The Seven Most Iconic American ‘Soccer’ Players… EVER!

Do you remember the MLS ‘shoot-outs’? For three seasons after Major League Soccer was formed in 1996, US football’s new division flat-out rejected the boring concept of a draw, instead settling ties by way of a completely mental contest which saw players given five seconds to beat the opposition ‘keeper from a starting point 35 yards from goal.

The resulting melee was wild - a kind of ‘It’s a Knockout’ style low budget gameshow that was great fun but also very, very American.

In some ways, the MLS shoot-out came to epitomise the USA’s uneasy relationship with football: a means of sugar coating the less view-friendly nuances of the game for a suspicious audience. 



But more than a quarter of a century on, that relationship is vastly different. Football is the fastest growing sport in the US today, with nearly as many Americans now calling soccer their favourite game to watch as they do basketball or baseball.

The MLS is now home to Lionel Messi, who these days weaves his magic in Florida under the eye of Inter Miami owner David Beckham. Internationally, the picture continues to improve. Since 1990, the US Men’s National Team have qualified for every World Cup bar one. The women’s team meanwhile is the most successful in the world, having won four World Cups and four Olympic golds.

And what about the players? The US now boats a proud collection (or should that be roster?) of talented superstars who hail from the 50 states. So we have spent far too long looking back over the last three decades to pick our favourite ever seven. Disagree? Tell us why in the comments below.

Cult Kits | Buy USA Shirts | Classic Football Kits


1. Landon Donovan


What links Kylian Mbappé, Paul Pogba, Michael Owen, Marc Overmars and Landon Donovan? All of them were voted the best young player at a World Cup, that’s what. Donovan earned his accolade at the 2002 tournament, where he helped propel the US to the quarter-finals. In all, he made 157 appearances for the national team, scoring an impressive 57 goals.

Donovan was prolific for LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes in the MLS but he also made his mark in Europe, first at Bayer Leverkusen and then with loan spells at Bayern Munich and Everton.


2. Alexi Lalas




One of the faces of USA 94, Lalas’s long ginger hair and Games of Thrones beard helped make him instantly recognisable. He managed 96 appearances for the US but he was also revered outside his homeland, becoming an idol at Padova in Serie A, where he spent two seasons with the Biancoscudati between 1994 and 1996.

Cult heroes – and Alexi definitely falls into that category – aren’t just remembered for what they did on the pitch though. The big man was also a budding musician, releasing no fewer than eight solo albums, the last of which (entitled ‘Melt Away’ if you were wondering) came in 2022.

But before you get too carried away, remember this: Lalas is a die-hard Republican and has endorsed Ron De Santis in the 2024 US presidential Elections.


3. Tim Howard


A bonafide Premier League legend. After joining Manchester United in 2003, Howard made 45 appearances at Old Trafford before switching to Everton, where he played another 354 times. You don’t amass close to 400 games in the Prem without being very, very good – and big Tim certainly was. Oh – and he also scored, too. Just a casual ONE-HUNDERED YARDER.

Howard, who was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome when he was 10, became one of the most important US national team players too, wracking up 121 appearances and playing in two World Cups (but no goals, though).


4. Eric Wynalda



A bit like Lalas, Eric Wynalda became one of the stand-out stars of their USA 94 squad, thanks in no small part to a sensational free-kick, scored against Switzerland in the group stage.

Aside from a relatively brief stint in Germany with Saarbrücken (61 appearances, 34 goals) and VFL Bochum (29, 2), Wynalda spent the bulk of his career in the MLS, most notably for San Jose Clash where he rattled in 21 goals in only 57 games. Decent.

These days, you can find him as a commentator on Fox Sports, having forged a successful TV career following retirement.


5. Michael Bradley



Here’s a fun fact for you: Michael Bradley speaks five languages – English, Italian, Dutch, German and Spanish.

The midfielder, son of Bob Bradley, played more than 150 times for the US national team. He started out at MetroStars in the MLS but then enjoyed spells in Holland with Heerenveen, in Germany with Borussia Mönchengladbach, in England with Aston Villa (very briefly), and then in Italy, first at Chievo Verona and then at Roma, where fans labelled him ‘L’Americano. Original.


6. Marcelo Balboa



Three World Cups, the first player to reach 100 appearances for the US and one of the most recognisable barnets on planet football, Marcelo Balboa was a beast of a player. He is of Argentine descent – his dad, Luis, played professionally in Argentina – but was born in Chicago. He played for a number of MLS clubs, most notably Colarado Rapids, remaining in the city after his retirement in 2002.


7. Megan Rapinoe


The most iconic female soccer player ever? Probably.

Rapinoe has made 199 appearances for the US women’s team, scoring 63 goals – a tally she will hope to add to at this year’s Women’s World Cup, after which she will retire from the game.

Winner of the Ballon d'Or Féminin and named The Best FIFA Women's Player in 2019, Rapinoe won gold with the national team at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, and 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, and she played for the team at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup where the US finished in second place.

But it’s not just on the pitch where she has made her mark. Rapinoe is an advocate for numerous LGBTQIA+ organisations and was included in Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2020. In July 2022, Rapinoe received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Joe Biden.

A giant of the game.



Back to blog

1 comment

No Clint Dempsey? No Mia Hamm? No Carli Lloyd?
You found a spot for one of the least respected athletes in the USA in Rapinoe. She was an absolute cancer on our USWNT. I guess she is iconic for that reason. I just don’t understand from a business standpoint why you have to look down on Lalas for his politics, which I actually had no idea what side of the aisle he is on, but praise Rapinoe for being a divisive and toxic force. Why should I give my money to a business that vocalizes a distaste for my personal beliefs?


Leave a comment