NEW YORK – Major League Soccer Sunday revealed the MLS Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position as determined by media, MLS players and MLS technical staff.
The 11 players named to the Best XI hail from eight countries and represent some of the league’s most exciting and accomplished talent comprised of international stars, breakout players and top newcomers to the league.
Eight MLS clubs are represented by this year’s Best XI squad.
2018 MLS Best XI
Goalkeeper: Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC)
Defenders: Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders FC)
Midfielders: Luciano Acosta (D.C. United), Miguel Almirón (Atlanta United), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Carlos Vela (Los Angeles Football Club)
Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimović (LA Galaxy), Josef Martínez (Atlanta United), Wayne Rooney (D.C. United)
Columbus Crew SC’s Zack Steffen, the MLS goalkeeper of the league, suits up between the posts on the Best XI after recording the eighth-longest shutout streak in league history this season. Steffen has emerged as a future star for the U.S. men’s national team, appearing in six matches since making his debut in January.
Manning the Best XI back line are three standout defenders who led their clubs to postseason appearances. Aaron Long, the 2018 defender of the year, emerged with the national team following a breakout season for the Red Bulls. The 26-year-old Long is joined by Jamaican international and teammate Kemar Lawrence, who also helped New York to the best regular season in league history with a league-record 71 points. Rounding out the defense is Seattle Sounders FC defender Chad Marshall, who makes his fourth appearance on the Best XI squad after helping Seattle tie an MLS record with its 10th consecutive appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
All five 2018 Landon Donovan MLS MVP finalists compose a talented midfield and forward group on the Best XI squad. Los Angeles Football Club standout Carlos Vela helped the club to the best regular season by an expansion team, while also starring for Mexico at the 2018 World Cup. Ignacio Piatti of the Montreal Impact made his second appearance on the Best XI squad after an MLS career-high 29 combined goals and assists. Also in the midfield is 24-year-old Luciano Acosta, who finished second in the league with 17 assists for a resurgent D.C. United squad. Rounding out the group is Atlanta United’s Miguel Almirón, the 2017 MLS newcomer of the year winner who paced the league’s highest scoring team with 12 goals and 14 assists.
Atlanta teammate and 2018 Golden Boot winner Josef Martínez headlines a talented trio of forwards after shattering the MLS single-season scoring record with 31 goals. Joining him on the Best XI is world icon and LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimović, who recorded the third ever 20-goal, 10-assist season in MLS history. Rounding out the talented group is England’s all-time leading goalscorer Wayne Rooney, who revitalized D.C. United with his midseason arrival, leading the club from bottom of the league to fourth in the Eastern Conference behind his 19 combined goals and assists in a mere 18 games started.
Seven of the players named to the Best XI are first-time selections, with Almirón, Martínez and Piatti making their second appearances, and Marshall making his fourth appearance.
2018 MLS Best XI Bios:
Zack Steffen | Goalkeeper | Columbus Crew SC | Nationality: USA | Born: April 2, 1995
In his second full season with Columbus, the 23-year-old Steffen won the Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Award after registered a career-high 10 shutouts and helping the club to a fifth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. From April 28-July 13 of this season, Steffen recorded the eighth-longest shutout streak in MLS history with a career-high 525 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal. Steffen has emerged as the future of the U.S. Men’s National Team, making six appearances at goalkeeper for the U.S. since receiving his first cap in January 2018. This is Steffen’s first MLS Best XI selection.
Kemar Lawrence | Defender | New York Red Bulls | Nationality: Jamaica | Born: September 17, 1992
Lawrence paced a New York defense that allowed a league low 33 goals this season en route to posting the best season in MLS history with a record 71 points. Originally discovered via the inaugural MLS Caribbean Combine in 2014, Lawrence recorded a career-high 28 games played in his fourth season with the Red Bulls. With more than 40 caps for the Jamaica Men’s National Team, Lawrence has starred in the Copa America Centenario and in Concacaf Gold Cups, being named to the 2017 Gold Cup Best XI. This is Lawrence’s first MLS Best XI selection.
Aaron Long | Defender | New York Red Bulls | Nationality: USA | Born: October 12, 1992
Long experienced a breakout 2018 season, winning MLS Defender of the Year and earning his first All-Star Game selection. The 26-year-old defender helped New York register the best season in MLS history with a record 71 points, while the club’s 33 goals allowed were the fewest in the league. Long developed through the Red Bulls’ USL team, earning the league’s Defender of the Year in 2016, before emerging as a starter for New York in 2017. This is Long’s first MLS Best XI selection.
