Tuesday, 23 Apr 2024

Climbing the Ladder: MLS Player Heights & First Kick XIs

Size doesn’t determine a team’s success on the football field. In fact, some of the top-performing Major League Soccer (MLS) teams in 2011 were not the tallest. Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, and LA, despite being the shortest teams in terms of average height, demonstrated their prowess and ended the season as three of the league’s elite clubs. On the other hand, Portland, with an average height of 72.11 inches, stood as the tallest team, alongside three other teams that surpassed the six-feet mark. The league average height came in at 71.43 inches.

2011 Average Team Heights in Inches

Rank Team Height
1 Portland 72.11
2 Kansas City 72.08
3 Columbus 72.06
4 Houston 72.06
5 New England 71.76
6 Chicago 71.73
7 Seattle 71.70
8 New York 71.55
9 Vancouver 71.36
10 Philadelphia 71.34
11 San Jose 71.25
12 Chivas USA 71.07
13 Colorado 71.06
14 Toronto 71.06
15 D.C. United 71.04
16 LA Galaxy 71.03
17 FC Dallas 70.81
18 Real Salt Lake 70.64

These calculations were made using the listed heights of each player from media guides or, when unavailable, from MLSsoccer.com’s player profiles. The height of each player was multiplied by their minutes played, and the team totals were then added and divided by the total minutes played by the team. This method ensures that playing time is taken into account when calculating the average height.

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The tallest players on the field in 2011 were the goalkeepers. Jon Conway and Greg Sutton, both measuring 6-foot-6, held this distinction. Among non-goalkeepers, the tallest players were center backs Bobby Burling, Omar Gonzalez, and Andy Iro, all standing at 6-foot-5.

On the other end of the spectrum, the shortest player in the league was Joao Plata of Toronto FC, who stood at just 5-foot-2. Plata not only claimed the title of the league’s shortest player but also became the shortest player in the five major American sports leagues. However, height does not limit a player’s potential for success. Players like Lionel Messi, standing at 5-foot-7, have proven that talent knows no height.

In 2010, David Ferreira, standing at 5-foot-5, was named the Most Valuable Player in MLS, showcasing that shorter players can excel in the league. Jeff Cunningham, at 5-foot-7, holds the record as the league’s all-time leading scorer. These examples demonstrate that height should not overshadow a player’s skills and abilities.

The shortest goalkeeper in 2011 was Nick Rimando, listed at 5-foot-9 but claimed to be 5-foot-11 on US Soccer’s website. He had also been listed at 5-foot-10 during his time with D.C. United. Whether Rimando is shrinking or someone is exaggerating a bit remains a mystery.


Q: Which teams have returned the most starters from one opening day to the next?

Among the 16 teams participating during the regular season’s first weekend, the Colorado Rapids fielded a lineup that closely resembled their opening day lineup from the previous year. Despite hiring a new head coach, Oscar Pareja, the Rapids had eight of the same starters in both the 2011 opening day victory against Portland and the 2012 win over Columbus. Only Conor Casey, Jamie Smith, and Anthony Wallace were absent from the lineup due to injuries.

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On average, MLS teams typically return 4.87 starters from one opening day to the next. While some teams maintain a consistent core group of players, none have ever fielded the exact same starting XI for two consecutive openers.

The highest number of starters returning for one team from one year to the next is nine, achieved by two teams: the 2007 Chicago Fire and the 2009 Columbus Crew. The 2007 Fire had a different goalkeeper, Matt Pickens, as they traded Zach Thornton. They also played Chris Armas in the midfield instead of playmaker Thiago, who had missed the 2006 opener due to an injury.

The 2009 Crew, fresh off their MLS Cup triumph, were missing Stefani Miglioranzi (traded) and Adam Moffat (injured), opting for Gino Padula and Emmanuel Ekpo instead.

Although struggling teams often undergo radical makeovers in the offseason, no team has ever fielded an entirely new lineup from a previous opening day. However, there have been instances where teams returned only one player. These teams include: 2001 D.C. United (Carey Talley), 2004 Dallas (Ronnie O’Brien), 2006 Chivas USA (Brad Guzan), 2008 LA (Landon Donovan), and 2011 Chivas USA (Ante Jazic).

Q: Flores, the latest player to change names?

During a recent match between Chivas USA and Houston, a player named Jorge Villafaña was on the bench. It may seem like a new signing, but it was actually Jorge Flores, the 2007 Sueño MLS winner who now holds the title of his team’s most tenured player. Flores changed his last name in the offseason to honor his mother.

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Flores joins the ranks of other MLS players who have played under different names. Abdus Ibrahim, who made his debut for Toronto in 2008, later became known as Fuad Ibrahim from the following season onwards, following a suggestion from his mother. “Fuad” means “heart” in Arabic.

Another player, Jean-Phillipe Peguero, experienced a unique situation. During his first stint in the league from 2004 to 2006, he was known as Jean-Phillipe Peguero. However, when he joined San Jose in 2008, it was discovered that his name had been written backward the entire time he was in Colorado and New York. An unfortunate oversight.


In the world of football, height is not the sole determining factor for success. MLS teams have shown that skill, talent, and teamwork are what truly matter on the field. The league has seen both shorter players, like David Ferreira and Jeff Cunningham, and taller players, like Jon Conway and Greg Sutton, make significant contributions to their respective teams.

The MLS landscape is ever-evolving, with teams making changes from season to season. While some teams maintain a consistent core of players, others undergo radical transformations. The league’s excitement lies in the unpredictability and the opportunities for both established and rising stars to shine.

For more information on MLS statistics, player heights, and detailed analysis, visit Pesstatsdatabase, your go-to source for comprehensive football data.


  1. MLS team huddle
  2. David Ferreira in action
  3. Jon Conway making a save