USA best XI: A look at the greatest USMNT XI of all time

This current generation aspires to match the accomplishments of American soccer legends like Tim Howard, Brian McBride, and Landon Donovan.

Christian Pulisic is the youngest player in the greatest USMNT XI; Credit: Twitter@ChelseaFC
By Nilavro Ghosh | Dec 20, 2022 | 7 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

With a wealth of young talent competing in some of Europe’s top league competitions and teams. Players like Sergino Dest, Giovanni Reyna, Weston MacKennie, and Christian Pulisic all play for the best teams in Europe, and together they could form the foundation of a future USMNT squad that is very competitive. All of this has happened at the same time that soccer has become more popular in the nation, at least among men because their women’s team is unquestionably the best in the world.

However, many outstanding American athletes who came before this generation paved the way for them. Players who not only succeeded in the MLS but also excelled at playing for their country’s team and, on occasion, for European teams. This current generation aspires to match the accomplishments of American soccer legends like Tim Howard, Brian McBride, and Landon Donovan. In order to help us remember who these outstanding players were, we have attempted to compile a list of the greatest USA XI ever.

Tim Howard (GK)

Tim Howard has played in 132 Premier League games and has earned the most caps in the history of the USA’s national team. He has won two Gold Cups with the United States, an FA Cup, a League Cup, and both. Additionally, he was twice named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year and was a member of the 2003–04 EPL Team of the Season. One of the greatest US players to ever play the game, Howard, who only announced his retirement this past year after a 24-year career, is a serious contender to start the greatest USA XI of all time.

When Manchester United expressed interest in him and eventually signed him in 2003 to replace the unreliable Barthez, it represented the biggest opportunity of his life. After a year, he was unable to maintain a starting position at United, so he eventually moved on to Everton, where he made his mark and rose to become one of the all-time great goalkeepers in the Premier League.

Alexi Lalas (CB)

Between 1991 and 1998, Alexi Lalas, who played for the USMNT for 7 years, amassed 96 caps and scored 10 goals. He was a member of the MLS Best XI team once, the MLS All-Star team once, and the US Soccer Athlete of the Year in 1995. For many American players who came after him, he laid the groundwork and established the benchmarks for success, and he’ll always be regarded as one of the best that US football had to offer.

After showcasing his talent at the 1994 World Cup, Lalas joined the Serie A team Padova, where he established himself as a regular starter. He played for MLS teams, Colombian side Emelec, and the New England Revolution for one season after joining them two years later (MetroStars, Kansas City Wizards and LA Galaxy). He had his best years at LA Galaxy, winning the MLS Cup and the Champions Cup.

Eddie Pope (CB)

Prior to his retirement from football in 2007, Pope played for DC United for seven seasons and then spent another five with MetroStars and Real Salt Lake. Pope was a member of the DC United team that won three MLS Cups, a CONCACAF Champions Cup, and four separate selections to the MLS Best XI. He was a significant member of the USA team in the 1998, 2002, and 2006 World Cup competitions and contributed to their victory in the 2005 Gold Cup as well. He is unquestionably among the best defenders the MLS has ever produced, which is why we included him in our all-time best USA XI.

Marcelo Balboa (CB)

Perhaps when he wore a US jersey, Balboa shone the brightest. He became the third player to ever represent the USA in three World Cups and was the first American to reach 100 caps after captaining the backline for the USMNT in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups (8 World Cup appearances in total). Balboa played 127 times for the USA and scored an impressive 13 goals (for a defender). As a true giant of American soccer and a member of our all-time top USA XI, Balboa deserves to be mentioned in any discussion of the best of US Soccer.

Michael Bradley (CM)

After spending two seasons playing for AS Roma between 2012 and 2014, Bradley moved on to Toronto FC, leading them to their first two MLS championship games, the latter of which they won. In addition, he led the USA team from 2015 to 2019 while earning 151 caps, which is the third-most in USMNT history. Since his debut in 2006, he has scored seven goals. Bradley is on our best USA XI of all time because he was unquestionably one of the best midfielders the US has ever had. He was known for his work ethic, physicality, leadership, technique, and vision.

Claudio Reyna (CM)

Between 1994 and 2006, Reyna participated in 4 World Cups as a member of the USMNT. In the latter part of his career, he served as team captain. He received 112 caps for the US and scored 8 goals. One of Reyna’s best World Cup campaigns was in 2002, when the US achieved its best record, advanced to the quarterfinals, and Reyna became just the third American player to be selected to the tournament’s all-star team. Claudio Reyna is without a doubt one of the greatest players in US football history, so even though his son is one of the brightest young players in Europe, he has big shoes to fill.

