5 Greatest American Soccer Players of All Time
The United States is known for a lot of things, especially when it comes to sports. The Super Bowl is the most-watched event every year, but the United States is the only country where gridiron football is the most popular. There’s also baseball, basketball, and even hockey, and stock car racing that are watched more than soccer.
However, that doesn’t mean that America hasn’t produced any top-tier talent. Between international and club play, here are the five greatest American soccer players ever. Before we begin the list, some of the Americans who just missed the list include Brad Friedel, Michael Bradley, Tab Ramos, Claudio Reyna, and Damarcus Beasley.
Illinois native Brian McBride is actually the oldest member of the list despite being born in 1972, which shows you just how much more seriously the US soccer program is taken these days compared to what it was. McBride attended St. Louis University and made his way to play professionally in Germany during the mid-1990s before being part of the early Major League Soccer days as a member of the Columbus Crew.
McBride spent some time playing in the English Premier League, mainly with Fulham where he had 33 goals in 140 appearances. In 2008, McBride returned to the MLS to play for the Chicago Fire before wrapping up his career in 2010. McBride spent 13 years as part of the US National team, scoring 30 goals in 95 appearances. In 2014, McBride was inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame.
Clint Dempsey had some remarkable moments at the World Cup, giving him a lot of exposure around the globe. Dempsey also spent plenty of time playing in the English Premier League, spending five years with Fulham and another year with Tottenham Hotspur. Outside of that, Dempsey had an extended career in the MLS with the New England Revolution and Seattle Sounders.
Dempsey made over 140 appearances in international matches, scoring 57 goals in total. Dempsey is tied for first all-time in international goals scored with our number two player on the list, though he did it in 26 fewer appearances. Dempsey became a Hall of Famer in 2022 thanks to his long list of accomplishments that include being a four-time MLS All-Star.
The pride of Hershey, Pennsylvania, Christian Pulisic is a speedy player who also spent time in Michigan before leaving the country altogether as a teenager to join the Borussia Dortmund youth program. In 2016, he made his professional debut with the club and had 10 goals in just over 80 appearances. Three years later, Pulisic made his way to Chelsea and quickly became the most well-known American player in Europe.
Pulisic also became a staple of the US National Team, and he made his debut in the same year he turned pro. Pulisic became the captain of the squad and has netted some very memorable goals on the international level. While in Europe, Pulisic has won the UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup while also winning a CONCACAF Nations League in America.
The man who is tied atop the list of all-time leading scorers in international play with Clint Dempsey is Landon Donovan. The Californian made his way to Florida as a teenager to attend the sports-focused IMG Academy, then made his way to Europe to play for Bayer Leverkusen. Donovan has spent the bulk of his professional career in the MLS, however, most notably with the LA Galaxy.
Donovan scored 145 MLS goals and won the league’s 2009 Most Valuable Player Award. He was a 13-time All-Star in the MLS, too, while also having a tremendous international career. Donovan netted 57 goals in 157 appearances, including a goal in his first World Cup appearance against Poland. With Donovan, the Americans made it to the round of 16.
While there have been some prolific goal-scorers on the list thus far, the top player from the United States is a goalkeeper. Tim Howard was born and raised in New Jersey, which is where he began his professional career. Howard then headed to Europe in 2003 where he had a four-year stint with Manchester United before making his way to Everton for nearly a decade.
Howard made nearly 400 appearances in the Premier League between the two clubs while also having a 15-year international career with the US team. Nobody has had more saves in a single World Cup match than Howard, who had 15 against Belgium in the round of 16. Howard had 121 international appearances, earning him the USMNT’s Player of the Year.