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One year ago today: Thiago Almada becomes the first active MLS player to win the FIFA World Cup

THIAGO ARGENTINA 16x9

Argentina’s dramatic third World Cup title was also a historic milestone for Major League Soccer.

With La Albiceleste’s heart-stopping 4-2 penalty-shootout win over France, after an epic 3-3 draw, Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada became the first active MLS player to win a FIFA World Cup on December 18, 2022. The league-record signing from Vélez Sarsfield, who earned 2022 MLS Newcomer of the Year honors, and 2023 MLS Young Player and was included in the 2023 Best XI, joined an exclusive group of 14 league players, past and present, to claim soccer’s ultimate prize.

Almada was an unused substitute at Lusail Stadium in Qatar, where Argentina took the lead in the 23rd minute via a Lionel Messi penalty. The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner was also decisive in a lethal counterattack finalized by Ángel Di María nine minutes before halftime.

The South Americans were in the driver's seat and had everything under control until Kylian Mbappé took matters into his own hands with just 10 minutes remaining.

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar pulled one back from the penalty spot in the 80th minute and a mere seconds later forced the game into extra-time with a stunning first-time finish off a chipped pass from Marcus Thuram.

Argentina retook the lead and believed Messi's 108th-minute goal finally put them over the hump, but Mbappé once again said "Not so fast," bagging a hat-trick and sending the game to PKs with his second score from the spot in the 118th minute.

But, like he did in the quarterfinals against the Netherlands, Albiceleste goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez once again came up huge during the decisive shootout, blocking Kingsley Coman's effort while Aurélien Tchouaméni then dragged his shot wide. Argentina went four-for-four, with Gonzalo Montiel scoring the title-clinching penalty.

Almada joined in the wild celebrations with his teammates as Argentina added a third star to their badge (after winning titles in 1978 and 1986) and planted their flag at the peak of soccer's mountaintop 36 years after their last World Cup heroics.

But the man of the hour was Messi. After finally securing the last major trophy that had eluded him throughout his legendary career, the former PSG megastar moved to MLS to play for Inter Miami at the conclusion of the current 2022/23 European season.

Almada also became part of a very exclusive list of players who have won the World Cup and played in MLS; however, Thiago is the first player to win the tournament while representing an MLS club. Almada also became the first male player to be playing in the United States at the moment he won the World Cup.

The list of other World Cup champions who later came to MLS is below:

Players who have won the World Cup and have played in MLS
Player
Country (year)
MLS Club
Thiago Almada
Argentina (2022)
Atlanta United
Lionel Messi
Argentina (2022)
Inter Miami
Blaise Matuidi
France (2018)
Inter Miami
Bastian Schweinsteiger
Germany (2014)
Chicago Fire
David Villa
Spain (2010)
New York City FC
Alessandro Nesta
Italy (2006)
Montréal Impact
Andrea Pirlo
Italy (2006)
New York City FC
Kaká
Brazil (2002)
Orlando City SC
Kléberson
Brazil (2002)
Philadelphia Union
Denilson
Brazil (2002)
FC Dallas
Youri Djorkaeff
France (1998)
New York Red Bulls
Thierry Henry
France (1998)
New York Red Bulls
Branco
Brazil (1994)
MetroStars
Lothar Matthaus
Germany (1990)
MetroStars
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