South Africans in MLS

Njabulo Blom, who has completed a move to St. Louis City, has joined a long list of South African players who have played in Major League Soccer. 

Touchline News looks at other South African players who played in MLS.

Roy Wegerle

Roy Wegerle was born in Pretoria and joined Tampa Bay Rowdies in the now-defunct North American Soccer League (NASL). In 1991, he became a naturalized United States before making his US national team debut in 1992 against the Republic of Ireland.

After the formation of Major League Soccer in 1996, Wegerle moved to Colorado Rapids where he made 37 appearances. He played the 1998 season for Tampa Bay Mutiny and retired at the end of the season.    

Shaun Bartlett

After the successful 1996 Africa Nations Cup, Shaun Bartlett joined Colorado Rapids from Cape Town Spurs and spent a few months with the club before moving to New York/New Jersey

Metrostars (now New York Red Bulls) in 1997. At Metrostars he played under World Cup-winning coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, making 13 appearances before re-joining Cape Town Spurs on loan ahead of the 1997/98 season. 

Doctor Khumalo

After a short spell with Ferro Carril Oeste (Argentina) in 1995, Doctor Khumalo joined Columbus Crew and made 18 appearances.

He captained Columbus Crew to the MLS Cup Playoffs semi-finals before they lost to DC United. Despite his success in the United States, Khumalo returned to Kaizer Chiefs where he retired after making 397 appearances.

Ivan McKinley

Ivan McKinley was unknown to many South African fans when he was called up by Bafana Bafana coach Trott Moloto in 1999.

The left-footed player made his national team debut in September 1999 against Saudi Arabia. He played in MLS for Tampa Bay Mutiny, the New England Revolution, the Miami Fusion, and DC United between 1996 and 2002. 

Nkosinathi Nhleko 

At the peak of his career, Nkosinathi Nhleko was a thorn in the flesh of defenders. The former striker scored four goals in Jomo Cosmos’ 4-1 win over Orlando Pirates.

In 2002 he joined the Norwegian side Brann, where he struggled to adjust to the new environment. In 2003, the forward was loaned to FC Dallas scoring two goals and making four assists in 11 games.

The forward made his move permanent in the 2004/05 season making 23 appearances – 13 starts and ten as a substitute. He left the team in 2005 and returned to Jomo Cosmos.

Richard Farrer

In 1990, Richard Farrer played for New Mexico Chiles which played in the American Professional Soccer League.

He joined Dallas Burn during the MLS inaugural season (1996) and stayed with the club until his retirement in 2002.

Derek Backmen  

Derek Backmen was born in Johannesburg and spent the early part of his career in the North American Soccer League (NASL). In 1996, he joined Tampa Bay Mutiny playing 28 games before his retirement in 1998. 

Kamohelo Mokotjo

Kamohelo Mokotjo made his name in the Dutch Eerste Divisie where he played for Feyenoord, PEC Zwolle, and FC Twente.

After spending three years in the English Championship with Brentford, in August 2020 he moved to the United States where he joined FC Cincinnati. After making 22 appearances, in January 2022 he was released by the club. 

Danleigh Borman

Danleigh Borman joined New York Red Bull in 2008 and made his professional debut as a substitute against Columbus Crew. He spent three years with the club and joined Toronto FC in 2011. After failing to agree on terms, he joined Supersport United in 2012/13.

Davide Somma 

Davide Somma only made three appearances for San Jose Earthquake during his time in MLS. In 2009, he moved to England where he joined Leeds United after a short a trial.  

Ethan Sampson

Ethan Thompson joined Vancouver Whitecaps in 2014 after spending a season with the club’s reserve team. He made his debut against DC United and left the club in 2015.

Thabiso Khumalo

Thabiso Khumalo joined Chicago Fire in 2005 but failed to make an appearance. He joined Wilmington Hammerheads FC in the United States Soccer League (USL) First Division. After a short sting back in South Africa he signed for DC United in 2008 where he finally made his MLS debut.  

Lindo Mfeka

Lindo Mfeka signed for San Jose Earthquake in 2017 and made his debut in a 2-1 win against LA Galaxy. The following season, he was sent on loan to Reno 18 in the USL Championship.

Bongokuhle Hlongwane

Bongokuhle Hlongwane is a key member of Minnesota United after joining in January 2022 from Maritzburg United. The midfielder signed a three-year-contract and made 22 appearances in his first season.

Katlego ‘Tsiki’ Ntsabeleng

Tsiki Ntsabeleng played for the Stars of Africa, Kaizer Chiefs, and Mamelodi Sundowns development teams before moving to the United States. After graduating from Oregon State University where he played college soccer, Ntsabeleng joined FC Dallas in January and made his professional debut a month later against FC Toronto.

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