Written by Patrick Echatah
Three MLS players are vying to win the title of African champion come the Feb. 11 final when the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations gets underway in the Ivory Coast on Jan. 13.
Twenty-four nations compete in the biannual competition, which is divided into six groups and ends with a single-elimination knockout stage. A few of the top names in football are set to lock horns in this prestigious competition. Players like Senegal’s Sadio Mane, Egypt’s Mo Salah, Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen, Morocco’s Achraf Hakimi and Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez. The MLS stars most likely to light up this prestigious competition include the following:
1. Nouhou Tolo (Cameroon)
Nouhou, a regular for Cameroon and a longtime fan favorite at Seattle Sounders FC, made headlines during the 2021 AFCON semifinals. At that moment, the Seattle Sounders defender engaged in a fierce battle with Egypt’s Mo Salah, preventing the in-form Liverpool star from scoring in the 0-0 stalemate that ultimately resulted in Cameroon’s loss on penalties.
At the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Nouhou, 26, started all three of Cameroon’s games, including a historic 1-0 triumph over Brazil. Nouhou has played in 168 regular-season games for the Major League Soccer (MLS) and has won the Concacaf Champions Cup (2022) and the MLS Cup (2019).
2. Carlos Akapo (Equatorial Guinea)
After a fantastic 2023 campaign in which he made 28 appearances during the regular season (25 of which were starts), Akapo finished with two goals and four assists for the San Jose Earthquakes. The right back first signed with the team in August 2022 after playing for Cádiz in La Liga while living in Spain.
Since making his debut in 2013, Equatorial Guinea has capped Akapo thirty times. The 30-year-old has only scored once for his country, in an AFCON qualifying match against South Sudan in September 2016.
3. Steven Moreira (Cape Verde)
Steven Moreira will once again aim for the ultimate glory at the 2023 AFCON. Moreira was instrumental in the Columbus Crew’s 2023 MLS Cup championship run. The former France youth international has a difficult Group B that includes Ghana and Egypt, two historically formidable rivals.
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In October 2023, Moreira made his debut for Cape Verde in a friendly loss to Algeria after being called up for the first time. After moving from Toulouse in Ligue 1, the 29-year-old is a potent danger for Columbus in his new hybrid center-back role, having scored 1 goal and added 16 assists in 73 games.
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