In what has already been a blockbuster summer, with the Copa America, Gold Cup and the African Cup of Nations all creating stunning sporting narratives, MLS has quietly been on the rise.
The USMNT’s Gold Cup exploits aside, a number of non-American MLS players have played similarly pivotal roles for their respective countries this summer.
A record number of players from the league have been involved in the Copa America, whilst there has also been an undeniable MLS flavour to Euro 2020 qualification games and AFCON.
Overall, 28 MLS players tasted international action over the past month. Here is a brief rundown of how some of them have fared.
Josef Martínez (Venezuela)
Atlanta United frontman Josef Martínez played a key supporting role for Venezuela at the Copa America over the past few weeks.
Operating as an understudy for West Ham target Salomon Rondon, Martinez played a part in all but one of La Vinotinto’s games at the tournament.
The striker was an unused substitute in Venezuela’s opener against Peru, which finished goalless, before tasting his first Copa America action in another 0-0 draw against Brazil.
His highlight of the tournament was scoring the last goal in a 3-1 victory over Bolivia, which secured a quarter-final place and a tie against Argentina. Unfortunately, Martinez could do nothing to prevent his country from crashing out of the competition, courtesy of a 2-0 defeat against Lionel Messi and co.
Justin Meram (Iraq)
Martinez’s Atlanta teammate Justin Meram had a similarly disappointing spell away on international duty back in June.
Travelling with the Iraqi national team to Tunisia for a friendly, Meram started on the left side of a three-pronged attack alongside Alaa Abbas Abdulnabi and Mohanad Ali. Iraq and Meram struggled to make an impact in the game as two early goals from Tunisia, courtesy of Ligue 1 pair Wahbi Khazri and Bassem Srarfi, were enough to secure a 2-0 victory for the hosts.
Meram was substituted on the hour mark, but he managed to put his international woes behind him recently, scoring the winner for Atlanta against Montreal Impact on Sunday.
Przemyslaw Frankowski (Poland)
Chicago Fire’s January signing Przemyslaw Frankowski helped Poland to an important win over North Macedonia in their Euro 2020 qualification campaign.
Starting alongside illustrious names such as Robert Lewandowski and Łukasz Fabiański, Frankowski was deployed down the right wing in a 4-2-3-1.
It was, however, Frankowski’s second-half replacement, the relentlessly clinical Krzysztof Piatek, that would have the largest impact on the game, scoring the only goal as Poland sneaked a 1-0 victory.
AJ DeLaGarza (Guam)
MLS stalwart and current Houston Dynamo right-back AJ DeLaGarza took part in one of the earliest qualification games for the 2022 World Cup in June, turning out for Guam as they beat Bhutan over two legs.
The international minnows lost the opening tie 1-0 in Guam, but were able to comprehensively overcome this deficit in the return leg, winning 5-0.
DeLaGarza played a pivotal role in his country’s win, with the reliable defender not missing a single minute of action over the two games.
Romain Métanire (Madagascar)
Minnesota United full-back Romain Métanire has been involved in one of the greatest tournament underdog stories in recent years, with his Madagascar side defying the odds and topping an AFCON group that contains continental heavyweights Nigeria.
Métanire has been ever-present in the groundbreaking Madagascar side, who are taking part in their first-ever AFCON tournament.
So far, the competition newbies have defeated Burundi and Nigeria, as well as drawing against Guinea. These results have set up a tantalising last-16 tie against the Democratic Republic of Congo in Alexandria on July 7th.
Botond Baráth (Hungary)
Sporting Kansas City centre-back Botond Baráth was handed the unenviable task of keeping Gareth Bale at bay whilst on international duty for Hungary.
Though he may have been fearful of Bale’s skill, he dealt admirably with the Real Madrid attacker’s threat, helping Hungary to an important 1-0 win in the process.
His performance capped off a fine international break, with Baráth playing every minute of his country’s 3-1 win over Azerbaijan three days earlier. The results put Hungary in pole position to win their Euro 2020 qualifying group, but with games against Croatia and Slovakia still to come, the competition will be fierce.
Aljaz Struna (Slovenia)
Houston Dynamo centre-back Aljaz Struna completed 90 minutes in both of Slovenia’s Euro 2020 qualifying games in June.
The imperious defender was unable to prevent Schalke forward Guido Burgstaller from scoring the only goal for Austria, in a 1-0 defeat. However, Struna and Slovenia experienced more success three days later, when a brace for Atalanta star Josep Ilicic helped them to a 5-0 win against Latvia.
Slovenia currently sit in fourth place in Group G. With Poland already pulling away at the summit, a three-way battle for second place between Israel, Austria and Slovenia themselves is looking increasingly likely.
Hwang In-beom (South Korea)
Vancouver Whitecaps starlet Hwang In-beom continued to impress on the international stage for South Korea, starting in both of his country’s recent friendlies.
Hwang started in central-midfield in both games, the first being a 1-0 win over Australia courtesy of a strike from his namesake Hwang Hee-Chan.
The MLS player impressed again against Iran, playing in a slightly more advanced role, though it was not enough to prevent South Korea from only managing a 1-1 draw.