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Written by: Sam Kovzan
Sporting Legend Preki stands tall among the all-time MLS greats
From 10 clubs to 26, Major League Soccer has had a lot to celebrate in the past 25 years. With unforgettable championship victories and brilliant performances from world-class players, the MLS has boasted several iconic players throughout the years, but arguably no one has made a larger impact on the field in a Kansas City uniform than the legendary Preki.
The Serbian-born star remains the only two-time winner of the MLS MVP award and sits atop the club’s all-time scoring charts with 81 goals and 104 assists across all competitions.
Shouldering an influential role for Kansas City from 1996-2000 and again from 2002-2005, Preki flourished as one of the greatest players in MLS history. After beginning his career with stops at prominent European clubs including Red Star Belgrade and Everton—not to mention indoor stints with the Tacoma Stars, St. Louis Storm and San Jose Grizzlies—Preki took MLS by storm in the inaugural 1996 season. Establishing himself as a Kansas City fan-favorite, the attacking midfielder was renowned for his left-footed strikes from distances, set piece deliveries and pinpoint passing.
The 1996 campaign saw Preki explode for 18 goals and 13 assists, but his first MLS MVP award would not come until 1997—when he guided the Wizards to a club-record 20 wins with an additional 12 goals and 17 assists. Upon gaining U.S. citizenship, Preki parlayed his standout performances into a United States Men’s National Team call-up, and he represented the country by competing at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.
At the turn of the century, Preki and Kansas City pieced together the most successful season in club history. The 2000 Wizards first won the MLS Supporters’ Shield, given to the team with the best regular season record, then claimed their first MLS Cup championship with a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire. Preki recorded a team-best 15 assists that season.
Preki’s lone season with another MLS club came in 2001, when he won his second straight Supporters’ Shield as a member of the Miami Fusion. He returned to Kansas City the following year, however, and in 2003 he accomplished a truly extraordinary feat: earning MLS MVP accolades at the age of 40 by notching 12 goals and 17 assists—the same stat line from his first MVP season six years earlier.
Preki ended his heralded playing career in 2005, becoming the oldest MLS player to score a goal and record an assist at the age of 42.