An MLS player has made it to the World Cup final for the first time ever

Argentina and Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada is the first active MLS player to make it to a World Cup final. (Photo by Alex Livesey – Danehouse/Getty Images)

The growth of Major League Soccer continues to be highlighted, and the 2022 World Cup is only boosting that case.

Heading into the tournament, 36 MLS players were featured on rosters competing in Qatar. Some of the more notable ones were among those who have already shone on the world stage such as Gareth Bale, Xherdan Shaqiri, Hector Herrera among others. But for anyone who follows the league closely, it is many of the talented younger players who continue to show how far MLS has come in its 28 years of existence.

And the World Cup final between Argentina and France or Morocco will feature yet another milestone for the league as Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada becomes the first active MLS player to reach that game.

World Cup finalists have called MLS home after they made it, including France’s Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls, 2010-14), Blaise Matuidi (Inter Miami, 2020-21) and Youri Djorkaeff (Red Bulls, 2005-06; Brazil’s Kaká (Orlando City, 2014-17); Italy’s Andrea Pirlo (New York City FC, 2015-17); Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger (Chicago Fire, 2017-19) and Torsten Frings (Toronto FC, 2011-12); Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuaín ( Inter Miami, 2020-22); and Spain’s David Villa (NYCFC, 2014-18). But none played in the league at the time they reached the final like Almada currently does.

The 21-year-old midfielder was named MLS Newcomer of the Year this past season and has a bright future ahead of him. His senior international career with Argentina began just a few months ago, and even that was a momentous occasion. On Sept. 23, Almada entered a friendly against Honduras in the 54th minute, playing most of the second half alongside Lionel Messi and company. After the 3-0 win, Messi was asked about Almada and had high praise: “He’s very fast and he has a lot of 1-v-1 ability. He’s very clever and he’s not afraid of anything. He goes to you.”

Despite making Argentina’s roster as an injury replacement and only making a single appearance for a few minutes against Poland, Almada is on the verge of making major history as the first active MLS player to win the World Cup.

Remember the name, because win or lose, there’s a big chance it’s one you’ll likely be hearing it a lot in the future, including at the 2026 tournament.

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