams

Tyler Adams
Tyler Adams. Image: X/Burtytweets
  • Position: Midfielder, Full-back, Winger
  • Current Team: AFC Bournemouth
  • Previous Teams: New York Red Bulls, RB Leipzig, Leeds United
  • Nationality: American
  • Date of Birth: 14 February 1999

Tyler Adams is an American professional footballer who plays in the English Premier League. Adams plays for AFC Bournemouth as a midfielder but can also be a full-back or winger.

He moved to Europe in January 2019 when he joined the Bundesliga club RB Leipzig. In July 2022, RB Leipzig sold Tyler Adams to Leeds United for £17 million in a transfer fee, for which he agreed a five-year contract.

In August 2023, the American midfielder signed for AFC Bournemouth on a five-year deal. Tyler Adams has previously played for the New York Red Bulls in the MLS.

He also plays for the USA men’s national team.

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