The Premier League is the biggest football league in the world, but Major League Soccer is growing in popularity and now has some huge players. There have been several high-profile transfers from the EPL to MLS over the years, but which ex-Premier League players are plying their trade in America’s top football division these days?
One of the star names in MLS in recent years has been Javier Hernandez. Nicknamed “Chicharito”, the Mexican made his name at Manchester United, scoring over 50 league and cup goals for the Red Devils between 2010 and 2016. After a loan spell with Real Madrid and a transfer to Bayer Leverkusen, Hernandez was back in the Premier League with West Ham United in 2017. He was the Hammers’ most expensive signing at the time.
The Mexico striker spent a few months with Sevilla in Spain before moving to LA Galaxy in January 2020. He became the highest-paid player in the league and was an instant hit with Galaxy fans. Hernandez is 35 now, but he is still a Major League Soccer player with LA Galaxy. In April 2023, Hernandez scored his first goal of the 2023 season in a 2-0 win against Austin.
Xherdan Shaqiri is a well-known face in the Premier League. The Switzerland international was a big hit at Stoke City between 2015 and 2018, racking up 84 Premier League appearances for the Potters. He was then snapped up by Liverpool for £13.5m in July 2018.
Shaqiri left Anfield to sign for Lyon in 2021 before ending up at Chicago Fire just six months later. He was Chicago’s most expensive signing at $7.5m. He scored his first goal for Fire in a 3-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City in March 2022.
Victor Wanyama was once signed by Tottenham Hotspur for an £11m fee, but things never quite worked out for the Kenyan in north London. Wanyama also played for Celtic and Southampton, forming a superb partnership with Morgan Schneiderlin at the latter.
He moved to Montreal in March 2020, making his official debut for the club in the CONCACAF Champions League. In November 2021, Wanyama captained his team to a 1-0 win against rivals Toronto in the 2021 Canadian Championship final. After announcing he would not renew his Montreal contract, Wanyama went back on his decision and signed a two-year deal in Quebec in January 2023.
DeAndre Yedlin made just one Premier League appearance for Tottenham in a two-year stint at White Hart Lane between 2014 and 2016. He moved to English football from Seattle Sounders a decade ago. He made a loan move to Sunderland before signing for rivals Newcastle United in 2016. Yedlin had five successful years at St James’ Park, featuring in over 100 league games for the Magpies.
Yedlin, a United States international, left Newcastle for Galatasaray in 2022. He departed European football shortly after to head back to MLS. Since joining Inter Miami, Yedlin has played over 50 league games for the Florida outfit.
Christian Benteke made his name for Aston Villa in the Premier League. The Belgian international was a regular scorer at Villa Park, which earned him a big-money move to Liverpool in 2015. It never really worked out at Anfield, and Benteke was transferred to Crystal Palace in 2016.
After leaving London, Benteke moved to DC United in the States. Benteke was signed by Wayne Rooney, who took the reins at Audi Field just a few weeks earlier. During his time in the American capital, Benteke has scored several important goals for the club.
Brad Guzan made over 170 appearances for Aston Villa in a seven-year spell at Villa Park. He was loaned to Hull City in the 2010-11 EFL Championship campaign and signed for Middlesbrough in 2016.
After leaving English football in 2017, Illinois-born Guzan headed back to Major League Soccer, signing for Atlanta United. Guzan retired from international duty in 2019 but has been a regular in Georgia for several years. Guzan is still going strong at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
One of the biggest hits in MLS in recent times has been Carlos Vela. We saw glimpses of his ability in the Premier League, but Vela’s career really took off when he left Europe for America in 2018. Vela was also a solid performer for Real Sociedad, having previously played for Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion (on loan) in the EPL.
Since 2018, Vela has scored a hatful of goals for Los Angeles. He won the MLS Golden Boot and MLS MVP Award in 2019. He was also named in the MLS Best XI in 2018, 2019, and 2022. The former Mexico international won the MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield in an incredible 2022 with LAFC. Even in his mid-thirties, Vela still knows where the back of the net is.
Big Names in MLS
Over the years, several ex-Premier League players have made their way to MLS. England legends David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and Rooney have all moved to America to play in Major League Soccer. Indeed, Rooney is still there, managing D.C. United and doing a pretty decent job at the time of writing. Beckham too has ties to the league and as president and co-owner of Inter Miami was influential in bringing a certain Lionel Messi to MLS.
More recently, Gareth Bale made the move to Los Angeles for a brief stint at the end of his career. During his days in the Premier League with Tottenham and in Spain with Real Madrid, Bale was one of the best players in the world. The likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Kieran Gibbs, and Gonzalo Higuain have also played in the EPL and MLS.
The Beckham Effect: Differences in Transfer Fees & Wages
The Premier League is one of the most lucrative leagues in the world when it comes to football wages. The big clubs in England can offer huge transfer fees and massive wages to the biggest stars on earth. Although Major League Soccer cannot match the transfer fees and wages that England offers, there have been several eye-catching MLS deals over the years.
Beckham’s move from Manchester United to Real Madrid back in 2003 remains one of the most spectacular transfers of all time. He then made the shocking move from Madrid to LA Galaxy in a five-year deal worth $32.5m in 2007.
Beckham took a huge wage cut by joining Galaxy, despite the Designated Player Rule (which became dubbed the Beckham Rule). This rule means that MLS sides can sign three players outside their primary salary cap and so compete for top stars of the game from around the world.
Beckham was guaranteed “direct compensation” of $6.5m per season but he has gone on to make an enormous amount of money from other aspects of the deal. In the 2007 agreement, Beckham was eligible to purchase an MLS franchise when he retired. Beckham and a group of investors created Inter Miami in 2014. Six years later, Inter Miami started playing in MLS.
However, in general, MLS is not even in the top 10 leagues worldwide when it comes to player salaries. Premier League annual wages are in the millions, while MLS yearly salaries are under a million pounds. Also, the Premier League’s revenue from TV money and ticket sales is lightyears ahead of America’s top tier. MLS will continue to grow, however, with the capture of Messi huge for the sport in the States.
What’s more unlike its equivalent in Saudi, MLS is seeking to be sustainable and financially viable. Whilst that means it cannot offer Premier League stars wages to match those offered in England, Saudi or elsewhere, the qualify of life in the US is superb.