Best US Soccer Players Ever – Who Is the Greatest American Soccer Player?

best us soccer players

13 minutes

Last Updated: May 23, 2024


Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, but when it comes to the United States, the sport ranks only fourth in popularity, lagging behind basketball, baseball, and American football.

Yet, the sport remains very popular in the US, and the debate on the best US soccer players ever continues to rage among soccer fans in the country.

Over the years, we have seen quite a few famous United States soccer players grace the game, so we decided to try and figure out who the very best of them were.

In our analysis, we took into account various elements that make a great soccer player, from their dribbling and goal-scoring abilities to their mental toughness, speed, and endurance.

To be named on our list of the best American soccer players ever, players must have had a fruitful career and titles to their name.

All of this is why we have named Landon Donovan as the greatest American soccer player at this time, as the US superstar was one of the most successful MLS players in its history.

A number of other players, such as Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Cobi Jones, and Tab Ramos, are also on our list, so keep reading and find out who else we have named among the top 10 best US soccer players of all time.

10. Cobi Jones

One of the biggest legends of the LA Galaxy, Cobi Jones, is tenth-placed on the list of the best American soccer players ever.

In the eleven years he spent playing in the LA Galaxy, Cobi Jones won the MLS Cup two times. In 306 he played for the team, he scored 70 goals.

Cobi Jones was born in 1970 in Detroit, Michigan. He started playing soccer when he was just five years old with the American Youth Soccer Organization in California, where he grew up.

During his college years, he competed for the UCLA soccer team, and this was when the scouts recognized his immense talent.

Before finding success playing for the LA Galaxy, Cobi Jones spent one season playing for the Premier League Coventry City back in 1994. He also spent one season with Vasco de Gama before signing for the LA Galaxy in 1996, where he would remain until retiring in 2007.

He finished the 1998 MLS season second-placed in the league with 51 points, including 13 assists and 19 goals. That year, he was named the Soccer Athlete of the Year.

Cobi Jones also played for the US national soccer team between 1992 and 2004, and in 164 appearances, he scored 15 goals.

Cobi Jones retired from playing the sport in March of 2007, but he would not stay unemployed for long. The next year, he was hired as an assistant coach for the LA Galaxy, and he remained in this position until 2010. Today, Cobi Jones works as an analyst for Apple TV MLS Season Pass.

9. Tab Ramos 

What earned Tab Ramos a spot on the list of best US soccer players ever is his amazing ability to dribble easily past defenders.

The famous striker may not have the biggest record in the goal-scoring category, but during his time playing for the MetroStars, he was one of the main playmakers on the field.

Tab Ramos was born in 1966 in Montevideo, Uruguay. He spent 13 fruitful seasons playing in Spain, the United States, and Mexico. He also competed in three FIFA World Cups.

As previously mentioned, Tab Ramos was born in Uruguay but moved to the USA with his family when he was eleven years old.

Before moving to the USA, he played soccer for CA River Plate and the Youth Soccer Club based in the city of Montevideo. Soon after moving to New Jersey, he joined the Thistle FC.

He was named the National High School Player of the Year back in 1983, and he still holds the record for the most goals for the New Jersey High School (161).

He also played soccer during his college years at NC State. When it comes to his professional career, he joined the New Jersey Eagles of the ASL back in 1988.

One year later, he signed for the Miami Sharks. Between 1990 and 1996, when he retired, he played for the Figueres, Real Betis, and MetroStars.

With MetroStars, he competed in the inaugural seasons of the Major Soccer League in 1996. He spent seven seasons with the team and earned All-Star awards three times.

When it comes to his managerial career, he worked as an assistant coach for the US U20 team between 2009 and 2011. He was named head coach of the Hartford Athletic in 2022.

8. Michael Bradley 

Next on the list of the best famous United States soccer players, we have Michael Bradley, and with 151 matches for the US national team, he is the third-highest-capped player.

Michael Bradley competed for various teams in Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands before finding success in the MLS.

Michael Bradley was born in 1987 in New Jersey. His love for the sport is nothing unusual, considering the fact that he used to coach the soccer team at Princeton University for many years. His father also coached the MLS Chicago Fire.

Between 2002 and 2004, Michael Bradley played for the IMG Academy before signing for MetroStars in 2004.

In the period 2006 – 2008, he played in the Netherlands for Heerenveen before moving to Germany to play for Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Between 2012 and 2014, he played in Italy for Chievo and Roma before moving to Canada to play for Toronto FC. Today, he is the captain of the team. He scored 15 goals in 243 appearances.

With Toronto FC, Michael Bradley won the MLS Cup back in 2017. The team met with Seattle Sounders FC in the final game and won 2 – 0. When it comes to his international career, he has been on the US national soccer team between 2006 and 2019.

