NEW YORK (September 19, 2017) – Major League Soccer once again sets the trend in the North American landscape as the youngest and most diverse among the big five professional sports leagues. From its current pool of 641 players, a league-record 73 countries are represented (as determined by birthplace), while MLS players hold an average age of 26.18 years, more than a year younger than the next closest league.
Compared to other top international soccer leagues, MLS has the widest representation across the globe with the most countries represented, while also holding the second-highest total in percentage of players born within its competitive borders (48.36% of players born outside USA and Canada).
Out of those 641 players, 245 have been capped by their national teams (38.16%), while nearly 75%, 44 of 59, of current Designated Players (average age of 28.28 years) have represented their home countries. Designated Players across MLS continue to get younger every year, as the average age dropped by more than a year since 2016 (29.38 years), and by more than two years since 2012 (30.89 years).
Among these internationally capped players, 43 standouts in MLS have been included on a FIFA World Cup roster, with four players reaching the pinnacle of international soccer in capturing a FIFA World Cup title.
Outside of the U.S. and Canada, Argentina and England lead the pack with 23 MLS players born in their respective nations. France ranks next at 18 players, while Ghana leads all African nations with 17 players.
CONCACAF nations are well represented in MLS, with several countries sporting high percentages of players in the league who have also represented their respective nations. Twelve of 13 players born in Jamaica have represented the Reggae Boyz on the international stage, while 11 of 13 players have done the same for a Costa Rican squad that reached the quarterfinals stage of the 2014 World Cup.
With a look across the globe, Ghana has seen seven of its 17 MLS-based players play for its national team, while all four New Zealanders and an additional two foreign-born players have suited up for the Kiwis. In South America, five of the six Venezuelan players in MLS have played for the national team, while Switzerland leads all UEFA-competing teams with four MLS players to represent its national team
MLS Player Maps and Lists
Courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau
*Leagues in season include all players on current rosters.
*Leagues out of season include players on rosters when the season ended.
*Totals as of September 15, 2017
Big Five North American Professional Sports Leagues
|League (year)||Total # of Players||Players Born Abroad (% born outside U.S.A. & Canada)||Countries Represented (incl. U.S.A. & Canada)||Average Age of All Players (in years)|
|MLS (2017)||641||310 (48.36%)||73||26.18|
|MLB (2016)||1089||313 (28.7%)||23||29.45|
|NHL (2016-2017)||788||223 (28.2%)||22||27.87|
|NBA (2016-2017)||450||98 (21.7%)||45||27.44|
|NFL (2016)||2078||60 (2.9%)||27||27.35|
Top Soccer Leagues Worldwide
|League (all 2017)||Total # of Players||Players Born Abroad (% born outside host nation)||Countries Represented (incl. U.S.A. & Canada)||Average Age of All Players (in years)|
|English Premier League||522||(67.4%)||65||27.0|
MLS Players by Birthplace (Country)
|Countries||Total # of Players in MLS by Birthplace|
MLS Players Born in U.S./Canada
|Year||# of Players in MLS Born in U.S. or Canada|
MLS Players by Birthplace (State/Province)
|State/Province||Total # of Players in MLS by Birthplace|
MLS Players by National Team Experience
|Countries||# of Players with National Team Experience by Country|
|Trinidad and Tobago||6|
Designated Player Average Age Year by Year
|Year||Average Designated Player Age (in years at end of season)|