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As MLS Grows Internationally, Uruguay And Ghana Top Newcomer List

Although England still leads in generating new MLS players (six this year), Uruguay (5) and Ghana (4) are quickly becoming major suppliers of MLS talent, like the LA Galaxy's Paolo Cardozo.

SAN DIEGO, CA - MARCH 2:  Paolo Cardozo #30 of the Los Angeles Galaxy is one of five Uruguayan players to enter MLS this year.
SAN DIEGO, CA - MARCH 2: Paolo Cardozo #30 of the Los Angeles Galaxy is one of five Uruguayan players to enter MLS this year.

This weekend, in case you haven’t heard, is a FIFA international weekend. MLS, as per usual is sending away its players, but still playing on. Los Angeles Galaxy’s Landon Donovan, and MLS stars Tim Ream, Juan Agudelo, and Jay DeMerit will all be representing the United States as they take on Argentina this weekend, the current number four and former top ranked team in the world (07-08). MLS will also be sending a number of players to the US U-20 squad, a promising sign for the future of the USMNT.

There are also a number of MLS players off to play for foreign national teams. Rafael Marquez of New York Red Bulls will play for Mexico, Arturo Alvarez of Real Salt Lake representing El Salvador. Kei Kamara will be off representing Sierra Leone. MLS is also importing new international stars, and interestingly, Uruguay and Ghana are leading that wave, according to a report by the Elias Sports Bureau.

Uruguay and Ghana have a FIFA ranking of 7 and 14 respectively, and met in the quarterfinals of the World Cup last year, after Ghana defeated the United States in the first round after the group stages. Landon Donovan’s equalizer from a penalty shot was negated in extra periods by a goal from Asamoah Gyan. Now four newcomers to MLS come from Ghana: Kalif Alhassan (Portland Timbers), Gershon Koffie (Vancouver Whitecaps), Seth Owusu (Chivas USA), and Michael Tetteh (Seattle Sounders) the most Ghanaian players to enter MLS ever in a single season.

Second only to England in sending newcomers to MLS was Uruguay. Five players (to England’s six) putting on MLS uniforms for the first time this year call Uruguay their home: Rodrigo Brasesco (D.C. United), Paolo Cardozo (LA Galaxy), Diego Fagundez (New England Revolution), and Diego Chaves and Gaston Puerari (Chicago Fire). Paolo Cardozo was the second foreign player chosen in the MLS Superdraft earlier this year, and one of four non-collegiate international players chosen, a benefit of a new rule change placing foreign players in the draft eligible pool (the same rule benefit that brought John Rooney, Wayne Rooney's brother, to MLS). Cardozo came up through the youth ranks at Argentine Power River Plate, before joining the reserve team at Quilmes. I got to see Paolo Cardozo make his MLS debut at Home Depot Center on Sunday, playing 30 minutes in stormy conditions. Cardozo’s teammates suggested that it all might have been too much for him, as he looked aggressive and lost at the same time. Coach Bruce Arena sees potential in him though, coming in to play the midfield with Brazilian Juninho and Englishmen David Beckham and Chris Birchall, while Donovan went up top with Columbian Juan Pablo Angel.

As MLS continues to grow, it’s encouraging to see so many young international players seeing the United States as a place they can grow as soccer players. The league can lay claim to being the most diverse of the five major North American leagues currently in operation. The total number of countries represented by place of birth is an astounding 57. The NBA comes in second place with 40 countries represented. Around 38 percent of MLS players were born outside the United States and Canada; MLB is second with 26 percent. 

The full numbers are as follows:

League (Year)

Total Players 

Born Outside USA/Canada 

Countries of Birth*

MLS (2011):


184 (38%)                                     


NBA (2010-2011):


87 (20%)                                      


NFL (2010):


67 (3%)                                       


NHL (2010-2011):


193 (25%)                                       


MLB (2010):


272 (26%)                                      



* Including USA & Canada


  And here’s a map of all current MLS players, and their place of birth:

MLS player map