FIFA World Cup countdown: Top 10 American players of all time

As part of the countdown to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Sports Mole takes a look at the top 10 players in the history of American football.

While football - or soccer - is not the most popular of sports in the USA, the nation has over the last few years started to adopt the game.

It's taken the men a little longer than their female counterparts to make a major impact, but USMNT have qualified for the last six World Cups in succession, one of which they hosted back in 1994.

What's more, USA have won the CONCACAF Gold Cup on five occasions and are the current holders having defeated Panama 1-0 in the final.

Here, to continue our countdown to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Sports Mole looks at the top 10 players in the history of football in the USA.


10. Kasey Keller (1990-2007, 101 caps, no goals)

USA goalkeeper Kasey Keller battles for space with Italy striker Alessandro Del Piero on June 17, 2006.© Getty Images

The goalkeeper was a regular starter throughout his career, having spent time in England, Spain, Germany and his homeland before hanging up his gloves in 2011.

The 44-year-old's finest moment arguably came in the 1997 League Cup final when he kept a clean sheet in the replay as Leicester City triumphed 1-0 over Middlesbrough.

Keller was selected for four World Cup tournaments, as well as winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup three times. Moreover, the shot-stopper, who also turned out for Millwall, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton and Fulham, was named the USA Soccer Athlete of the Year on three occasions.


9. Tab Ramos (1988-2000, 81 caps, eight goals)

USA's Tab Ramos in action against Switzerland at the World Cup on June 18, 1994.© Getty Images

Born in Uruguay, Ramos qualified to represent the USA as a result of his family emigrating there when he was 11. The midfielder worked his way up through the youth ranks with the national team before representing the senior side on 81 occasions.

He appeared at three World Cups and it was an occurrence at the 1994 tournament in the States by which he is best remembered. He was elbowed in the head by Brazilian international Leonardo, which left Ramos with a fractured skull that required hospital treatment over a number of weeks.

At club level, Ramos turned out for Real Betis in La Liga, before becoming the first footballer to sign for a MLS club in 1996 when he joined Metrostars.


8. Tim Howard (2002-present, 97 caps, no goals)

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard throws out the ball while representing the USA on April 01, 2009.© Getty Images

One of a number of keepers that attempted to replace Peter Schmeichel, Howard joined Manchester United from Metrostars in 2003. Initially, it appeared that he could perhaps fill the Dane's void when he was voted into the PFA Team of the Season a year after his arrival, as well as helping United to win the FA Cup.

He was eventually replaced by Edwin van der Sar, but that hasn't stopped the 35-year-old from going on to turn out for Everton with such distinction.

Howard has been a regular for the USA since the conclusion of the 2006 World Cup. Arguably his finest moment came during the 2009 Confederations Cup as he kept a clean sheet against Spain in the semi-finals. It was the first time that the Spaniards had failed to score in a game in two years.


7. Cobi Jones (1992-2004, 164 caps, 15 goals)

Midfielder Cobi Jones in action for the USA against Costa Rica on October 11, 2000.© Getty Images

No player has represented the USA more times than Jones, who appeared in three World Cups. His performances in 1994 captured the attention of Coventry City, then of the Premier League, but he would only last a season in England before heading to Brazil with Vasco da Gama.

However, when the MLS was formed in 1996, Jones returned home to LA Galaxy, where he would see out the remaining 11 years of his career. Upon his retirement, Galaxy retired Jones's number 13 shirt.

Despite turning out for the USA so many times, the team won just one trophy during his career - the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup.


6. Eric Wynalda (1990-2000, 107 caps, 34 goals)

Centre-forward Eric Wynalda celebrates scoring for the USA on February 01, 1998.© Getty Images

The 1990s were not a particularly successful period as far as the USA were concerned, but that didn't prevent Wynalda from producing the goods on a regular basis.

When he retired from international football in 2000, he did so at the time as his country's leading goalscorer of all time - a record that stood until 2008. His most prolific spell came during the qualifying phase for the 1998 World Cup when he found the net on five occasions.

As far as his club career goes, Wynalda spent a lot of time in the Bundesliga with FC Saarbrucken and VfL Bochum. When he joined the former of those two clubs in 1992, he became the first American-born footballer to play in Germany's top flight.


5. Brad Friedel (1992-2005, 82 caps, no goals)

USA goalkeeper Brad Friedel punches the ball clear during a match against Mexico on June 17, 2002.© Getty Images

After moves to Nottingham Forest, Newcastle United and Sunderland fell through because of work permit issues, Friedel eventually arrived in the Premier League with Liverpool in 1997 following stints with Galatasaray and Columbus Crew.

