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10 best American soccer players of all time

There is a belief that soccer – or football, as it’s known where this list truly references – isn’t regarded as highly as other sports in the United States, that the talent pool isn’t particularly impressive considering the country’s size. Clearly, that’s not the case, especially when considering that the men’s team has made it to the direct qualification of 4 out of the last 8 World Cups, qualifying for every tournament since 1990 except one, while the women’s team has secured an impressive 4 World Cup titles in just eight attempts. American male players often venture to Europe in search of bigger opportunities, something everyone on this list has done in their illustrious careers. But who are the best American soccer players of all time? Let’s find out through the following article from!

Best American soccer players of all time

10. Brian McBride

As part of the group of players drafted for the inception of MLS in 1996, where McBride would play with the Columbus Crew until 2003, his time in the Premier League is considered his most memorable.

A beloved figure at Fulham during his time in west London from 2004 to 2008, McBride scored 41 goals in 154 appearances for the club and even won two Player of the Season awards. Though not successful, McBride’s leadership was also witnessed as he was handed the captain’s armband at Craven Cottage before he returned to MLS with the Chicago Fire.

Best American soccer players: Brian McBride
Best American soccer players: Brian McBride

On the international stage, McBride scored 30 goals in 96 caps, donating $100 to the Central Ohio Diabetes Association for every goal and assist he achieved with the national team. This forward also helped the team secure the 2002 Gold Cup, earning MVP and Golden Boot honors in the process.

9. Tim Howard

Tim Howard garnered attention at home when he signed a strong contract with Manchester United in 2003, a pivotal moment in his career. However, as a goalkeeper for Everton, Tim built much of his career there, becoming an indispensable figure in the lineup and a true hero of the Toffees during their peak decade.

Best US soccer players: Tim Howard
Best US soccer players: Tim Howard

At Goodison Park, Tim Howard proved his excellence and left a mark with an unforgettable moment. In a dramatic match, his long clearance was inadvertently caught by the wind and sailed over Bolton Wanderers goalkeeper Adam Bogdan’s head before landing in the net. This not only brought a goal for the home team but also highlighted Tim Howard’s name in the list of goal-scoring goalkeepers in Premier League history, becoming an integral part of Everton fans’ fond memories and the footballing world alike.

8. Alexi Lalas

Ah, the man with the distinctive beard and long hair at the 1994 World Cup. Lalas rose to prominence playing in the center of the US defense at their home tournament, then moved to Italy’s Padova to become the first American to play in Serie A.

Best US football players: Alexi Lalas
Best US football players: Alexi Lalas

He spent two years in Italy’s top flight before returning home as one of ten marquee players enlisted for the inaugural MLS season, where the New England Revolution welcomed him. However, it was at LA Galaxy, from 2001 to 2003, where he found the most success, winning 4 titles, including the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Nine goals in 96 international appearances certainly isn’t shabby, but we’re not convinced by the eight solo albums he’s released over the past three decades…

7. Claudio Reyna

Being picked by your nation among the four teams to participate in the World Cup isn’t bad – being named in the Tournament’s Best XI is even better. The first American to achieve that feat, Reyna’s performance at the 2002 tournament earned him accolades, despite missing the opening 3-2 win against Portugal due to injury.

Best soccer players in the US: Claudio Reyna
Best soccer players in the US: Claudio Reyna

While this midfielder faced injury setbacks in his career, limited playing time at Rangers, Sunderland, and Manchester City, whenever the American played, you could see the qualities he possessed. After all, playing 112 times for your country doesn’t just happen by chance.

His finest moments came with Rangers in the 1999/00 season, where the Gers secured a domestic double, while six years in England with Sunderland and Man City surely garnered him praise whenever he was fully fit.

6. Christian Pulisic

The most expensive North American player of all time, following his £57.6 million transfer from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea in 2019, Pulisic has yet to fully realize his potential – although he still has plenty of time to do so. At just 24, this winger has already showcased his abilities in his career and could easily climb this list in the years to come.

Best American soccer players of all time: Christian Pulisic
Best American soccer players of all time: Christian Pulisic

Pulisic is the youngest player in Chelsea history to net a hat-trick and has won the Champions League and Club World Cup with the club. Prior to that, in Dortmund colors, he made his senior football debut at 17, before finishing runner-up in the inaugural 2018 Kopa Trophy, awarded to the best under-21 player.

