Join us as we take a look at USA’s soccer history to pick out the Best USA XI of all time:
With an abundance of young talent that are playing in some of Europe’s best teams and league competitions, the US soccer is about to explode and they’re likely to experience a golden generation in the next few years, possibly even as early as the 2022 World Cup. players like Christian Pulisic, Weston MacKennie, Giovanni Reyna and Sergino Dest all play for the best of the best in Europe and this could be a backbone of a very strong USMNT team in the near future. This all has coincided with the rise of soccer’s popularity in the country, at least for the men’s side as their Women’s team is undoubtedly the best in the world.
But there were a lot of great American players before this current generation that paved the way for them. Players who not only made it in the MLS but also were great playing of the national team as well as occasionally having success in European teams. The likes of London Donovan, Brian McBride and Tim Howard who have become legends of American soccer and whose achievements, this current generation aspire to reach. As such we have tried to compile a list of
best USA XI of all time
to help us remember who these great players were. So here they are:
Like many lists like it, there are several USA legends who failed to make the list. Players like Brad Friedel, Jeff Agoos, Steve Cherundelo and many others but that does not take away from their achievements because they all nearly made it onto our USA's all-time greatest XI. Nonetheless, here are the eleven players who did:
First on our USA's all-time greatest XI is none other than Tim Howard who gets the nod ahead of the likes of Brad Friedel or Casey Keller. It’s strange but traditionally speaking, the best players that USA have produced over the years that went on to have a successful career in Europe were goalkeepers. Howard, Friedel and Keller have all been successful goalkeepers in England and in the case of Howard and Friedel they are among thebest in Premier League’s history
so it’s no surprise that there is so much stiff competition here as it were in real life between those keepers.
Nonetheless, Tim Howard slightly edges out the other two as the former Everton and Manchester United goalkeeper was just better in a shorter period of time compared to the otehr two. Starting his career with North Jersey Imperials, Howard went on to join MetroStars, where he would make a name for himself in the course of 5 years he was with the club.
Then the biggest opportunity of his life came around when Manchester United got interested and eventually signed him in 2003 to replace the error-prone Barthez. However, he failed to keep a starting position at United after a year and eventually transferred to Everton where he truly made his mark and became one of Premier League’s greatest goalkeepers.
Tim Howard is the most-capped goalkeeper in USA’s history and is the 7th best keeper in the Premier League in terms of clean sheets with 132. He has won an FA Cup and a League Cup with United as wwell as 2 Gold Cups with USA. He also made it onto EPL’s Team of the Season in 2003-04 season as well as being named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year on two occasions. Over the course of his 24-year long career, Howard, who only retired this past year, became one of the greatest US players to ever grace the pitch and a truly strong candidate to start our best USA XI of all time with!
The first name on the 3-man defense of USA's Best XI is Alexi Lalas. A towering defender with a distinctive look, Lalas played for several teams during his career never staying with any team more than 3 season. a physical and hardy defender, Lalas made a name for himself during the 1994 World Cup where he was one of USA’s standout players. He started his professional career with the Serie A side, Padova, but later he joined the MLS New England Revolution. However, the most successful era of his career came with Los Angeles Galaxy, whom he managed for a while after his retirement.
After a failed trial atArsenal
, Lalas displayed his prowess at the 1994 World Cup and after the tournament signed for the Serie A sidePadova
where he became a regular starter. He joined the New England Revolution two years later and went on to play for them for a season as well as Colombian side Emelec and MLS sides (MetroStars, Kansas City Wizards and LA Galaxy). At LA Galaxy he experienced his best years, winning the Champions Cup and MLS Cup.
Alexi Lalas who played for USMNT for 7 years between 1991 and 1998 racked up 96 caps and scored 10 times during those appearances. He was named in MLS Best XI and MLS All-Star teams once and in 1995 was named US Soccer Athlete of the Year. He laid the foundation and set the standards of success for many American players who came after him and he’ll always be remembered as one of the best that US football had to offer.