He would largely act as backup at Anfield, but his move to Blackburn Rovers in 2000 saw him become recognised as one of the Premier League's most consistent goalkeepers. He won the League Cup in 2002 and a year later was included in the PFA's Team of the Year. Now at Tottenham Hotspur via Aston Villa, the 43-year-old has recently played second fiddle to Hugo Lloris.

Friedel was given a starting role at the 2002 World Cup and his subsequent performances helped the USA to reach the quarter-finals, which was their best showing since 1930.


4. Brian McBride (1993-2006, 96 caps, 30 goals)

USA striker Brian McBride leaps to head the ball against Ghana on June 22, 2006.© Getty Images

Such was the impact that McBride made during his four-year spell with Fulham, the sports bar at Craven Cottage was renamed McBride's. The centre-forward was by no means prolific with the West Londoners, but his and work-rate and knack of scoring important goals made him a hero among the Fulham faithful.

He also had loan spells with Preston North End and Everton - both under David Moyes's management - but the majority of his club career was spent in the MLS with Columbus Crew, whom he helped to win the Lamar Hunt USA Open Cup in 2002.

A winner of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2002, McBride also became the first American to score in two separate World Cup tournaments.


3. Clint Dempsey (2004-present, 103 caps, 36 goals)

Former Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Clint Dempsey celebrates scoring for the USA on September 06, 2013.© Getty Images

Like his compatriot McBride, Dempsey is revered by Fulham fans. The attacking midfielder played a key role as the Cottagers pulled off a miraculous escape to retain their Premier League status in 2008, before helping the club to reach the 2010 Europa League final.

He then moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2012, but after just one season at White Hart Lane he returned home with the Seattle Sounders. A brief loan stint with Fulham last season failed to produce a goal from any of his seven appearances.

There are further similarities between McBride and Dempsey, who has also scored at two different World Cups. His first came in Germany back in 2006, while England goalkeeper Rob Green let his shot squirm under his body in South Africa four years ago.


2. Claudio Reyna (1994-2006, 111 caps, eight goals)

Former Rangers midfielder Claudio Reyna celebrates scoring for the USA at the World Cup on June 17, 2002.© Getty Images

Ordinarily, an American footballer will start his career in the MLS and then move to Europe. However, Reyna reversed that process. The midfielder played for Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg in Germany before going on to win a Scottish league and cup double with Rangers in 2000.

A move to the Premier League followed, but his stints with Sunderland and Manchester City were hampered by injuries. Even so, when he was fit enough to play, his technical ability from the centre of the pitch was often lauded.

He transferred that into international duty, with his crowning moment coming at the 2002 World Cup when he became only the third American to be included in FIFA's Team of the Tournament.


1. Landon Donovan (2000-present, 156 caps, 57 goals)

Striker Landon Donovan celebrates scoring for the USA on July 13, 2013.© Getty Images

Although his spells in Europe have not been as fruitful as some of his compatriots, it was impossible not to sit Donovan at the top of this list.

Having spent the majority of his club career with LA Galaxy, the 32-year-old has won the MLS Cup three times and the Lamar Hunt USA Open Cup once. What's more, no player has scored more goals for the Galaxy than the 102 that Donovan has fired in.

He is also the USA's leading scorer, with five of his 57 having been scored at World Cups. Donovan has also been a member of four CONCACAF Gold Cup-winning squads - all of which makes his exclusion from the USA squad for Brazil this summer even more confusing, particularly when the likes of Jozy Altidore have been included.


The USA will face Germany, Portugal and Ghana in the group stages of this summer's World Cup, and you can follow every match live with Sports Mole.

Continuing our 50-day countdown to the tournament, we will be looking at the greatest players in Uruguay's history tomorrow. You can also see all of the World Cup top 10 lists so far by clicking here.

Who is the greatest American footballer of all time?

Landon Donovan
Claudio Reyna
Clint Dempsey
Brian McBride
Brad Friedel
Eric Wynalda
Cobi Jones
Tim Howard
Tab Ramos
Kasey Keller
Other
Landon Donovan
65.4%
Claudio Reyna
3.1%
Clint Dempsey
11.8%
Brian McBride
3.1%
Brad Friedel
0.8%
Eric Wynalda
0.0%
Cobi Jones
1.6%
Tim Howard
5.5%
Tab Ramos
0.8%
Kasey Keller
0.8%
Other
7.1%
Tim Howard of Everton points during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on December 8, 2013
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