7. Christian Pulisic 

The twenty-four-year-old Christian Pulisic appears seventh-placed on our list of the best American soccer players ever. He will probably rank higher in the years to come judging by his young age and all the great things he can accomplish.

Christian Pulisic was born in 1998 in Hersey, Pennsylvania. Both of his parents were involved in collegiate soccer, and his father also competed for Harrisburg back in the 1990s.

Christian started playing soccer for Michigan Rush when he was just seven years old.

After moving back to the area where he grew up, he joined the US Soccer Development Academy. Back in the summer of 2010, he spent five days at the Cobham Chelsea base.

When it comes to his professional career, he joined Borussia Dortmund back in 2016, where he remained until 2019.

Since 2019, he has been playing for Chelsea in the position of attacking midfielder. On top of being one of the best American soccer players ever, he is also one of the most expensive players since Chelsea signed him for $73 million.

With Chelsea, he competed in the Champions League semi-finals in 2021. In the final game, Chelease met with Manchester City and added yet another shiny trophy after winning the game 1 – 0. Christian Pulisic is the very first US player to appear in the Champions League finals.

He has also been on the US national soccer team since 2016, and in 56 appearances so far, he has scored twenty-two goals. Christian Pulisic, who is only twenty-four years old, will be talked about for years to come.

6. Eddie Pope 

According to many, Eddie Pope is the greatest American soccer playerin the defending category. Pope also found success playing for the US national soccer team, and he was one of the key players on the field for the team for the three FIFA World Cups he appeared on.

Eddie Pope was born in 1973 in High Point, North Carolina. The member of the US National Soccer Hall of Fame started playing soccer during his high school years.

More specifically, he played for the North Carolina Tar Heels. His senior soccer career kicked off back in 1996 when he joined DC United.

He remained on the team for six seasons and scored eight goals in 143 appearances, which is a lot for a defender.

He also spent some time playing for MetroStars before joining Real Salt Lake in 2005, where he remained until 2007. He finished his highly successful career with ten goals in 254 appearances.

As previously mentioned, Eddie Pope also played for the US national soccer team between 1996 and 2006. It should be noted that many European teams were interested in signing Eddie, but he was never interested in leaving the MLS.

Eddie won three MLS Cups. In the 1996 MLS Cup Finals, he scored the game-winning goal for DC United against the LA Galaxy.

5. Brian McBride 

Brian McBride also falls into the category of the best US soccer players everfor a couple of reasons. First of all, McBride’s goal at the 2002 FIFA World Cup shocked the entire soccer nation and, more importantly, helped the US team seal the deal with a legendary 3 – 1 victory over Portugal.

He is also one of the most successful Fulham players of all time. He joined the Premier League team back in 2004 and remained until 2008.

In 140 appearances, he scored 33 goals. What is also interesting to note is that Brian McBride was the very first player picked at the very first MLS draft in 1996.

Brian McBride was born in 1972 in Arlington Heights, Illinois. During his high school years, he played soccer at Buffalo Grove.

During his junior year, he competed with the team at the Illinois state championship back in 1988. He also had great success playing four seasons for the soccer team of Saint Louis University.

He played 89 matches for the team and set the record for the number of goals and assists (72 & 40).

During his time at Milwaukee Rampage, he scored 17 goals in just 18 appearances. He joined Columbus Crew in 1996, where he remained until 2003.

During his extremely successful career, he also competed for VfL Wolfsburg, Milwaukee Rampage, Chicago Fire, and Wembley.

For the US national team, he scored thirty goals in ninety-five appearances. Until recently, the three-time FIFA World Cup veteran served as USMNT general manager.

4. Tim Howard 

Tim Howard is one of the few goalkeepers on the list of the best US soccer players ever, and for a good reason.

Rightfully nicknamed the “Secretary of Defense,” Howards had fifteen saves in a match against Belgium at the FIFA World Cup 2014, and this is the record for a World Cup match.

During his time at Manchester United, Tim Howard won three trophies. He also spent some quality time at Everton. He was born in 1979 in North Brunswick, New Jersey.

His talent was recognized by Tim Mulqueen, who, back in the day, coached the US youth soccer team.

Shortly after, Mulqueen took young Tim under his wing and even offered him free coaching sessions, which he gladly accepted.

Tim joined the Olympic Development Program at the age of fourteen after being noticed by Peter Mellor, who, back in the day, coached the US Soccer Federation.

Peter Mellor was one of the main reasons why Tim Howard received his work permit to join Manchester United.

Back in 1997, Howard appeared in six North Jersey Imperials matched before joining MetroStars in 1998, where he remained until 2003. In 2003, he left the MLS to join Manchester United, where he remained until 2007.