Chad Marshall | Defender | Seattle Sounders FC | Nationality: USA | Born: August 22, 1984
A three-time MLS Defender of the Year winner (2008, 2009, 2014), Marshall shined for Seattle this season, helping the club finish second in the Western Conference with the second-stingiest defense in the league. Marshall tied an MLS career-high with four goals scored to go along with one assist in 30 regular season matches. The hulking defender has 11 caps for the United States Men’s National Team. This is Marshall’s fourth selection to the MLS Best XI (2008, 2009, 2014, 2018).
Luciano Acosta | Midfielder | D.C. United | Nationality: Argentina | Born: May 31, 1994
Acosta experienced a breakout season for D.C. United, helping the club to an incredible second-half turnaround, registering career-highs with 10 goals and 17 assists, the latter ranking second in MLS. A product of Argentine club Boca Juniors famed academy, Acosta helped D.C. United to a 9-2-5 record during matches where he recorded a goal or an assist this season. This is the first MLS Best XI selection for the 24-year-old Acosta.
Miguel Almirón | Midfielder | Atlanta United | Nationality: Paraguay | Born: February 10, 1994
A member of the Paraguay National Team, Almirón starred for his country in the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup before breaking out in 2016 at the Copa America Centenario. The 24-year-old had an impressive first season, recording nine goals and 14 assists, for which he was named 2017 MLS Newcomer of the Year. This season, Almirón scored an MLS career-high 12 goals to go along with 14 assists. This is Almirón’s second MLS Best XI selection (2017, 2018).
Ignacio Piatti | Midfielder | Montreal Impact | Nationality: Argentina | Born: February 4, 1985
The Montreal Impact star scored 16 goals along with an MLS career-high 13 assists this season. A model of consistency, Piatti recorded 17 goals and six assists in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Piatti has made the MLS All-Star team each of the last three seasons (2016-2018). This is the second MLS Best XI selection for Piatti (2016, 2018).
Carlos Vela | Midfielder | Los Angeles Football Club | Nationality: Mexico | Born: March 1, 1989
In his debut MLS season, Vela helped LAFC to the most points ever by an expansion club behind his 14 goals and 13 assists, ranking as one of 11 players across the league to register double digits in each category. A crucial member of the Mexico National Team, Vela has played in two World Cups (2010, 2018) and has won the Concacaf Gold Cup on two occasions. Before coming to LAFC, Vela played for such teams as Arsenal and Real Sociedad.
Zlatan Ibrahimović | Forward | LA Galaxy | Nationality: Sweden | Born: October 3, 1981
Signing with the Galaxy earlier this year, Ibrahimović stormed into the league with two late goals during his LA Galaxy debut on March 31. For 2018, he tallied 22 goals and 10 assists, becoming only the third player in league history to record a 20-goal, 10-assist season. His 32 combined goals and assists this season tie for the sixth highest total in MLS annals. Ibrahimović has won title with European giants including FC Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan, among others. Sweden’s all-time leading goal scorer with 62 goals in 116 games, Ibrahimović has participated in two FIFA World Cups (2002, 2006).
Josef Martínez | Forward | Atlanta United | Nationality: Venezuela | Born: May 19, 1993
Josef Martínez had a wondrous 2018 season in which he shattered the MLS single-season scoring record with 31 goals, winning the Golden Boot and helping Atlanta United to a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference. In only two seasons in the league, Martínez has broken the MLS career hat trick mark, scoring three goals in six different instances. The 37 combined goals and assists by Martínez this season are the second most in MLS history. A member of the Venezuela Men’s National Team, the 25-year-old Martínez makes his second appearance on the MLS Best XI squad.
Wayne Rooney | Forward | D.C. United | Nationality: England | Born: October 24, 1985
Arriving to MLS after a midseason transfer, Rooney pushed D.C. United from the bottom of the league to fourth place in the Eastern Conference behind 12 goals and seven assists in 20 games played, helping the club to a 12-4-4 record in matches he played during the regular season. Rooney ranks as the second all-time leading scorer in the English Premier League history with 208 goals with both Everton and Manchester United. A participant in three FIFA World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014), Rooney is England’s all-time leading scorer with 53 goals for the national team.