Landon Donovan (CAM)

For the USMNT national team, Donovan is the top assist provider and second-best goal scorer of all time. He is also the top assist provider in MLS history. He is the only American to have scored three goals in a World Cup competition, which he did in 2002, earning him the title of the competition’s best young player. He has won a record six MLS Cups. Because of Donovan’s unmatched accomplishments, the MLS MVP award is now named in his honour. Donovan, who has made 157 appearances, 57 goals, and 58 assists for the USA, is unquestionably the greatest player in US football history.

He began his youth career in 1999 at Bayer Leverkusen and played for them for six seasons, the majority of which he spent on loan at San Jose Earthquakes. Later, he permanently returned to Major League Soccer, joining LA Galaxy, where he set numerous personal records and led his team to numerous victories. He played for the LA Galaxy from 2005 to 2014, but before his retirement in 2014, he spent brief periods on loan at Bayern Munich three times and Everton twice. Prior to his permanent retirement from football, he did make two comebacks from his retirement to play for the LA Galaxy and Leon in 2016 and 2018, respectively.

Damarcus Beasly (LW)

Damarcus Beasley, one of the longest-tenured USMNT players, was one of the select few who enjoyed greater success playing in Europe than in Major League Soccer. Beasley, who began his career as a winger, was also capable of playing at left wingback, where he greatly aided the US national team in the 2010s. Beasley was one of only three players to appear in four World Cup competitions with the USMNT. He was a highly skilled winger with incredible pace and work rate. He received 126 caps for the USA, scored 17 goals, competed in 5 Gold Cup tournaments, and was selected five times for the MLS Best XI. Beasley was undoubtedly a talent of his generation, opening the door for many current young American stars.

Christian Pulisic (RW)

Captain America himself, Christian Pulisic, is the youngest player on this list, the only Champions League champion, and a player who has the potential to be the greatest American football player of all time. The current No. 10 for Chelsea began his career with Dortmund in Germany. After making an impression on several major European clubs, he eventually moved to Chelsea in 2019 and became the most expensive North American player ever.

Although Pulisic’s game time at Chelsea decreased slightly as a result of competition, he still had his best year in the 2019–20 season. He then put together another strong season the following year, winning the Champions League under his former coach Thomas Tuchel to make history as the first American to do so. Even at the young age of 23, Pulisic already demonstrates strong leadership qualities and a direct style of play that point to him becoming one of the greatest American players of all time, if not the best.

Brian McBride (ST)

McBride established himself as a proficient striker at Columbus Crew between 1996 and 2004 after making his professional debut with Milwaukee Rampage, spending brief periods with both Rampage and Wolfsburg in Germany, and making his debut with Milwaukee Rampage. He spent two brief periods on loan at Preston North End and Everton during this time, the latter of which convinced another Premier League team (Fulham) to sign him in 2004. Brian McBride was one of the best US strikers to ever play in Europe. He was renowned for both his offensive prowess and his leadership qualities, which occasionally saw him captain teams like Fulham and the USA. McBride ranks fifth all-time in USMNT goal scoring with 30 goals in 98 appearances.

Clint Dempsey (ST)

The incredible Clint Dempsey shares the title of top USMNT goal scorer of all time with Landon Donovan. Dempsey, who was used interchangeably in both the support striker and striker positions throughout his career, was known for his silky-smooth playing style, back heels, and tricks on the field. Dempey, a Texas native, made his professional playing debut with the New England Revolution before joining Fulham in the Premier League in 2007.

Dempsey is tied with Landon Donovan for the most goals scored by the USMNT all-time with 57 in 141 games after participating and scoring for the USA in three different World Cups. He is without a doubt one of the greatest American strikers of all time and excelled in the Premier League for Fulham, where he twice won the league’s top scorer and player of the season awards. which is why he is chosen to represent the United States over so many other talented US forwards in our best USA XI of all time.

The greatest XI

Tim HowardGK
Alexi LalasCB
Eddie PopeCB
Marcelo BalboaCB
Michael BradleyCM
Claudio ReynaCM
Landon DonovanCAM
Damarcus BeaslyLW
Christian PulisicRW
Brian McBrideST
Clint DempseyST

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