However, perhaps more impressive is his influence on the national team. Pulisic wore the captain’s armband for the USMNT at just 20, won the Best Young Player award at the 2019 Gold Cup, and inspired two victories in the CONCACAF Nations League.

5. DaMarcus Beasley

Throughout his 20-year career, DaMarcus Beasley has donned the jerseys of eight clubs in six countries – featuring in MLS, the Premier League, Bundesliga, and others – as well as earning 126 caps for the USMNT.

Best US soccer players ever: DaMarcus Beasley
Best US soccer players ever: DaMarcus Beasley

However, with PSV and Rangers, Beasley achieved his greatest success at the club level: the left-footed winger’s wizardry helped both clubs clinch two titles each from 2004 to 2010.

The former LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo player was recently inducted into his country’s National Soccer Hall of Fame earlier this year, a sure testament to his legacy in the game in the US.

4. Cobi Jones

Coventry City fans might immediately recognize Cobi Jones in the National Soccer Hall of Fame, despite his single season stint at Highfield Road in the 1994/95 campaign. Signed from the United States Soccer Federation, Coventry represented Jones’ first breakthrough at a professional club, though he had already earned over 30 caps for his national team – including featuring in the 1994 World Cup – prior to that.

US soccer best players: Cobi Jones
US soccer best players: Cobi Jones

Over the next decade, Jones established himself as the greatest male player in US national team history, with 164 appearances for the national team when he retired from international duty in 2004. At the time, he was playing for LA Galaxy, where he spent 12 seasons after joining MLS in 1996.

This diminutive midfielder excelled in Los Angeles until retiring in 2007, winning MLS Cup titles in 2002 and 2005, numerous Western Conference titles, and notably the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2000.

3. Landon Donovan

Regarded by many as the greatest American soccer player of all time, Landon Donovan’s case is certainly compelling; he’s only slightly disappointed that he never quite asserted himself in one of Europe’s top five leagues.

But it’s hard to overlook his joint USMNT goalscoring record (57 goals, alongside Clint Dempsey) to become the greatest MLS player in history – and what Donovan did to transform the profile of the US’s top league is nothing to scoff at.

Best American soccer players: Landon Donovan
Best American soccer players: Landon Donovan

This forward spent much of his career with LA Galaxy – where his record 308 goals may never be broken – but also challenged himself with brief spells in the Bundesliga and Premier League with Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, and Everton.

2. Brad Friedel

When ‘America’ and ‘soccer’ are mentioned in the same breath, many may immediately think of another sport, a hand-played sport, and Brad Friedel cannot go unmentioned – a prominent figure in the history of this sport. With 450 Premier League appearances, Friedel played for Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, and Tottenham, and still holds the record for the most appearances by an American in the league. Like Howard, he’s also etched into the record books as one of six goalkeepers to score in the Premier League’s 31-year history.

Best US soccer players: Brad Friedel
Best US soccer players: Brad Friedel

Not confined to domestic football, Brad Friedel also featured for the US national team with 84 caps, participating in the 2002 World Cup as his nation’s number one. He delivered inspiring performances, helping the USMNT advance from the group stage and into the quarterfinals of the tournament, creating memorable moments for American soccer fans.

1. Clint Dempsey

Clint Dempsey has earned his place as one of the greatest players in American soccer history by becoming one of the few Americans to truly achieve in the Premier League – where no other player from his country has made more appearances than his 218.

This versatile forward mostly plied his trade for Fulham – a team that signed him from MLS side New England Revolution in 2007, and sold him to Tottenham six years later.

Best US football players: Clint Dempsey
Best US football players: Clint Dempsey

Fair to say Dempsey’s time at Spurs wasn’t as successful as his time at Fulham – a team he helped to the 2010 UEFA Cup final, where he became the first American to feature in a major European final – but he had long since earned legendary status, aided in no small part by his goal-scoring exploits for the USMNT.


The legacies of Cobi Jones, Landon Donovan, Brad Friedel, Clint Dempsey, and other notable American soccer players represent not only their remarkable individual achievements but also the collective journey of American soccer on the global stage. From breaking barriers in European leagues to elevating the profile of Major League Soccer (MLS) and the national team, these players have left an enduring impact on the sport in the United States. Their contributions have inspired generations of aspiring soccer players and have played a significant role in shaping the growth and evolution of soccer culture in the country. As icons of perseverance, talent, and dedication, their legacies will continue to inspire future generations and cement their place in the history of American soccer.

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