Wednesday, 24 Jul 2024

Ranking the Top American Soccer Players in USMNT History

best american soccer players

The United States may not be a global soccer powerhouse, but it has produced a number of exceptional players who have captivated fans both domestically and internationally throughout the years. From the inaugural FIFA World Cup in 1930 to the most recent tournament in Qatar, the USMNT has participated in 10 World Cups and will co-host the 2026 edition with Mexico and Canada. The Sporting News has compiled a list of the top American soccer players in history, taking into account their club success, international achievements, memorable moments, and overall career longevity. Let’s take a closer look at the players who have left an indelible mark on U.S. soccer.

DaMarcus Beasley (2001-2017)

DaMarcus Beasley

DaMarcus Beasley claims the 10th spot on the list. Known for his versatility and enduring popularity among fans, Beasley enjoyed an impressive career both domestically and internationally. With notable stints at clubs such as PSV Eindhoven, Rangers, and Manchester City, Beasley made his mark on the international stage. He won the Gold Cup an incredible five times and was part of four World Cup squads, making him one of only three U.S. players to achieve this feat. Beasley’s consistent performances as a full-back, a position historically weak for the U.S., solidify his place among the greatest American players.

Tab Ramos (1988-2000)

Tab Ramos

Tab Ramos, born in Uruguay and an integral part of the U.S. midfield, ranks 9th on the list. A skillful and versatile player, Ramos showcased his talent both domestically and internationally. He spent most of his club career with the New York MetroStars and had successful stints in Spain and Mexico. Ramos was instrumental in the U.S.’s qualification for the 1990 World Cup, contributing a crucial long-range winner against Costa Rica and delivering the assist that set up Paul Caligiuri’s memorable goal against Trinidad & Tobago. Injuries hampered the latter part of his career, but he had already cemented his place among American soccer greats.

Claudio Reyna (1994-2006)

Claudio Reyna

Claudio Reyna, the son of Argentinian parents, secured the 8th spot on the list. Reyna’s decision to play college soccer at Virginia, rather than joining European clubs, showcased his commitment to developing American talent. He eventually had successful stints at clubs such as Bayer Leverkusen, Rangers, Sunderland, and Manchester City. Reyna captained the U.S. team during the 2002 World Cup, where the team reached the quarterfinals, its best performance to date. Despite battling injuries throughout his career, Reyna remains a symbol of American soccer and its potential to compete on the global stage.

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Michael Bradley (2006-2019)

Michael Bradley

Michael Bradley, recognized as a midfield maestro, occupies the 7th position on the list. Known for his exceptional passing skills, Bradley amassed over 150 appearances for the U.S. national team, an achievement shared by only two other American players. He enjoyed a successful club career in Germany and Italy, playing for Borussia Monchengladbach, Chievo Verona, and AS Roma. Bradley played a pivotal role in iconic victories, such as the upset over Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup and the late equalizer against Slovenia in the 2010 World Cup. His contributions to the U.S. midfield for over a decade solidify his place among the country’s greats.

Brian McBride (1993-2006)

Brian McBride

Brian McBride, known for his fearlessness and work ethic, claims the 6th position on the list. McBride made a name for himself during his seven-year tenure with the Columbus Crew before moving to Fulham in the English Premier League. He quickly became a club legend, leading the team’s charge in the “Great Escape” of the 2007/08 season. Internationally, McBride played a crucial role in the U.S.’s memorable run to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup. His goals against Portugal and Mexico ignited the nation’s passion for the sport, and he remains a revered figure in American soccer history.

Brad Friedel (1992-2005)

Brad Friedel

Brad Friedel, often regarded as one of the greatest American goalkeepers, ranks 5th on the list. Friedel’s club career spanned several years in the English Premier League, with notable spells at Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, and Tottenham. He holds the record for the most Premier League appearances by any North or South American player, a testament to his longevity and consistency. Friedel’s heroic performances in the 2002 World Cup, where he saved two non-shootout penalties, are still remembered today. His achievements are even more remarkable given the presence of other exceptional American goalkeepers during his time.

