It is safe to say that American soccer has seen some best players and come a long way since its humble beginnings in the late 1800s. The sport has seen immense growth in popularity in recent years, and along with that, the level of talent on display has increased dramatically.
Who are the Best American Soccer Players? American national legends such as Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Tim Howard are among the best American soccer players.
In this article, we have compiled a list of the top ten greatest players to have represented the United States men’s national team, including the best forwards, goalkeepers, and midfielders.
List Of 10 Best American Soccer Players Of All Time
- Landon Donovan (Forward)
- Claudio Reyna (Midfielder)
- Clint Dempsey (Forward)
- Brad Friedel (Goalkeeper)
- Brian McBride (Forward)
- Tim Howard (Goalkeeper)
- Tab Ramos (Midfielder)
- Eric Wynalda (Forward)
- Kasey Keller (Goalkeeper)
- Michael Bradley (Midfielder)
1. Landon Donovan – The best American soccer player of all time
What else can be said about the enigmatic Landon Donovan? He was a rare combination of a gifted goalscorer and a visionary midfielder. Major League Soccer has named Donovan the greatest American soccer player of all time. He was too gentle and retiring. He was a one-man counter-attack. Donovan was Landycakes. He is still a divisive figure, as are most No. 1 players. Nonetheless, his brilliance – and achievements – set him apart from his American peers.
He is widely considered the greatest U.S. men’s soccer player of all time. He holds numerous individual records in Major League Soccer (MLS) and for the United States national team. Donovan retired from the game at the age of 32. He tops in both USMNT and MLS goals and assists ledgers. The valuable indicators of a talismanic career speak to his world-class attacking acumen. He was the face of a generation that defined a new level of success for US soccer. He injected energy into the team’s run to the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals, which remains the team’s best finish.
And who can forget the winning goal against Algeria in stoppage time in 2010, followed by a rare moment of pure glee from the normally stoic attacker as an entire nation went berserk over a sport it claimed to despise? For years, when the United States needed an incisive moment, Donovan stepped up and delivered. Aside from his spat with Jurgen Klinsmann and his surprise exclusion from the 2014 World Cup roster. His 15-year tenure with the senior team will serve as a litmus test for future generations of attacking talent.
2. Claudio Reyna- Best Attacking Midfielder
Claudio Reyna is the current sporting director of Austin FC and a former American soccer player. He played for Livingston, New Jersey, United States. He was captain of the United States men’s national team before retiring from international soccer. A smooth midfielder who excelled at calmly distributing the ball from his center-field position. Reyna was a key member of the US World Cup teams in 1998, 2002, and 2006. US fans will always wonder if he could have contributed to the ’94 team when the US hosted the World Cup and Reyna was unable to play due to a hamstring injury.
Reyna, the son of Argentinian parents, was raised in New Jersey and chose the University of Virginia over offers from European clubs. He went on to become one of the first American outfield players to have a successful career abroad, playing for Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg in Germany, Sunderland and Manchester City in England, and Rangers in Scotland. He frequently played on the right side of midfield and even right-back. That outside experience aided Reyna in the 2002 World Cup when coach Bruce Arena positioned him as a right midfielder in a knockout game against Mexico. Reyna set up the first goal in the United States 2-0 victory.
He retired with 112 caps and eight international goals. Reyna is currently the director of football operations for Major League Soccer’s New York City FC.
3. Clint Dempsey- Famous American Soccer Forward Player
Clint Dempsey is a retired American soccer player who played forward and midfield. He played for Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League and the New England Revolution and Seattle Sounders FC in Major League Soccer. Clint Dempsey may be the best case study for capturing the psychology of the average American sports fan. Whereas other, arguably more talented, forwards like Donovan and Altidore are divided over perceived flaws Dempsey is universally admired.
However, where some see petulance, many Americans identify with a tough, headstrong mentality that is uniquely American. He has 47 goals in the red, white, and blue none more memorable than the fifth-fastest goal in World Cup history against Ghana in 2014. He has achieved every single one of them. Dempsey is also Fulham’s all-time Premier League top scorer, with 50 league goals. He demonstrated his ability to adapt his attacking prowess to England’s punishing physical play.
