Listing the best American soccer players ever existed
When it comes to soccer, the United States does not have the exact background as many of the most successful football nations in Europe or South America.
Given that, over the last three decades, they have been slowly clawing their way into significance, managing to produce some of the best American footballers of all time.
Since failing to qualify for every single World Cup between 1954 and 1986, the United States has been part of every tournament since Italia ’90.
They also hosted the 1994 World Cup, coinciding with the start of their own domestic league, Major League Soccer.
While the overall standard of MLS is still lacking behind the top leagues in Europe, it is important to note that those other nations had a 100-year head start on growing footballers.
That's not to suggest that the U.S. didn't have any decent players wearing their jersey, quite the contrary in fact.
Over the years, America has created a range of fine and even great players, some who are the best American footballers of all time and are likely to hold iconic status if they were fortunate enough to be born in Italy, Spain, Brazil, Germany, or Argentina.
Instead, they are merely idolized by the small (but rapidly growing) portion of Americans who call themselves soccer fans.
Related Article: Best world cup players of all time
Here are our choices for the biggest soccer stars in America ever.
Michael Sheehan Bradley (born July 31, 1987) is an American professional soccer player who plays both the Major League Soccer Club Toronto FC and the United States National Team and is one of the Best American soccer players ever.
Bradley is fluent in English, Italian, Dutch, German and Spanish. He's married to Amanda, a retired tennis player at the University of Rhode Island.
The couple had a son, Luca, who was born on September 30, 2012, and a daughter, Quinn Elle, who was born on November 17, 2014.
In May 2006, Bradley was sent to the 2006 World Cup training camp to practice with the United States National Team.
Though not a part of the World Cup squad or a substitute, Bradley was on the roster for the three send-off friendly games played before the tournament.
He received his first cap in the May 26 match against Venezuela as a replacement and his second cap for the United States in the following game against Latvia again as a replacement.
For years, many USMNT fans have wrongly criticized Michael Bradley's presence as nepotism in the national team because his father was the manager.
Even though this criticism was unjust, Bradley has, over the past year, eliminated any doubts among any remaining haters with his club and country play and proved himself as one of the Best American soccer players of all time.
After a failed loan with Aston Villa, Bradley transformed the solid season at Chievo Verona in Serie A into a move to the Italian powerhouse Roma, where he looks to be a steady contributor to a strong midfield.
For the USMNT, Bradley has appeared as the team's deep-rooted playmaker, particularly great in the summer's friendly match against Brazil.
Related Article: Top Brazilian players in Premier League history
Josmer Volmy "Jozy" Altidore (born November 6, 1989) is an American professional soccer player who plays the Toronto FC Major League Soccer side and the United States National Team. He is also among the Best American soccer players of all time.
Altidore created his professional debut with the New York Red Bulls in 2006, at the age of 16.
In the middle of his third season with New York, in 2008, he was transferred to Villarreal for a fee of $10 million.
Throughout his spell with Villarreal, he left for three loans – Spanish Segunda Division club Xerez in February–May 2009, English Premier League club Hull City for the entire 2009–10 season, and Turkish club Bursaspor where he went on a six-month loan.
He joined AZ in the Netherlands in the summer of 2011. On 3 March 2013, Altidore overtook Clint Dempsey for most goals by an American in the European club season with its 24th goal of the 2012–13 campaign. Sunderland signed Altidore during the summer transfer window 2013.
Altidore, as one of the Best American soccer players ever has represented the United States at different levels of international competition, including the United States U-17 Team at the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship, the U-20 Team at the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, and the U-23 Team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
He made his debut for the senior national team in 2007 and won over 110 championships, representing them at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, the 2011, 2015, 2017 and 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cups, and the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups.
Related Article: Best South American footballers of all time
Brian Robert McBride (born June 19, 1972) is an American former soccer player, one of the greatest American soccer players all time.
He played as a forward for Columbus Crew, Fulham and Chicago Fire and is the fifth-highest all-time goal scorer for the U.S. National Team.
He played in the United States for most of his career, both in Germany and England. During his time with Fulham, McBride turned to a favorite fan and captain of the team.
He would ultimately become a 'Player of the Season' twice. After leaving the club, they renamed Craven Cottage McBride's sports bar in his honor.
McBride was a leading figure in the U.S. National Team, winning 96 goals and scoring 30 goals in his senior international career.
He was indeed one of the Best American soccer players ever and made his national team debut in 1993, although he was not a part of the 1994 FIFA World Cup squad.
He is the first-ever spokesperson for the Central Ohio Diabetes Association and has contributed $100 to the Association for every goal and to assist he tallied for the U.S. National team.
