Throughout Justin Meram’s 12-year Major League Soccer career the Michigan-born forward has reached countless milestones, but none more elusive and exclusive than the 50/50 club.
In the league’s 26 year history 3,431 athletes have logged regular season minutes and yet there are currently only 24 players who have managed to record 50 goals and 50 assists, today Justin Meram becomes the 25th.
Meram’s 50/50 journey began in Harrison, New Jersey on June 4, 2011, recording his first assist for Columbus Crew against New York Red Bulls. The assist came in the second minute of stoppage time, leading to the game-tying goal.
Exactly 11 years later, on June 4, 2022, Meram scored his 50th goal, this time in Vancouver, Canada, dawning the Claret-and-Cobalt.
Then on July 17, 2022, Meram secured the missing piece of the puzzle, contributing two assists within five minutes of one another to record his 49th and 50th career regular-season assists, officially becoming the league’s 25th member of the 50/50 club.
In between those two moments, Meram has racked up offensive contributions with Columbus (38 goals and 34 assists), Orlando City (1 goal and 3 assists) Atlanta United (4 goals) and now Real Salt Lake (8 goals and 15 assists).
Across his 12 seasons, his 51 goals have been assisted by 25 different players, seven of which came from Federico Higuain, the one of only two teammates of Meram’s to also earn a spot in the 50/50 club.
“It was just generally really nice to play next to Justin, especially having had the opportunity to see how much his game grew during the time we shared,” Federico shared. “Justin is a good football player, so it was easy to connect and try to do things together. He’s a smart, technical player that can make things happen for a football team at any time. Congratulations amigo and VAMOS POR MAS!”
In addition to Higuain, Meram has provided assists for 24 additional different teammates, helping Ethan Finely find the back of the net on eight of his goals, while giving six assists to Ola Kamara and current RSL teammate Damir Kreilach, as well as five to the league’s fifth-highest leading goal scorer Kei Kamara.
Ola Kamara signed with Columbus Crew in 2016. It was the Norwegian’s first time playing in the United States after a decade with clubs across Europe.
The prolific goal scorer’s first in Major League Soccer ironically came against Real Salt Lake. Meram dribbled around several defenders before sending a cross through the legs of another defender. Ola Kamara ran onto the pass for the first goal of the game, Meram’s first of two assists to Kamara in the 4-3 victory.
“My favorite memory, the moment we shared, was actually my first goal in MLS because it was so big for me,” Ola Kamara reflected. “As usual, he put it on a platter. He started off my career here in MLS in a good way, so that’s always going to be a good memory for me.”
The game was the beginning of a fruitful partnership between the two, during which the two combined for six goals in their first season together.
When thinking back on his time playing with Meram, Ola Kamara had this to say about his fellow forward, “The way Justin plays, he always plays in the pocket. He’s always looking for his number nine,” Kamara explained. “Of course, he is good at dribbling and has good feet, but I think for a striker that likes to move off the ball, he’s a very good guy to have on his team because he’s always looking for that assist.”
Kei Kamara joined Meram in Columbus ahead of the 2014 season, and while they only played two seasons with one another, they linked up for six goals. Earlier this year Kei Kamara beat Meram to the punch when he became the 24th player in the league to enter the 50/50 club. When reflecting on their time together and their partnership in Ohio, Kei Kamara had this to say about Meram.
"Justin's magical on the ball, he’s a special player with special vision,” Kamara shared. “Maybe most people don't recognize it, but I was that one striker that knew when Justin cuts on his right foot and I knew right away where he wanted to put the ball, and he loved the fact that I was on the other side of the ball.”
When thinking back on his favorite goal assisted by Meram, Kei Kamara’s response was quick.
"Simple. Justin's goal against New York Red Bulls--probably the fastest goal in MLS history, or playoff history, maybe five or six seconds. That was a beautiful goal.”
Kei Kamara finished with some words of congratulations, saying, ”Habibi, welcome to the 50 club, everything has just been a dream between all of us. We're still friends and I wish him nothing but the best--here's to 50 more.”
While he was with Orlando City, Sacha Kljestan had the fortune of watching the magic of Meram. As the team’s attacking midfielder, he got a front-row seat to four of his offensive contributions, an eventual part of history.
Kljestan had these words of congratulations to share with Meram. “Congratulations on a fantastic achievement,” Kljestan said. “Not many have been able to join the 50/50 club, well done and I wish you continued success!”
After a near decade-long career, Meram found himself joining Real Salt Lake ahead of the 2020 season, his first time competing with a Western Conference team. It was here that he would officially etch his name into the history books.
While a member of the Claret-and-Cobalt, Meram has assisted eight different teammates, including five to captain Damir Kreilach.
“Meram is a great human, dad, husband, friend and teammate,” Kreilach said. “He continues to get better, his quality makes everyone around him better, since day one we have connected, I know exactly where the ball is going to come when he cuts inside. Meram proves that age is just a number, like wine, he gets better with age.”
Most notably, Real Salt Lake fans will remember his bicycle-kick assist that led to Kreilach’s wonder goal in the final minute of the regular season against Sporting Kansas City. The last-second dying effort punched the Claret-and-Cobalt’s ticket into the 2021 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, during which the team went on a Cinderella run, making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, due in large part to the spark created in that moment by Meram.
“We’ve had a lot go goals together, but the bicycle-assist against SKC is the favorite, it helped us make the playoffs, it was special,” Kreilach shared.
And as luck would have it, Meram would complete his 50/50 journey against that same team, providing two assists in the team’s dominate 3-0 defeat over Sporting Kansas City.
His 50th assist came in the 71st minute, servicing in a long cross from near the corner flag for Jefferson Savarino to run onto, simultaneously becoming the 25th player in Major League Soccer to join the 50/50 club.
When the final whistle blew Meram looked over to the sideline, looking to see if he had, in fact, reached the milestone. But the personal celebrations quickly turned team focused as the Claret-and-Cobalt rejoiced in their emphatic victory over one of the Club’s fiercest rivals.
After all the postgame celebrations came to a close Meram ventured up the tunnel, son Sebastian in hand, where he took a moment to pause and reflect on the ramification of tonight’s achievement.
“I came into the league in 2011, I was just a kid from college,” Meram said. “I just came to work every day and perfected my craft. I’ve been fortunate to be in such great company.”
As for what’s next?
“60 and 60? I’m not sure–I’m just going to keep working hard with this group,” Meram pondered before quickly following up with this thought, “Individual awards are good, but they never happen without the team. This organization took me in, back in 2020, when I didn’t know where my future was going, and it really gave belief for me and my family. I’m very thankful and like I said, individual awards are great, but they never come without the team. Outside of my time in Columbus, this is the longest I’ve been with a team. It’s been an incredible few years and I’m very fortunate for everything this Club has done for me in the later stage of my career.”