Between 2007 and 2021, he played for Everton, Colorado Rapids, and Memphis 901. Tim Howard is now the head sporting director for the Memphis 901.

3. Brad Friedel 

Brad Friedel is the greatest American soccer player in the goalkeeping category for many reasons. Nicknamed “The Human Wall,” Friedel excelled at the FIFA World Cup 2002.

He also played for a number of English Premier League teams, including Tottenham, Aston Villa, Blackburn, and Liverpool.

Brad Friedel was born in 1971 in Lakewood, Ohio. He grew up in Bay Village, and during his elementary school years, he played tennis, basketball, and soccer, and he excelled in all three sports in certain ways.

He was even invited to play for UCLA’s basketball team back in 1990 but decided to focus on his soccer career.

Friedel played soccer for the University of California. His professional soccer career kicked off with Danish Brøndby IF he joined in 1995.

Before he joined the team, he applied for a work permit to sign with Premier League Nottingham Forest, but his appeal was denied.

He also spent one season at Galatasaray before signing for Columbus Crew in 1996. In 1997, he moved to England to play for Liverpool, he remained on the team until 2000.

“The Human Wall” also played for Blackburn Rovers between 2000 and 2008 and for Aston Villa between 2008 and 2011. He finished his illustrious career in Tottenham Hotspur in 2015.

He holds the record for the most consecutive appearances in the league (310). It also should be noted that Brad Friedel played for the US national team between 1996 and 2006. Today, Brad is working for a sports management agency called Promoesport.

2. Clint Dempsey 

It was a close battle between Clint Dempsey and the greatest American soccer player Landon Donovan. With 57 goals he scored for the US national team and several other accomplishments, Dempsey most certainly deserves a sport here.

What is also interesting to note is that Clint Dempsey played for the US team at three FIFA World Cups, and he scored in each one.

When it comes to his club career, he had the most success playing in the English Premier League for Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham. He is also Fulham’s leading scorer with 50.

The thirty-nine-year-old Dempsey was born in 1983 in Nacogdoches, Texas. He was introduced to the sport by his older brother, who is also the one who helped him find his spot on the Dallas Texans youth soccer team.

He was forced to leave the team due to financial issues. Fortunately, the parents of his teammates and club executives decided to help, so he was able to rejoin the team.

During his college years, he competed for the Furman Paladins team and scored 17 goals in 62 appearances.

His professional club career started in 2004 when he joined New England Revolution. He remained on the team until 2006, when he was finally given a work permit to join Premier League Fulham.

In 189 appearances for Fulham, he scored 50 goals. We’ve already mentioned the fact that he still holds the record for the club’s top scorer with 50 goals.

Between 2012 and 2013, Clint Dempsey played for Tottenham Hotspur, and he scored seven goals in 29 appearances.

He returned to the United States in 2013 to play for the MLS Seattle Sounders FC. Dempsey had a short stint back in Fulham on loan back in 2014.

He retired from the sport at Seattle Sounders FC in 2018. During his time on the US national team, he scored 57 goals in one 141 appearances.

Clint Dempsey is also fourth-most capped player on the team, tied with Landon Donovan. Ever since retiring from the sport in 2018, he has been focused on living a simple family life with his wife and their five children. The family resides in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

1. Landon Donovan

Finally, we get to Landon Donovan, a US soccer superstar who earned the title of the greatest American soccer player after winning the MLS Cup six times.

The American soccer legend also holds quite a few MLS records, including the record for most assists (136).

With 57 goals for the US national soccer team, Donovan also holds the record for most goals.

Landin Donovan was born in 1982 in Ontario, California. His father was an ice hockey player, and he was introduced to soccer by his older player, with whom he started playing at the age of six.

He joined the US Youth Soccer Development Program in 1997, and two years later, he joined the IMG Academy located in Florida.

Donovan started his extremely illustrious career in 1999 after signing for Bayer Leverkusen II. He scored nine goals in 28 appearances for the team.

Between 2000 and 2005, he played for Bayer Leverkusen, but he spent most of his time at San Jose Earthquakes on loan.

He spent the vast majority of his career at LA Galaxy, with short stints at Bayern Munich and Everton, also on loan.

After taking a two-year pause, he returned to LA Galaxy in 2016. Before retiring, he also competed for Leon in 2018 and San Diego Sockers in 2019.

As mentioned at the beginning, the six-time MLS Cup winner still holds the records for most goals, and most assists with the US national team. He was on the team between 2000 and 2014 and scored 57 goals in 157 appearances.

The MLS ranked Landon Donovan as the greatest American soccer player of all time. In an ESPN poll, he was voted the best American soccer player of all time as well.

Today, Landon works as the vice president of USL Championship soccer operations for San Diego Loyal SC, aside from working for Lincoln City FC as a strategic advisor.

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