4. Brad Friedel- Best American Goalkeeper
Bradley Friedel is a former goalkeeper and soccer coach from the United States. Between 1992 and 2005, Friedel appeared in 84 games for the United States national team. He represented his country in three FIFA World Cup tournaments. If there is one elite position in American soccer, it is goalkeeper, and among the great talents to have represented the Red, White, and Blue. Brad Friedel may have been the best of them all. The Ohio native was one of the first well-known Americans to play in the English Premier League, where he excelled for Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, and Tottenham Hotspur. Friedel currently holds the Premier League record for most consecutive appearances with 310, and he is also ranked eighth all-time in clean sheets.
Impressive numbers for a keeper who has sometimes been overshadowed by the more popular Tim Howard and Kasey Keller. Friedel was a mainstay in the world’s most popular league for the majority of his career, with razor-sharp reflexes that hardly waned as he got older and excellent penalty box dominance. Many critics credit him with largely de-stigmatizing the stereotype of the American player on the ship. Friedel’s professionalism, class, and ability were the antidote to the fear that many English clubs had of players from the other side of the Atlantic.
Friedel also performed admirably for the USA, despite stiff competition from Tony Meola, Keller, and Howard. Friedel’s crowning achievement came in the 2002 World Cup, when the United States finished with their best-ever finish in modern history, losing to Germany in the quarterfinals. Friedel was called “The Human Wall” during that tournament after becoming the first World Cup goalkeeper since 1974 to save two penalty kicks in regular play.
5. Brian McBride
Brian McBride is former American soccer forward who played for Columbus Crew, Fulham, and Chicago Fire. He is the fifth-highest all-time goal scorer for the United States national team. Most of the time, Brian McBride made a habit of showing up when it mattered by throwing his 6ft 1in frame into a crashing header. His most famous goal may have been his diving effort to give the United States a 3-0 lead against a stunned Portugal team in 2002. It became the symbol of that country’s campaign. The United States came into the game, and tournament, with their World Cup reputation tarnished by an abject performance in 1998, and with little hope against Portugal’s golden generation of Figo et al. However, McBride led the line without regard for previous reputations in that 3-2 victory and into the USA’s best World Cup performance to date.
He also helped the reputation of US soccer players around the world by scoring goals on loan for Premier League Fulham and Everton before returning to MLS. McBride was the first player chosen for the first MLS draught in 1996. He was a key figure in the fortunes of both the national team and the domestic league following the 1994 World Cup. When the United States competed in that 2002 tournament, the domestic league was on the verge of collapse, having just seen two teams fold. His exuberant play represented a bullish quality of self-belief that has turned out to be part of a vital continuum in the last couple of decades – less precious than Donovan, less flamboyant than Dempsey, but as iconic in the USA’s conception of itself as a sporting nation of indomitable effort as either. He is one of the best American soccer players to date.
6. Tim Howard
Tim Howard is a former goalkeeper for the United States of America. He most recently played for Memphis 901 FC, of which he is a minority owner and sporting director. He is also an international ambassador for his former club Everton in the United States. Tim Howard began his soccer career with one simple goal in mind: to play the sport he loved. He never imagined that he would make an impact as a team leader, game-changer, record-setter, spokesman, and icon during his remarkable and legendary 20-year career for the club and US country.
Since making his first save in 1998, Howard has played for the MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls), Manchester United, Everton, & the United States National Team. Howard’s final game at LAFC will be his 815th career appearance, including regular season, cup, playoff, and international appearances.
His achievements may break the internet: 121 international appearances for the United States. Also, an MLS goalkeeper of the year at the age of 22 in 2001. In the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup’s Golden Glove award (especially after the USA stunned top-ranked Spain in the semifinals), U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year twice (2008, 2014), and three World Cups.
7. Tab Ramos
Tab Ramos is regarded as one of the most gifted players to ever wear the US Men’s National Team. Injuries hampered his national team career, but he still managed 81 caps and 8 goals. On September 7, 1997, he scored one of the most memorable goals in US Soccer history against Costa Rica. That goal was in World Cup Qualifying match securing the men’s national team’s place in the 1998 FIFA World Cup. He is one of three players in the history of the United States National Team, along with Eric Wynalda (Class of 2004) and Marcelo Balboa, to play in three consecutive World Cups (1990, 1994, and 1998).
Tab Ramos started every match for the United States in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Also, he suffered a skull fracture in the quarterfinals against Brazil after being caught by Leonardo’s elbow. Tab spent his entire MLS career with the MetroStars. He was a two-time MLS All-Star (1996 and 1998) and scored the game’s first goal. He spent 5 years in the Spanish La Liga and Second Division before joining the MLS.
