Globally, soccer is the most popular team sport and the World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world. Teams like Brazil, Germany, and Italy have dominated the tournament for years, but what about the USA? Despite having no World Cups to its name, the American men’s national team is 26th in all-time total World Cup points and has had some great players to showcase throughout history. The best of these players are listed below.
Who are the Best American Soccer Players Ever?
- Landon Donovan
- Clint Dempsey
- Claudio Reyna
- Brian McBride
- Tim Howard
- Chrisitan Pulisic
1. Landon Donovan
- 6x MLS Champion
- 4x U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year (2003, 2004, 2009, 2010)
- 2002 FIFA World Cup Best Player
- Most World Cup matches played by an American
- Most Goals in USA World Cup history (5)
As the best USA soccer player of all time, Landon Donovan was the leader in both goals and games played during his time at the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups. He is also the undisputed GOAT of the MLS. In the 2010 World Cup, Donovan scored a goal in the 92nd minute to win the game versus Algeria. This goal has gone down as one of the great moments in American sports history and created one of the most spine-chilling commentating calls of all time. For his career, Donovan has won multiple ESPYs and other awards that have cemented him as one of the greatest soccer players ever. In 2018, Donovan retired as a true American hero after a long and successful career.
2. Clint Dempsey
- 3x United States Soccer Player of the Year (2007, 2011,2012)
- 4x MLS All Star (2005, 2014, 2015,2016)
- 141 games played for USA National Teams
- 5th in USA World Cup matches (10)
Clint Dempsey’s grit and versatility alone make him one of the best soccer players the United States has ever seen. His ability to find success in multiple positions is very impressive. He has scored 47 goals for the United States national team and four in the World Cup. He was featured in 2006 and 2010 tournaments, but he is most known for his dominant and memorable performance in the 2014 World Cup. Across the pond, he was also the all-time leading goal scorer in Fulham history and spent a long time with the Tottenham Hotspurs. Despite spending a majority of his career in England, Dempsey is still considered an American legend.
3. Claudio Reyna
- 5th in U.S. World Cup matches played (10)
- 3 World Cup appearances (1998, 2002, 2006)
- 1x FIFA World Cup All Star (2002)
Many older soccer fans will tell you that Reyna is the best United States player of all time for his power as an attacking midfielder. With only eight goals for the national team, he doesn’t show up in the scoring column, but his playmaking abilities set him aside from everyone else. He was a crucial member of three World Cup teams with a very memorable performance in 2002 where he was named an All-Star. He also spent a majority of his career in Scotland with the Rangers in addition to playing with Manchester City and the New York Red Bulls. He is currently the sporting director of Austin FC.
4. Brian McBride
- U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame
- MLS Goal of the Year (2003)
- 4th in U.S. World Cup goals (3)
- Tied for 5th in U.S. World Cup matches played (10)
Brian McBride is remembered as one of the greatest American soccer players, especially thanks to his performance at the 2002 World Cup. USA was a big underdog thanks to a very poor 1998 performance, and they found themselves facing a stacked Portugal team. The team rallied though and won the game 3-0 with a remarkable winning goal effort from Mcbride. Across his entire career, he played 395 total games and scored 141 goals (including three in the World Cup).
5. Tim Howard
- Most saves in a World Cup game ever (16)
- 121 starts for the US Men’s National Team
- 2x U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year (2008, 2014)
Tim Howard is arguably the greatest goalkeeper the American national team has ever had. Over his 23-year career, he started for USA 121 times, was the tone setter for two World Cup teams, and set a record for most saves in a single World Cup game. He also played his first five seasons in New York in the MLS, making over 700 saves, and then spent 13 seasons in the Premier League with Manchester United and Everton. He then came back to America and finished his career with the Colorado Rapids.
6. Christian Pulisic
- 21 goals in 52 USA National Team appearances
- CONCACAF Gold Cup Best Young Player Award (2019)
- U.S. Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year (2016)
- U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year (2017, 2019, 2021)
As the youngest and only active player on this list Christian Pulisic has already won three U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year awards, including one when he was 18 years old. That is only one less than all-time legend Landon Donavon. Pulisic first appeared on the American national team when he was 17 years old. He also currently plays as an attacker for Chelsea in the Premier League. He has the opportunity to make a statement in the upcoming 2022 World Cup in Qatar and improve his ranking amongst the best all-time American players.
- Brad Friedel
- Tab Ramos
- Eric Wynalda
- Michael Bradley
- Eddie Pope
- Cobi Jones
- Kasey Keller
- Marcelo Balboa
- Thomas Dooley
- Paul Caligiuri