Lionel Messi: 10 Argentine stars he would join in MLS | MLSSoccer.com
In the most high-profile fashion possible, Major League Soccer’s Argentine contingent looks set to grow.
The 35-year-old former FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain star might feel right at home, too, joining dozens of compatriots in MLS.
Here’s a selection of the most prominent Argentines Messi could soon compete against in MLS matches.
- Age: 29
- Youth team: Boca Juniors
Acosta spent his first MLS stint starring for D.C. United alongside legendary forward Wayne Rooney, nearly completing a transfer to PSG that fell apart at the 11th hour. Now, he’s a dominant creative force for league-leading FC Cincinnati and firmly in the Landon Donovan MLS MVP conversation.
- Age: 22
- Youth team: Vélez Sarsfield
Messi could cross paths with his international teammate, as Almada broke into La Albiceleste’s plans last year and won a World Cup title alongside the legendary player in December 2022. The big question is how long Almada remains in MLS; he could break the league-record outbound transfer Miguel Almirón set in early 2019 when heading to Premier League side Newcastle United.
- Age: 23
- Youth team: Banfield
On a different timeline, Carranza would be Messi’s teammate in Miami. One of the Herons’ first-ever signings, things never panned out in South Beach before his 2022 move to Philadelphia (first a loan, then a permanent deal). Carranza has taken off, leading to Union coach Jim Curtin proclaiming the striker could “play anywhere.”
- Age: 27
- Youth team: Atlético Rafaela
Copetti arrived last winter, joining Polish international forwards Kamil Józwiak and Karol Swiderski for Charlotte’s second year of existence. The bulldog-like striker enjoyed a breakout two seasons with Argentina’s Racing Club before joining Charlotte; last year, he posted 21 goals and six assists in 47 appearances across all competitions.
- Age: 27
- Youth team: River Plate
Driussi, now in his third season with Austin FC, was the Landon Donovan MLS MVP runner-up in 2022 after tallying 22g/7a in 34 games. The Verde & Black’s captain arrived in the summer of 2021 from Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg.
- Age: 28
- Youth team: Huracán
Espinoza has played for San Jose since 2019 and, as of writing, has 23 goals and 49 assists in 135 league games. The speedy, creative winger is gaining more league-wide recognition this season, part of a resurgent Earthquakes side where he’s arguably the centerpiece.
- Age: 24
- Youth team: Ferro Carril Oeste
Ojeda is the latest attacking gem to join Orlando’s project, holding DP status alongside Uruguayan international winger Facundo Torres and Austrian international striker Ercan Kara. Whether it’s central or out wide, Ojeda has already proven his creative chops and dynamic presence.
- Age: 27
- Youth team: Talleres de Córdoba
Reynoso has been electric ever since joining Minnesota midway through the 2020 MLS season from Boca Juniors, establishing a reputation as one of the premier No. 10s in MLS. The Loons’ star has only just returned from a lengthy suspension, hoping to build off back-to-back 10-plus assist campaigns.
- Age: 20
- Youth team: Independiente
A club-record signing for FC Dallas, Velasco joined ahead of the 2022 MLS season from Independiente for a reported $7 million transfer fee. The Argentine youth international winger announced himself with a Messi-esque goal, and is regarded as one of the league’s top young talents.
- Age: 30
- Youth team: Belgrano
Zelarayán represents Armenia internationally, but is originally from Argentina. The MLS Cup 2020 MVP is among the league’s premier playmakers and drives the Crew’s attack forward alongside striker Cucho Hernández. He initially joined Columbus in 2020 from Liga MX side Tigres UANL.
We limited ourselves to 10 Argentine players spotlighted above, but wanted to highlight a handful of others who might catch your eye.
From the Designated Player group, Gustavo Bou was vital in the New England Revolution setting an MLS single-season points record (73) in 2021 while winning the Supporters’ Shield. There’s also winger Emiliano Rigoni, who complements Driussi in Austin FC’s attack. And his playing time has fallen off in 2023, but Sebastián Blanco is an absolute legend for the Portland Timbers.
The league’s U22 Initiative – designed to help bring in top international talent – is how the likes of LA Galaxy left back Julián Aude, FC Cincinnati left back Álvaro Barreal and Chicago Fire FC midfielder Federico Navarro all came to the league. Barreal, in particular, has made an impressive All-Star push in 2023.