In 2008, McBride temporarily stepped out of international retirement after being appointed one of the three overage players on the U.S. squad for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and worked as captain as the team came in third in the group stage for their group.
Related Article: Highest goal scorers in international football history
Cobi N'Gai Jones (born June 16, 1970) is an American former soccer player and Los Angeles Galaxy analyst at Time Warner Cable SportsNet.
It can also be seen on Fox Sports, BeIN Sports, and the Pac-12 Network and as host of the Totally Football Show: American Edition.
He is one of the very Best American soccer players ever as well.
As a player, Jones began his career in England with the Premier League team Coventry City from 1994 to 2007, before playing for the Brazilian side of Vasco da Gama.
He is one of the leading groups of American national team stars who decided to return from overseas to support the then-new Major League Soccer in 1996, starting an 11-year run with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Jones is the long-standing leader in caps for the United States National Team and a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
After his retirement, Jones served as an assistant coach with the LA Galaxy for two seasons. In 2017, he joined the City Of Angels FC as Football Manager.
Jones, being one of the greatest American soccer players all time is presently the all-time leader of the United States in appearances, with 164 caps at the end of 2004 (scoring 15 goals).
He played for the team in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups. He was elected Best XI at the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup and won the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup with the National Team.
He also represented his nation at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics.
After playing Copa America in 1995, he also became a famous figure in Latin America because of the nickname used by an Argentinian commentator to call him: "Escobillon" ("swab"), because of his bleached dreadlock hairstyle and the similar pronounciation of his name, Is Cobi Jones, and the word "escobillon".
Related Article: Tallest Premier League players ever
Eric Boswell Wynalda (born June 9, 1969) is an American soccer coach, TV commentator and retired player. Formerly an analyst and color commentator for the Fox Sports 1 and ESPN soccer coverage.
Previously, he served as head coach and technical director of Las Vegas Lights FC at the USL Championship, and also hosted WTF: Wynalda Talks Football at SiriusXM FC.
Wynalda was one of the first Americans to play professionally in Europe before heading to his home country in 1996 to play Major League Soccer and score the first goal in the history of the league, proving himself as one of the top US soccer players of all time.
Until 2008, he was the world's top goal scorer for the United States National Team.
Wynalda was characterized as a "shifty, dynamic player off the dribble with a heavy shot." who was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004.
In 2000, Wynalda retired from the U.S. National Team as its all-time leading scorer with 34 goals in 106 appearances.
He was the single holder of the record until 2007, when Landon Donovan tied a penalty kick goal against Mexico in the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final.
Wynalda lost the record when Donovan scored another penalty kick in a friendly match against Sweden on January 19, 2008.
Wynalda was appointed Honda U.S. Decade Player of the 1990s and named to the CONCACAF All-Decade Team of the 1990s.
He was named to the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame in 2006. He was without a doubt one of the Best American soccer players ever.
Related Article: Best football commentators around the world
Kasey Christopher Keller (born November 29, 1969) is an American former soccer player who has played professionally in Europe and the United States, as well as being the starting goalie for the U.S. National Team.
He is one of the Best American soccer players ever.
He is also a four-time FIFA World Cup member and was the first American goaltender to become a regular in the German Bundesliga, the English Premier League and the Spanish La Liga.
He's now serving as the Sounders' color commentator in local broadcasts, and as an assistant coach for Newport High School Boys Soccer in Bellevue, Washington.
For most of their careers, Keller and Brad Friedel were involved in a head-to-head battle for the U.S. goalie jersey.
Keller took the lead in 1998 but was Friedel's second choice in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
In spite of this intense rivalry, he has the second-most caps and wins of any men's goalkeeper in U.S. soccer history with 102 and 53, respectively, after current star Tim Howard.
Keller remains the team's long-standing leader in holding the sheets clean with 47 and ofcourse one of the top US soccer players of all time.
Keller crowned the U.S. run in the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament with a clean sheet in the final match against Panama and two saves in the penalty shootout to bring the side the trophy.
Keller began the first seven games of the final round of World Cup qualifying in 2005, maintaining five consecutive clean sheets and 507 consecutive goalless minutes to lead the U.S. to the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals in Germany.
He became the first male player in U.S. history to receive his third Athlete of the Year award.
Related Article: Most clean sheets in La Liga History
Claudio Reyna (born July 20, 1973) is a former American soccer player and current Sporting Director of Austin FC.
A former midfielder, he was captain of the U.S. men's national team and one of the Best American soccer players ever before retiring from international soccer after the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
He is largely viewed as one of the best US men's soccer player of all time. Reyna last played for the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer, where he was captain of the team.