Next up we have Eddie Pope who despite having a relative short career compared to a lot of players on this list has went on to become one of the greatest US players of all time and get inducted to US Soccer Hall of Fame. The majority of Pope’s 11-year long playing career was spent at DC United where his solid defensive actions as well as leadership helped the team achieve unprecedented success and in the process, Pope himself became one of the best US defenders of all time.
Originally an American Football player who played for North Carolina Tar Heels’ both soccer and American football teams before formally changing to soccer later on his career. Pope started his senior career pretty late as he was 23 by the time he signed forDC United
in 1996 but he more than made up for it by helping them immensely in his first two seasons as they won the MLS. He also became a USMNT regular from the start of his career to pretty much months before his retirement from football, starting every game that he was involved with in the US national team.
Having been a part of DC United for 7 seasons, Pope spent another 5 with MetroStars and Real Salt Lake before his retirement from football in 2007. Pope won 3 MLS Cups with DC United and a CONCACAF Champions Cup as well as being named in the MLS Best XI on 4 separate occasions. He also helped USA win the 2005 Gold Cup as well as being a big part of their squad in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cup tournaments. He is certainly one of the best defenders that MLS has ever seen which is why he is part of our best USA XI of all time.
The oldest player on our list of USA's best XI and another Hall of Famer is the great Marcelo Balboa himself who was one of the finest captain’s that USMNT ever had. Born to an Argentine father who also played football professionally, Balboa went on to become one of thehardest defenders
in MLS in the 90s, playing most of his career for the Colorado-based clubs, Colorado Foxes and Colorado Rapids. He also represented USMNT in 3 different World Cups, being one of the few players on this list to do so.
Like many US defenders from the 90s, Balboa started his youth career playing both American football and regular football when he attended the Cerritos College. He later transferred to the San Diego State University where he played with the Sand Diego Nomads for two years before switching to professional football in 1990 by joining San Francisco Bay. Spells at Colorado Foxes and the Mexican side Leon followed before he joined Colorado Rapids in 1996, where he spent the majority of his career at.
Perhaps Balboa shined the most when he put on a US jersey on. He was the first US national who reached 100 caps and after leading the backline in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups for USMNT, he became the third player to ever represent USA in 3 World Cups (8 World Cup appearances in total). Balboa represented USA in 127 and scored an impressive amount of 13 goals (for a defender). a true giant of American Soccer, Balboa deserves a nod in any discussion involving US Soccer’s greatest as he is in our best USA XI of all time.
The youngest player on this list, the only Champions League winner and a player who has the potential to be the greatest American footballer of all time is none other than Captain America himself, Christian Pulisic. Chelsea’s current No. 10, started his career at Germany with Dortmund before impressing several European giants and finally moving toChelsea
in 2019, becoming the most expensive North American player of all time ($73 million). A creative player who could be deployed both as a winger or an attacking midfielder, there are few even in Europe who could match Pulisic’s pace and dribbling skills.
Unlike many players in our
best USA XI of all time
, Pulisic opted to move to Europe to resume his youth career where he joinedBorussia Dortmund
, a team renowned for developing young talent. After a few game involvements with the youth team, Pulisic was called up to the first team, becoming a regular from the 2016-17 season onward and instantly making an impact under BVB’s manager, Thomas Tuchel. Naturally he gained a lot of attention from Europe’s elite but he decided to join Chelsea in 2019.
At Chelsea, although his game involvement became a bit less due to competition, Pulisic went on to have his best year in 2019-20 season. he then followed that with another impressive campaign the enxt season where he won the Champions League under his old manager Thomas Tuchel, becoming the first American to do so.
Currently only 23, Pulisic’ direct style of play and the leadership qualities that he shows even at this stage as well as his immense talents, are all signs of him becoming one of the greatest American players of all time, if not the greatest. If his injuries do not hinder his career too much, he absolutely has the potential to achieve everything that is expected of him.
