Last Updated on July 25, 2021
Contrary to popular belief, America has produced some extremely successful soccer players over the past few decades. There has been some serious American talent from players who have shone in Europe, players who tore up Major League Soccer in the United States. In essence, this article will highlight the most successful American Soccer Players.
The criteria for selection are: success with their respective clubs and national team performances, as well as trophies won. Some players are from big clubs, some are from small ones. All these players made their mark on the game in America and even paved the way for the players today.
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11. Eric Wynalda
Wynalda held the record as the US national male team’s all-time top scorer until 2008. He represented the US national team in several competitions, including four Gold cups and three FIFA World Cups. in the former, he won a gold medal, two silver, and a bronze.
At club level, Wynalda scored the first official goal in the history of the MLS in 1996. He is in the US National Soccer Hall of Fame in recognition of his achievements in American soccer.
10. Claudio Reyna
Reyna is one of the greatest midfielders the US has ever produced. He got his first cap in 1994 and retired as a captain in 2006. During this period, he won two gold medals at the 1996 and 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup, alongside a silver medal in the 1998 edition.
Also, he featured in four different FIFA World Cup tournaments with the US. Although, he failed to make a single appearance in one of the tournaments. Perhaps, his biggest achievement was in the 2002 edition where he made the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team.
At club level, Reyna became the first American to captain a European club when he captained Vfl Wolfsburg in 1997. There is a popular belief that Reyna failed to his full potentials because of numerous injuries.
9. Kasey Keller
It is not so often that you find three goalkeepers in the top 10 list of the greatest player. Keller deserves to be mentioned as one of the best male American soccer players in history. After all, he is one of those, whose performances helped shaped American soccer in Europe.
At a time when few American players dared to move to Europe, Keller already made a regular appearance in England, Germany, and Spain. He was voted Millwall’s player of the year in 1993 and he won the league cup with Leicester in 2007. In 2010, he was named as captain of the German side, Borussia Monchengladbach. Thus, he joined the list of Americans who captained a European club.
Keller won an amazing four CONCACAF Gold Cups and was named the US soccer athlete of the year thrice.
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8. Brian McBride
McBride’s career was predominantly within the United States. However, he enjoyed success abroad too, especially with Fulham. At the club, he was hugely popular amongst fans due to his exemplary performances. Twice he won the club’s Player of the year award and was named captain too. After his exit from the club, the club renamed its sports bar “McBride’s”.
McBride featured in three FIFA World Cups with the US national male soccer team. In 2002, McBride helped the US win the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He emerged as the top scorer and won the MVP award in that tournament.
7. Tim Howard
Tim Howard played almost all of his career in the biggest league in the world, the English Premier League. Howard played a season at Manchester United before switching to Everton where he would play for 10 years. The American keeper is the most capped goalie in the history of the National Team with 113 caps. The most famous one being the World Cup round of 16 matches vs Belgium. Howard’s 16 saves were good enough to be a World Cup record.
Howard is one of the most decorated players as well. He has both an FA Cup and League cup winner’s medal while bagging in two Gold Cups. Howard’s best attribute was his leadership. The American was his national teams’ number one keeper for 14 years and is one of the best players America has produced.
It’s interesting to note that Howard is one of the Goalkeepers who scored in the English Premier League.
Without any doubt, Tim Howard is one of the most successful American Soccer Players ever.
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6. Brad Friedel
Friedel is different from most American soccer players on this list. In that, he spent the majority of his career outside the US. In fact, only one year of his goalkeeping career was spent in the American soccer league.
Notwithstanding, Friedel remains one of the best male American soccer players in history. His longevity in one of the best leagues in the world is commendable. He holds the record for the most consecutive appearances in the EPL. Also, he is the second goalkeeper to score in Premier League history. He won the League Cup in 2002 and was voted into the PFA Team of the Year in 2003.
He represented the US male national soccer team at three FIFA World Cups (1994, 1998, 2002). During the 2002 FIFA World Cup group stages, Friedel saved a penalty against South Korea and Poland respectively. This earned him the record as the first goalkeeper to save two penalties in regular time at a FIFA World Cup.
No wonder he is nicknamed “The Human Wall”.
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5. Cobi Jones
Although Jones is not as popular as the others on this list, he still is one of the most successful American Soccer Players. His record speaks for itself.
Cobi Jones’s career was made in his home country. He played 12 years with the LA Galaxy where he scored 70 goals and had 306 appearances. During Cobi’s time in MLS, he won MLS Cup twice, Supporters Shield 3 times, and 2 Open Cup titles.
Jones had a very successful time with the national team too. He went to 3 World Cups and scored 14 goals during his time. The midfielder also is the most capped player in the history of the national team with 164. He has won the Gold Cup and was voted USMNT Player of the Year in 1998.
