The top 10 best American soccer players of all time

Profile Picture: Josh Powell

January 2nd, 2022

This is a complete rundown of the 10 best American soccer players of all-time. Whether they stayed on American soil or plied their trade across the world, these 10 soccer stars have proved themselves to be the very best on a global stage.

10 – Cobi Jones

The United States national team’s most capped player, Cobi Jones was a battling, gritty, goal-scoring midfielder who became a legend with the LA Galaxy.

One of the significant group of players to move back to America when the MLS was formed in 1996, Jones spent 11 years with the Galaxy and won two MLS Cups. He scored 70 goals in 306 games for the Galaxy, including a thrilling 1998 season when he found the net 19 times in 24 matches.

9 – Tab Ramos

Ramos’ ability to dribble past defenders with ease earns him a place on this list. A silky-smooth attacker, Ramos may not have the greatest goal-scoring record, but his ability to set-up his team mates was second-to-none.

He spent five years in the Spanish league before returning to play more than 120 games for the MetroStars. Ramos’ pass to set up Paul Caliguiri’s goal against Trinidad and Tobago in 1989 earned the United States their first World Cup appearance in 40 years.

8 – Michael Bradley

America’s third-highest capped player with 151 appearances for the national team, Bradley’s lung-busting efforts in his role as a box-to-box midfielder earned him universal praise and plenty of European experience.

He had more than 60 appearances in Holland, Germany and Italy before venturing to the MLS, where he has made more than 200 appearances for Toronto FC, and won the MLS Cup in 2017.

7 – Christian Pulisic

"Captain America," as Pulisic has been nicknamed, could well be higher on this list in the not-so-distant future, but for now the 23-year-old is only just getting going.

He started his career in Germany, winning the 2016-17 German Cup with Borussia Dortmund, before Chelsea snapped him up for $73 million – making him the most expensive American player of all time.

Pulisic scored one goal and assisted another in the 2020-21 Champions League semi-final, as he became the first American to play in the final. Chelsea won to add yet more silverware to Pulisic’s trophy cabinet.

6 – Eddie Pope

Eddie Pope is arguably the greatest defender in U.S. national team history, and was a key part of the World Cup teams in 1998, 2002 and 2006.

Despite plenty of interest from some top European teams, Pope was loyal to the MLS and spent his entire career in the states, playing for D.C. United, MetroStars and Real Salt Lake. He’s a three-time MLS Cup winner, and scored the game-winning goal in the first ever MLS Cup Final, as D.C. United beat LA Galaxy in overtime.

5 – Brian McBride

McBride is a legendary American striker whose goal in the 2002 World Cup against Portugal’s "Golden Generation" shocked the world and gave USA a famous 3-2 win.

He led the attack that year as the states made the World Cup Quarterfinal, and is the fifth-highest scoring player for the country. An icon at Fulham in the Premier League, the sports bar at the stadium is named “McBride’s” in his honor after he made 140 appearances for them, scoring 33 goals.

He was the first player picked in the inaugural MLS draft in 1996, so he'll always be a good pub quiz question answer too.

4 – Tim Howard

America’s ability to churn out quality goalkeepers somehow means Tim Howard isn’t the highest shot-stopper on this list, despite his achievements.

Howard is the most capped keeper for the U.S. men’s soccer team, and set a world record in the 2014 World Cup when he made 15 saves against Belgium – the most ever in a WC match – earning him the title “Secretary of Defense.”

He won three major trophies as the No. 1 keeper at Manchester United, and after moving to Everton, Howard became just the fourth keeper ever to score a Premier League goal.

3 – Brad Friedel

Dubbed “The Human Wall” for his performances in the 2002 World Cup, Friedel excelled between the sticks for the states.

He was a mainstay in the Premier League, appearing for Liverpool, Blackburn, Aston Villa and Tottenham. Friedel currently holds the record for most consecutive league appearances (310), and is eighth on the list of all-time clean sheets.

He had rapid reflexes and a commanding presence in the penalty area, helping lift the profile of American players in Europe.

2 – Clint Dempsey

Dempsey’s track record speaks for itself. A headstrong, determined, attack-minded player with a deadly eye for goal, Dempsey co-holds the record for most goals for the U.S. men’s team with 57.

He scored in each of the three FIFA World Cups he was at, including the fifth-fastest goal in tournament history against Ghana in 2014. Dempsey made a name for himself in the Premier League at both Fulham and Tottenham, and he remains Fulham’s highest-ever scorer in the top flight with 50.

1 – Landon Donovan

A six-time MLS Cup winner, Landon Donovan also holds the record for most assists in MLS history (136). After starting his career with Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, Donovan went on loan to the San Jose Earthquakes before signing with the LA Galaxy and moving back to the states permanently. He had loan spells at Bayern Munich and Everton, where he quickly became a fan favorite.

Donovan holds the record for most assists and most goals with the U.S. Men’s soccer team. He is also the only player to ever surpass 50 goals and 50 assists for his country. A visionary midfielder with a proven ability to score goals, Donovan inspired a generation, and is unmatched by his American peers.