One of the longest serving USMNT players, Damarcus Beasley was one of the few players who was more successful playing in Europe than in MLS. Originally a winger in his early career, Beasley was capable of playing at the left wingback position too, where he helped the US national team immensely in the 2010s. having established himself as a world-class winger at Chicago Fire, Beasley went on to have a successful career at Netherlands, England, Scotland, Germany and Mexico in over a decade before coming back to MLS in 2014.
Damarcus Beasley alongside another member of our
USA's Best XI
, Landon Donovan, was part of the US team that reached the U17 World Cup semi-finals in 1999. He then joined Chicago Fire in 2000 and went on to become one of their best players gaining a call-up to the 2002 World Cup squad at the age of 20. In 2004 Beasley joinedPSV Eindhoven
in Netherlands and went on to be an influential figure for the Dutch side as they won 2 league titles and a domestic cup as well as reaching the Champions League semi-final.
He then went on to feature for Manchester City, Hannover and Rangers across the Europe and won 6 major trophies withRangers
before coming back to Americas to play for the Mexican side Pubela prior to joining Houston Dynamo in 2014 where he spent the last 6 seasons of his career at.
A highly skilled winger whose pace and work-rate was phenomenal; Beasley became one of only 3 players to feature in 4 World Cup tournaments with USMNT. He was capped 126 times, scoring 17 goals and 5 Gold Cup tournaments with the USA as well as being named in MLS Best XI 5 times. Beasley was certainly a generational talent, one that paved the pass for many young American stars playing today.
One of the few active players in our best USA XI of all time is none other than Gladbach and Roma’s former player and Toronto FC’s current captain, Michael Bradley. A versatile player who could play as a holding midfielder or in more advanced roles as a playmaker, Bradley is a veteran of European football, having played for teams in Netherlands, Germany, England and Italy.
Son of the former USA head coach, Bob Bradley, Michael started his professional career at the age of 16 where he was drafted by MetroStars in 2004 (who were coached by his father back then). After having a breakout season in 2005, Bradley transferred to Heerenveen in Netherlands in 2006 where he quickly became a regular and even went on to score 19 goals in his second season, which is a record by an American player in any European top flight team. Successful spells at Germany’s Borussia Monchengladbach and Italy’s Chievo followed with a short spell at Aston Villa.
After playing forAS Roma
for two seasons between 2012 and 2014, Bradley joined Toronto FC where he captained the side to their first two MLS finals, the latter of which they won. He also captained USA’s team from 2015 until 2019, earning 151 caps (the third most in USMNT’s history) and scoring 7 from his debut back in 2006. Known for his work-rate, physicality and leadership as well as his technique and vision, Bradley was certainly one of the best midfielders that US has ever had which is why he is on our best USA XI of all time.
Father of Borussia Dortmund’s wonderkid, Giovanni Reyna, and one of the best USMNT players of all time, Claudio Reyna is the one who gets to partner with Michael Bradley in midfield in this best USA XI of all time. Born to an Argentine father and a Portuguese mother, Reyna was brought up in New Jersey and soon became one of the first Americans who found success in Europe instead of at US soil. A highly creative player who could play anywhere across the midfield line, Reyna is certainly one of the best talents that US has ever produced.
After making US’ squad for the 1994 World Cup at the age of 21, Claudio Reyna who previously never played for any MLS team joined the German side Bayer Leverkusen. Leverkusen then loaned him to fellow Bundesliga side, Wolfsburg where Reyna established himself as a starter gaining attention from abroad as Rangers became interested in him. In 1999, Reyna joined Rangers and helped them win a league and a cup title before joining the Premier League side Sunderland in 2001.
He spent the next 6 seasons at Sunderland and atManchester City
where he gained the nickname of Captain America (way before Christian Pulisic) before joining New York Red Bulls in 2007 to spend his solitary season in MLS before retiring from football in 2008.
As a USMNT player, Reyna took part in 4 World Cups between 1994 and 2006. He was capped 112 times and scored 8 goals for the US, captaining the team in the latter stages of his career. His best performances came in the 2002 World Cup where US achieved its best record, reaching the quarter final and Reyna became only the third American player to be named in the team of the tournament. While his son is one of the brightest young players in Europe, he has big shoes to fill as Claudio Reyna is undoubtedly one of the greatest players that US football has ever seen.
