Over the course of the last 10 years, the MLS has grown in popularity and stature. Although several established players still opt to move to the United States to see out their careers with a big pay cheque, the league has witnessed considerable development at the grassroots level as well.
Due to the significant strides made by soccer in the United States, several European clubs have kept a close eye on the talent emerging from the region in the last decade.
Not all Americans have taken the MLS route
Some players like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Giovanni Reyna were deemed so good by foreign clubs that they were poached straight from their youth teams. All of them have benefitted massively from their moves to Germany, with Pulisic and McKennie fetching a combined transfer fee of over €80 million following their switch to Chelsea and Juventus, respectively in recent years.
But since the aforementioned trio did not play a single minute of the MLS, their inclusion on this list might not make much sense. Keeping that aspect in mind, here are 10 of the best MLS exports from the last decade (2011-2021).
#10 Tim Ream (Fulham)
The centre-back was the first player to secure a transfer away from the MLS in the past decade. Ream, who made his MLS debut for the New York Red Bulls in 2010, quickly established himself as one of the best ball-playing defenders in the league.
In addition to starting all of the New York Red Bulls' matches in the regular season, Ream also helped the team lift the Eastern Conference title. Following his exploits in the MLS, it did not take long for Premier League clubs to notice his potential.
Bolton Wanderers eventually snapped him up on a three-and-a-half-year deal. Unfortunately, Ream was unable to help Bolton avoid relegation in his debut season. But eventually, the MLS export redeemed himself and was named player of the year for two straight seasons in 2013/14 and 2014/15.
Since joining Fulham in 2015, Ream has secured promotion to the Premier League twice with the west London club. Despite the Cottagers failing to retain their Premier League status for another year on both occasions, Ream went on to make 33 appearances for the club in the top-flight. The 33-year-old is currently in the final year of his contract at Craven Cottage.
#9 Geoff Cameron (FC Cincinnati)
Cameron made his MLS debut for the Houston Dynamo back in 2008. During his first season at the club, he helped Dynamo qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs, where they lost in the semi-finals.
Slowly but steadily, the defender rose to prominence in the MLS with Dynamo and his performances earned him a spot in MLS All-Star games against Premier League clubs Everton and Manchester United in 2009 and 2011, respectively.
However, it was in England with Stoke City that he really enjoyed his best football following the move away from the MLS in 2012. Cameron was an integral member of the Stoke side under Tony Pulis and his successor Mark Hughes.
The American notched up 186 appearances in all competitions during his six-year stint with Stoke, before moving to Queens Park Rangers initially on loan and then on a permanent deal.
After three seasons at Loftus Road, where he even captained QPR, Cameron returned to the MLS with FC Cincinnati earlier this year. The 36-year-old has already registered two assists in 10 appearances so far in the MLS Eastern Conference this term.
#8 Zack Steffen (Manchester City)
Following his sophomore season with the Maryland Terrapins, Steffen put pen-to-paper on a professional contract with SC Freiburg in Germany. However, the American had to ply his trade with the reserve team in the German fourth-tier and never really made the cut for the first team at Freiburg.
Steffen then returned to his homeland by joining MLS outfit Columbus Crew in 2016, just a year after his move to Germany. The shot-stopper then earned his stripes with the Crew, where he guided the club to the MLS Conference finals in his debut season.
Despite losing in the final to Toronto FC, Steffen bounced back comprehensively the following season and was named MLS goalkeeper of the year. Soon after, Premier League champions Manchester City took notice and lured him to the top-flight in England.
Since his return to the Etihad after a loan spell with Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga, Steffen has remained an able deputy to Ederson. Even though the majority of his appearances have come in cup games, the former MLS star has added a Premier League and League Cup title to his trophy cabinet.