Tab Ramos was an ASL All-Star during his two years in the American Soccer League (1988-1989). Tab Ramos was a three-time All-American at North Carolina State. In high school, he was a two-time All-American and the National Player of the Year for the national powerhouse St. Benedicts.
In 2003, he was honored with a star at the Home Depot Center’s U.S. Soccer Star Plaza. He is now the President and Founder of Tab Ramos Soccer Programs, a New York Corporation that offers camps, clinics, and coaching throughout New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. He is also the President and Founder of the New Jersey Soccer Academy, an elite boys’ soccer club.
8. Eric Wynalda – best American soccer players ever
Eric Wynalda is famous for his on-field performance. He appeared in 106 games for the US National Team and scored 34 goals. Before Landon Donovan surpassed him in 2007, he was the USA’s all-time goals leader. He appeared in three FIFA World Cups and scored a goal in 1994. Wynalda has been named to the CONCACAF team of the decade for the 1990s.
Wynalda’s World Cup debut at Italia ’90 stood marred by a red card for retaliating against Czechoslovakia’s Lubomir Moravcik, who had fouled him earlier in the USA’s 5-1 defeat. Despite waking up with hives from an allergic reaction to something he ate that morning, Wynalda made soccer fans forget that mistake four years later with a spectacular 30-yard free-kick against Switzerland. The 1-1 draw, the Americans’ first in World Cup play since 1950, advanced them to the second round of USA ’94.
Wynalda’s other memorable goal came in Major League Soccer’s inaugural match, when he connected in the 88th minute for the San Jose Clash in a 1-0 victory over DC United on April 6, 1996, averting what many saw as an embarrassing scoreless draw.
After successful stints with FC Saarbrucken and VfL Bochum in Germany, “Waldo” continued to score goals for the Miami Fusion, New England Revolution, and Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer before retiring in 2001. Wynalda, 46, was inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004 and now works as a sports commentator for Fox Sports.
9. Kasey Keller – Best American soccer players
Kasey Keller is a former American soccer player who has played in both Europe and the United States. Starting goalkeeper for the United States national team. He seems to have been with us for a long time. Kasey Keller, now a TV analyst, rose to prominence as a player in the 1989 World Youth Championship and did not announce his international retirement until 2011.
In the interim, Keller played in Europe for Leicester, Tottenham, and Borussia Monchengladbach, which he captained in 2006-07. That season followed an eye-catching World Cup performance. He did everything he could to keep the United States in contention. With his team down to nine men against the eventual champions, he made numerous saves in the 1-1 draw with Italy. It was Keller’s fourth World Cup.
Keller’s skill, positioning, and game sense propelled him to the forefront of his generation of US players. He faced a credibility gap in Europe. His consistent presence in top European leagues & his impressive longevity and consistency place him so high. Keller wasn’t involved in some wild games fans still talk about the game against Brazil in 1998. But Keller made five saves from Romario to shut out the world champions. For his legacy, look no further than the standard he maintained until the end. He retired as MLS goalkeeper of the year at the end of the 2011 season. He left a high standard for those who came after him.
10. Michael Bradley – Best American soccer players
Michael Bradley is former US national team coach Bob. He took his first cap at the age of 18 by Bruce Arena. He became a regular in the US midfield under his father in 2007. Bradley’s son Bradley broke the record for the most goals scored in a single season by an American soccer player playing in a European first division, which had previously been held by Brian McBride with his thirteen goals for Fulham in the Premier League, in January 2008.
Michael, known for his tireless work ethic, was a box-to-box midfielder during his first World Cup cycle and was a key player in the US team’s semi-final victory over Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup. However, in that game, he received a questionable straight red card in the final minutes, which kept him out of Brazil’s final. Michael’s memorable performances helped keep the US dream alive in the World Cup in 2010. He scored a crucial late compensation goal in the team’s 2-2 draw with Slovenia. Michael, at the age of 27, earned his 100th cap during the Gold Cup and has 15 goals for the national team, including four against archrival Mexico.
Bradley, the captain of Toronto FC in Major League Soccer, spent eight years in Europe, playing for Heerenveen in Holland, Borussia Monchengladbach in Germany, Aston Villa briefly in England, and Chievo Verona and AS Roma in Italy. He played every minute of the United States’ four World Cup matches in Brazil in 2014, where coach Jurgen Klinsmann moved him into a more central attacking role.
The BEST USMNT goalkeeper in the Premier League: Tim Howard, Brad Friedel, or Kasey Keller?
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