In 1968, Reyna's father, Miguel, moved from Argentina to the United States, where he had gone through the Independiente youth system and played professionally with Los Andes.
He settled in Springfield Township, Union County, New Jersey in the 1970s, married Maria Silva, a Portuguese American woman, and raised a family.
Reyna was born in Livingston, New Jersey, where he learned the game from his dad.
On June 23, 2006, the day after the exclusion of the U.S. from the World Cup, Reyna announced her retirement from the National Team. He finished his international career with 111 goals and eight goals.
Reyna has represented the United States at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
In Britain, he was sometimes referred to as Captain America because of his role as captain of the U.S. National Team.
Related Article: Top Argentinian Footballers in History
Timothy Matthew Howard (born March 6, 1979) is an American professional soccer player who is currently a goalie for the Memphis 901 FC USL Championship club, a club of which he is a minority owner and a sports director.
He is also the international ambassador in the United States of America for the former club Everton.
Howard is commonly considered to be the best goalie in American soccer history, one of the best US men's soccer player of all time.
Howard was named to the 2003–04 PFA Premier League Team of the Year and won the 2009 FIFA Confederations Golden Glove Cup.
Referring to the American public's preference for other sports over soccer in comparison to most other countries, the Chicago Tribune described Howard as "rarest of creatures – an American soccer hero".
It wouldn't be a USMNT game without the crowd shouting "Tim-my Howard!" After another major save.
One of the absolute Best American soccer players ever, a regular for the USMNT and Everton in the EPL over the last half-decade, Howard's skill to make outstanding saves holds both the U.S. and Everton in games versus greater opponents.
With the USMNT, Howard still gives the U.S. a chance to win and has become a defensive rock that has seen a lot of change and experimentation over the last few years.
Related Article: Best Italian Goalkeepers in History
Clinton Drew Dempsey (born March 9, 1983) is a professional American soccer player who played as a forward midfielder.
Throughout his career, he played in the Premier League for Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur and in the Major League for New England Revolution and Seattle Sounders FC.
ESPN, FOX Sports and NBC Sports each rated Dempsey as the greatest men's American soccer player in history.
Dempsey, a native of Nacogdoches, Texas, spent his youth career with the Dallas Texans before joining the men's soccer team at Furman University in 2001.
In 2004, Dempsey was selected by the New England Revolution, where he scored 25 goals in 71 appearances, making him one of the Best American soccer players ever.
Between 2007 and 2012, Dempsey played for Fulham in the Premier League, ultimately becoming the club's top goal scorer in the Premier League.
Dempsey was also the first American player to score a hat trick in the Premier League in a 5-2 win over Newcastle United in 2012.
Dempsey represented the United States at the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship and produced his first appearance with the senior team on 17 November 2004 versus Jamaica.
He obtained more than 140 caps and registered 57 international goals, making him the nation's fourth-most capped player and tying him with Landon Donovan as the top all-time scorer with 57 goals.
Dempsey has represented the United States in four CONCACAF Gold Cups (winning three), led them to the final of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, and scored in each of the three FIFA World Cups he participated in.
He was unquestionably one of the greatest male US soccer players of all time.
Related Article: Best Number 10s in Premier League History
Landon Timothy Donovan (born March 4, 1982) is an American retired professional soccer player who is currently the chairman, co-founder and vice president of soccer operations for the San Diego Loyal SC USL Championship.
He is among the very greatest male US soccer players of all time.
Former striker, he owns several individual records in Major League Soccer (MLS) and the U.S. National Team, and is considered to be the biggest U.S. men's soccer player of all time.
In 1999, Donovan signed with Bayer Leverkusen. In 2005, after six years with Leverkusen, the bulk of which had been spent on loans to the San Jose Earthquakes of MLS, Donovan moved back to the United States permanently to sign with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Later, he returned to Germany for a loan with Bayern Munich, and in 2010 and 2012 he went on short loans to the British Premier League club Everton.
He retired as a player in 2014, but made a short comeback with LA Galaxy late in the 2016 season and then in 2018 to play for Club Leon. He was indeed one of the Best American soccer players ever.
On October 10, 2014, Donovan played his 157th and final match against Ecuador for the United States in East Hartford, Connecticut.
The match was organized by Sunil Gulati, President of the United States Soccer Federation, to give Donovan a decent farewell despite the dispute between Donovan and Klinsmann.
After his retirement, The Guardian called him the U.S. team's greatest ever player.
After playing in the Major Arena Soccer League during the 2018–19 season, Donovan was named to the U.S. National Arena Soccer Team for a friendly match against Mexico.