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Christian Pulisic (2016-Present)

Christian Pulisic

Christian Pulisic, the youngest player on the list at just 23 years old, secures the 4th spot. Despite his relatively short international career, Pulisic’s club achievements have already made him one of the top male American players. He became the first American to win the UEFA Champions League, playing a crucial role in Chelsea’s victory over Real Madrid in the semifinals. Pulisic’s performances in the Champions League have already surpassed those of any other American player. Although he is yet to create iconic moments in a U.S. shirt, Pulisic’s potential and club success make him a player to watch in the future.

Tim Howard (2002-2017)

Tim Howard

In the 3rd spot is Tim Howard, widely considered the best American goalkeeper of all time. Howard’s career took him from the MLS to Manchester United, where he made 45 appearances and gained international recognition. His ten-year tenure at Everton marked a significant period in his career, during which he became a fan favorite and recorded 329 appearances. Howard’s performances in the 2014 World Cup, particularly his record-breaking 16 saves against Belgium in the Round of 16, elevated him to legendary status. His contributions to American soccer, both domestically and internationally, set him apart as an icon of the sport.

Clint Dempsey (2004-2017)

Clint Dempsey

Clint Dempsey, known for his swagger and memorable moments, claims the 2nd spot on the list. Although he occasionally disappeared from games, Dempsey’s impact when he was on form was undeniable. His audacious goal against Juventus in the Europa League for Fulham remains one of the most celebrated moments in European football. With 47 goals, Dempsey also holds the record as Fulham’s top Premier League scorer. His ability to rise to the occasion and his memorable performances make him one of the most iconic players in American soccer history.

Landon Donovan (2000-2014)

Landon Donovan

Topping the list is Landon Donovan, widely regarded as the greatest American male soccer player. Donovan’s career was characterized by his success at both the club and international levels. His breakout performance in the 2002 World Cup, where he won the Best Young Player award, propelled him to stardom. Donovan’s memorable goal against Algeria in the dying seconds of the group stage match secured the U.S.’s progress. He represented the LA Galaxy for most of his club career and had notable loan spells in the Premier League with Everton. Despite a controversial omission from the 2014 World Cup squad, Donovan’s achievements and impact on American soccer solidify his position as the best U.S. player in history.

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Honorable Mentions:

While the top ten players have been determined, it’s crucial to acknowledge other notable American soccer figures who have left their mark on the sport:

  • Cobi Jones: The midfielder holds the record for the most appearances in U.S. history.
  • Eddie Pope: Considered one of the best American defenders, Pope made significant contributions to the national team.
  • Eric Wynalda: A pioneer in European football, Wynalda had a knack for goal-scoring, particularly from set-pieces.
  • Kasey Keller: Keller’s international career coincided with the achievements of other exceptional American goalkeepers.
  • Carlos Bocanegra: A versatile defender who captained the U.S. team in significant tournaments.
  • Alexi Lalas: Known for his distinctive appearance and gritty style of play, Lalas is an iconic figure in U.S. soccer.
  • John O’Brien: Although plagued by injuries, O’Brien showcased his brilliance during his time on the field and represented the Netherlands club Ajax.


Q: Who is the best American soccer player of all time?

A: Landon Donovan is widely regarded as the greatest American male soccer player in history due to his club success, iconic national team moments, and overall career longevity.

Q: Who is the best American goalkeeper?

A: Tim Howard is often considered the best American goalkeeper, renowned for his performances in the 2014 World Cup and his success in the English Premier League.

Q: Who is the most successful American soccer player internationally?

A: Landon Donovan’s contributions to the U.S. national team, including his performances in World Cups and crucial goals, make him the most successful American soccer player on the international stage.


American soccer has seen a host of talented players over the years, each leaving a unique mark on the sport. From Landon Donovan’s iconic moments to Tim Howard’s spectacular performances, these players have captivated fans with their skills and achievements. As the U.S. continues to develop and produce exceptional talent, it will be exciting to see how future generations contribute to the storied history of American soccer.

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