The news that Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins is joining Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders from his Spanish club, Levante, may surprise and excite some people. Others view it as a last pay day. Don’t forget that Martins, who burst onto the scene in 2003, is listed as being 28 years old, though some people snigger at that. On top of it, FIFA President Sepp Blatter does not think highly of Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States. Neither does Cheta Nwanze (Lagosian football sage who foresaw Nigeria’s Nations Cup triumph) who noted tersely that “Obafemi Martins has confirmed his retirement from all known forms of serious football”. But this kind of sniping has not diminished the lure of the MLS for foreign players (and not just those whose careers are on the wane). Especially African players. In this first of a two part series, we explore the African athletes making an imprint on US football right now. First up Tony Tchani, a twenty-three year old Cameroonian midfielder who plays for the Ohio Columbus Crew

Then there’s Yann Songo’o, another Cameroonian:

Yann Songo’o plays for Sporting Kansas City as a defender. Yann is the son of former Cameroon national team goalkeeper, Jacques Songo’o.

Kei Kamara  (Sierra Leone)

Kei Kamara, is a twenty eight year old striker, on loan from Sporting Kansas City to Norwich City. He’s been a big hit in East Anglia. They already wrote a (really naff) song for him and apparently his debut for the Canaries filled cinemas in Sierra Leone.

Steve Zakuani  (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Steve Zakuani plays for the Seattle Sounders. After breaking his leg in a game back in 2011, he made his triumphant return to his team in the fall of 2012. Watch an interview where he discusses coming back after his injury here.

Kenny Mansally (Gambia)

Kenny Mansally  plays as a defender for Real Salt Lake. Kenny was signed to Real Salt Lake after a previous contract with the New England Revolution. For a promo video with Mansally’s highlights click here.

Mamadou (Futty) Danso (Gambia)

Mamadou (Futty) Danso is a defender for the Portland Timbers, who used to play for DC United.

Kalif Al-Hassan (Ghana)

Kalif Al-Hassan is a twenty two year old striker who plays for the Portland Timbers. He is the son of retired international Ghanaian player, George Al-Hassan.

Lawrence Olum (Kenya)

Lawrence Olum, is a 28 year old midfielder who plays for Sporting Kansas City. He has played for numerous MLS clubs including the Minnesota Thunder, the Austin Aztex, and Orlando City.

Mehdi Ballouchi (Morocco)

Mehdi Ballouchi is a former Raja player, who played alongside Thierry Henry at Red Bulls, but currently plays as a midfielder for the San Jose Earthquakes.

Ty Shipalane (South Africa)

Ty Shipalane is a twenty-seven year old midfielder who plays for the lower league Carolina Railhawks (NASL).

Nizar Khalfan (Tanzania)

Nizar Khalfan is a midfielder who no longer plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. I included him here because of his amazing goal for Vancouver in October 2011. He recently moved to Tanzania to play for the Young Africans SC, in the Tanzanian Premier League.

* Youssef blogs and tweets about international affairs. Sean Jacobs and Elliot Ross contributed to this post.