Jones played at a time where soccer was not very popular in the United States. His hairstyle and flair made him stand out. The attacking midfielder helped put soccer in the mainstream in the United States.
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4. Clint Dempsey
Clint Dempsey may currently be the greatest American soccer player ever. His record speaks for itself. His 57 goals in the Premier League are the most by any American. He spent time with Fulham and Tottenham, but it was his goal vs Juventus in the Europa League semi-final that put his name on the map. In fact, Dempsey is one of the best American soccer players to feature in the Premier League.
The American Soccer Star scored an outrageous chip from 35 yards out, going over the head of legendary keep Gigi Buffon. He then moved to MLS to win all 3 of the major trophies, the Open Cup, Supporter Shield, and an MLS Cup.
With the national team, Dempsey owns a lot of accolades as well. The American striker is the joint top scorer in the history of the USMNT with 57 goals. Dempsey has played in 3 different World Cups and has scored at least one goal in all of them, the only American to accomplish this. Dempsey won the Gold Cup 3 times and was named US Player of the Year on 3 occasions.
Even with all of his trophies and records, the biggest impact Dempsey made was off the field. Before Dempsey, few outfield Americans had any success in Europe. Sure, there were a few goalies who did, but no field player. Until Clint.
Dempsey changed the way Europe and the rest of the world looked at the American player. He showed he could hold his own in Europe’s biggest league. He pathed the way for players today to play in Europe, and that is the greatest achievement any American player has accomplished.
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3. Christian Pulisic
This may be a little bit surprising but yes, we have Pulisic on this one.
While he is still young, Christian Pulisic must go down already as one of the most successful American Soccer players ever. Some argue that he already is. At just 22, he won the Champions League and the German Cup while also playing in 2 FA Cup finals. He also scored in one of those finals. The young American is already the highest-scoring American in Champions League history.
For the first time, America has a player that they can parade around the world as a world-class talent. Clint Dempsey was close to this, but even he can’t compete with some things Pulisic has done, again, at only 22 years of age. America has hyped a lot of players up over the years, but this time the hype is real.
Like Dempsey, Pulisic is breaking grounds for American players. He is rewriting the narrative that American players are not very good. America finally has their world-class player, and he is just getting started.
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2. Michael Bradley
Bradley shares something common with Dempsey and McBride: they all featured for Fulham. Indeed, it was Bradley who broke Mcbride’s record as the American player with the most goals in a single season in the EPL. This he achieved when he scored thirteen goals in 2008, a record he extended by 5 goals the same year.
Bradley won two CONCACAF Gold cups with the US national male team in 2007 and 2017. In the latter, he won the Golden Ball award and he earned a spot in the Best XI.
1. Landon Donovan
If you ask an American sports fan who does not follow soccer heavily to name an American player, you will probably hear Landon Donovan. There’s a good reason for this. Second most appearances (157) and tied for first in goals (57) for the USMNT. 4 Gold Cups and 4-time US Player of the Year.
These are just with the national team. Donovan had 137 goals and 104 assists which, at the time he retired, were both the most in MLS history. The American legend has won MLS Cup 6 times and reeled in a US Open Cup and 2 Supporter Shields. Landon Donovan is the greatest player in MLS history. When he retired, they renamed the MVP award after him.
Even though Donovan spent almost all his time in MLS, this didn’t stop him from making a global impact. He may not be the greatest talent or player the US has produced, but it would be hard to find someone more successful. Nobody has accomplished as much as Landon. He never had the club career others did in Europe, but he grew the game in America. His impact on American soccer can’t be denied. His dominance in MLS helped grow the game and the league.
MLS has gotten a lot of top talent over the years, and Donovan’s success is a reason. He spent his time in MLS, giving the league a big name, attracting more quality to the league. If a country has a strong league, the talent of players from your country grows. This has happened in America and it is no coincidence that it started during Donovan’s reign as king of MLS.
In a nutshell, Landon Donovan is the most successful or best American Soccer player in history.
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American soccer has grown so much over the past 20 years, and at the heart of this, are these successful players.
The US football league might only have started in 1996 but the American soccer players had long made name for themselves. Therefore, it came as no surprise when American stars in Europe and other continents were invited to help develop the league.
For some, who returned on their own volition, they enhanced their reputation as some of the best in American football history. Perhaps, other countries looking to start or improve their leagues can look to the American model even though there were players from other countries too.
All the same, credit must be given to Landon Donovan for his incredible achievements in Soccer. It is no surprise that he tops the list of the most successful American Soccer Players.
This content is coauthored by John Anyanwu