Arguably the best American player of all time, Landon Donovan, is the one who gets the last midfielder position in this
USA's all-time greatest XI
. One of the most decorated MLS players of all time as well as the competition’s 2nd best goal scorer of all time, Landon Donovan was another player who started his career in Europe and Germany (Bayer Leverkusen) although he never really made it in Europe instead claiming success in America. Donovan was a complete attacking midfielder who could also play as a second striker, making him deadly no matter where he was deployed in the midfield.
Having started his youth career at Bayer Leverkusen in 1999, he spent 6 seasons with the German club, the majority of which was spent on loan at San Jose Earthquakes. He then moved back to MLS for good, joining LA Galaxy where he went on to break numerous individual records as well as captaining his team to major titles. Although he was a LA Galaxy player between 2005 and 2014, he had 3 short loan spells atBayern Munich
, and twice at Everton before retiring in 2014. However, he made 2 comebacks from his retirement in 2016 and 2018 to play for LA Galaxy and Leon before retiring from football for good.
Donovan is the leading top assister and goal scorer for the USMNT national team as well as being the leading assist provider in MLS history as well its 2nd best goal scorer of all time. He has won a record 6 MLS Cups and he is the only American to score 3 goals in a World Cup tournament when he did so in the 2002 World Cup and was subsequently named the best young player for the tournament. Donovan’s achievements are so unrivaled that the MLS MVP award is now named after him. With 157 appearances, 57 goals and 58 assists for the USA, Donovan is certainly the best player that US football has ever seen.
Tied with Landon Donovan as USMNT’s top goal scorer of all time is the incredible Clint Dempsey. Known for his silky-smooth playing style, back heels and tricks on the pitch, Dempsey could either play as a support striker or a striker as he was interchangeably used in both positions throughout his career. A native of Texas, Dempey established himself as a professional player in New England Revolution before joining the Premier League side Fulham in 2007.
During his time withFulham
, Dempsey became the club’s record Premier League goalscorer after scoring 60 goals for them (36 of which was scored in his last 2 seasons with the club). he then joined another Premier League side, Tottenham, in 2012 and went on to score 12 in all competitions in his only season there, making his tally of 72 goals, the best that any American player has achieved at a top European League. he then moved back to America, joining the Seatle Sounders in 2016, where he scored 56 goals over the course of the following 6 seasons.
Having appeared and scored in 3 different World Cups for USA, Dempsey is tied with Landon Donovan as the all time top scorer for the USMNT with 57 goals in 141. He is undoubtedly one of the best American strikers of all time who even impressed at the world’s best league where he was twice the top scorer and player of the season for Fulham in the Premier League. which is why he gets the nod in our best USA XI of all time ahead of so many other impressive US forwards.
Last but certainly not the least is the incredible Brian Mcbride. One of the first American players to actually make it in Europe, McBride laid the foundation for many American strikers to come, including players like Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. A classic center forward who was known for his high work-rate and intensity, McBride plied his trade at Germany, England and US, with his most successful years being at the Premier League and the MLS.
After making his professional debut with Milwaukee Rampage and having short spells with both Rampage and Wolfsburg in Germany, McBride established himself as a clinical striker at Columbus Crew between 1996 and 2004. During this time, he had two short loan spells at Preston North End and Everton, the latter of which impressed another Premier League team (Fulham) enough to sign him in 2004. At Fulham, McBride instantly became a fan favorite because of his hard work and steady stream of goals where he scored 41 goals for the London-based club over the course of 5 seasons. After which he returned to MLS to play for Chicago Fire for 3 seasons before he retired from football in 2010.
Known for his skills as a striker as well as his leadership, which saw him both captain teams like Fulham and USA at times, Brian McBride was one of the best US strikers that ever played in Europe. With 30 goals in 98 caps, McBride is the 5th top goal scorer of all time for USMNT national team and a worthy inclusion to round out our
best USA XI of all time
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