Can you name every MLS player to win the Ballon d’Or?
Despite being very late to joining the world of Soccer (football for everybody else), the United States own league, Major League Soccer, has hosted its own set of Ballon d’Or winners
Only four MLS players have won the Ballon d’Or award for the best football player in the world. However, they have never won it while playing in the MLS, although that could change in 2023.
The league has hosted some huge legends of the game that never managed to win the Ballon d’Or. Huge talents like Theirry Henry, Gareth Bale, Alessandro Nesta and Didier Drogba all played in the MLS without winning the Ballon d’Or award.
Below is a list of every MLS footballer to win the Ballon d’Or. After reading the article, let us know down in the comments which current or former MLS player do you think deserved to win the player of the year award.
Lothar Matthäus (1990)
The first Ballon d’Or winner to sign for the MLS was German Superstar Lothar Matthäus.
Lothar Matthäus. The Ballon D’or winner for 1990 played as a defensive midfielder and a sweeper in his career, playing 150 times for a West Germany side that lifted the World Cup in 1990.
Matthäus signed for the New York MetroStars (later New York Red Bulls) in 200, becoming one of the highest profile signings to join the league since Pele in 1975. He played 16 games in the US before retiring from football, aside from one match in 2018.
The German legend won the Ballon d’Or years before he joined the MLS. He picked up the gong after leading Germany to winning the World Cup in 1990.
Hristo Stoichkov (1994)
Bulgarian hero Hristo Stoichkov joined the MLS in 2000, six years after picking up his one and only Ballon d’Or award.
Stoichkov signed with the Chicago Fire in 2000, following a disappointing spell on Japan with Kahiwa Reysol. He had previously played for some big clubs in Europe, including Barcelona (where he won his World’s Best Player award in 1994).
The Bulgarian Ballon d’Or winner spent three years in the MLS with Chicago Fire and DC United. He scored 22 goals in 72 matches, a respectable total for the former Barcelona striker.
Brazilian legend Kaka was the MLS’s next Ballon d’Or winner, after he signed for Orlando City FC in the summer of 2014.
The former AC Milan and Real Madrid midfielder excelled in a young squad, spending three seasons with the Florida side. He scored 24 times in 75 matches in the MLS – a great return for a midfielder.
This came nearly a decade after Kaka won his sole Ballon d’Or award (the last man to win it before the Messi/Ronaldo dominance).
The speedy attacking midfielder put on some ridiculous performances in 2007, as he led AC Milan to their last Champions League victory.
His man of the match performance in the semi-finals against Manchester United were particularly impressive and went a long way to helping him win the Ballon d’Or.
Kaka scored 15 times in the league that season – a career high at that point – to add to his Champions League heroics, marking him AC Milan’s highest scorer that season.
Lionel Messi (2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2019, 2021)
On June 7th, 2023, 7-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi announced he was signing with MLS side Inter Miami.
The World Cup winner joined David Beckham’s side after winning the 2022 World Cup with Argentina, netting two goals in the final against a Mbappe-lead France side.
His transfer is by no doubt the biggest in MLS history, with Miami fighting off competition from Barcelona and Saudi Arabia for the signature of the former PSG man.
After his performance in the FIFA World Cup 2022, leading Argentina to victory in the tournament, Lionel Messi could be the first MLS player to win the Ballon d’Or, while playing the the United States as an active football player.
Messi’s 7 Ballon d’Or’s dwarfs the three held by the rest of the MLS, which only adds to his legend as the greatest footballer of all time,
Lionel Messi won the Ballon d’Or a record seven times, picking up the win in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2019, 2021 – more than any other player in football history.