Compiling a list of the best players of a national team is no easy task, in the case of the USMNT there is clearly a divide between the pre- 1990 era and post 1990 era. For 40 years the USMNT was a soccer non-factor until they shocked the world and qualified to the 1990 World Cup.

After the 1994 tournament, which the US hosted, soccer changed in America, the arrival of Major League Soccer and the growth of the youth game in the States has led to players playing in the best leagues in Europe and at home.

Here is a look at the 25 most influential players to leave a mark on the USMNT. Criteria, a player has to have at least 30 caps and/or played in a World Cup to make the list.

*Caps are until November 2022 for active players.

25. Tony Meola

For 100 caps and the starter of two World Cup’s Tony Meola was a rock for the USMNT in the nets. Coming up big in games against Colombia, England, and Germany. Meola may not have had a great European career but revitalized his national team career in MLS. Meola was a part of three World Cup squads and was a big game goalkeeper, but at times prone to mistakes.

24. Clint Mathis

The talented but undisciplined Clint Mathis was a major talent for the USMNT scoring 12 goals in 46 games, none bigger than his goal against South Korea in the 2022 World Cup. Mathis loved the night life more than the gym, but when it came to talent, he was second to none.

23. Mike Windischmann

The captain of the 1990 World Cup team for the USMNT, Mike Windischmann played 50 games for the US during the era of no professional soccer and even less Americans abroad. Considering he was basically a semi-pro player, Windischmann played in the 1988 Summer Olympics, and was named 1989 U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year.

22. Weston McKennie

Juventus midfielder and 24-year-old Weston McKennie is one of the best box to box players the USMNT has ever produced. The Juventus star has 9 goals in 37 caps for the US and has yet to reach his true heights. A unique personality and talent of the new Golden Generation.

21. Carlos Bocanegra

One of the most accomplished players in USMNT history, Carlos Bocanegra was not only captain of the US during the 2010 World Cup, but he also played professionally in the Premier League, France, Spain, and Scotland. 14 goals in 110 caps made him a formidable presence at the back.

20. Jimmy Banks

Jimmy Banks was a quick and elegant defender who played for the USMNT in the 1990 World Cup. Despite earning a living playing indoor soccer, Banks more than held his own in the 90 World Cup. Banks was beloved by the US Soccer community and earned 36 caps for the US.

19. Pablo Mastroeni

Hard nose and tough holding midfielder Pablo Mastroeni was a rock in the middle for the USMNT in two World Cups. As tough as they come, Mastroeni’s mind games took half the Mexican team out of the 2002 round of 16 match against the US. 65 caps and a lot of hurt opponents, the USMNT has yet to find another Pablo Mastroeni.

18. Jermaine Jones

Off the cuff and outspoken, Jermaine Jones was a winner and on the lackluster US teams of the 2011- 2017 was badly needed. Jones was a solid midfielder who was not afraid of the big occasion, none more evident than his tying goal against Portugal in the 2014 World Cup.

17. Hugo Perez

Skilled and quick, Hugo Perez provided creativity to a hardworking, basic US side of the late 80’s and early 90s. Perez played in the 1994 World Cup for the USMNT, he scored 13 goals in 73 caps.

16.  John Harkes

One of the best American soccer players ever, John Harkes was captain of the US team post 1994 World Cup until early 1998. Harkes played in England for Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County, and West Ham before coming home to MLS to build a dynasty at DC United. A major part of the 1990 and 1994 World Cup’s for the US, Harkes was named co-MVP of the 1995 Copa America in Uruguay where the US finished 4th.

15. Marcelo Balboa

A leader at the back, Marcelo Balboa was one of the most solid and best defenders the USMNT has ever produced. Balboa played in three World Cup’s and earned 127 caps and scored 13 goals.

14. Kasey Keller

One of the most decorated goalkeepers and players in USMNT history, Kasey Keller is a cult legend at Millwall in England and played in the Premier League, LaLiga, and Bundesliga in his career. Keller was solid in the nets for the US and unfortunately played as the starter in two disappointing tournaments for the USMNT, 1998 and 2006.

13. Michael Bradley

There are two sides to Michael Bradley, his early career and his later one. Michael Bradley’s early career saw a solid midfielder with Serie A, Premier League, and Bundesliga credentials lead the US in many important games in 2010 and 2014 World Cups. Bradley’s later career was a shadow of the player he used to be, still Bradley is one of the best midfielders the country has produced.

12. Cobi Jones

The most capped player in USMNT history, Cobi Jones was always there be it as a starter or sub off the bench, Cobi had that speed and ball control needed when called upon. Jones played in three World Cups and earned 164 caps for the US scoring 15 goals.

11. Jozy Altidore

The big and bulky striker is one of the top scorers in the nation’s history with 42 goals in 115 caps. Jozy Altidore played in the 2010 and 2014 World Cup’s but never got on the score sheet at that level. Jozy’s biggest goal came in a 2-0 win against Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup.

10. Brad Friedel

Iron man Brad Friedel was a tough and solid goalkeeper who backstopped the USMNT to a quarterfinals run in the 2002 World Cup. Brad Friedel was caught in a goalkeepers’ duel with Kasey Keller for much of 1995-2002. After 82 caps the Premier League veteran decided to step aside from the national team in 2005.

9. Eddie Pope

The best defender the USMNT has ever had, Eddie Pope was elegant, intelligent, and had great one on one abilities to win balls. Pope may have played in MLS his whole career but not without getting transfer offers from Liverpool, Ajax, AC Milan, and Chelsea during his playing days. Pope led at the back in three World Cup’s for the US. 

8. Christian Pulisic

The best player of the Golden Generation, Christian Pulisic has the skills of Pablo Aimar and the drive of a Thierry Henry. Already, Pulisic has 21 goals in 52 caps and will most likely double his stats by the time his national team career is over. From big Champions League games to last minute goals against Mexico, Pulisic could be on top of this list in 10 years’ time. 

7. Eric Wynalda 

Until Jozy, Dempsey, and Donovan surpassed him Waldo was the USMNT all-time leading scorer with 34 goals. Wynalda was never afraid of the big occasion, scoring against Switzerland in the 1994 World Cup and against Argentina in the 95 Copa America. 

6. Claudio Reyna

Elegant and tactical, Claudio Reyna was a skilled player on the ball, not the best dribbler but certainly a great thinker. The former Rangers star played in 3 World Cups and was on the squad in 4. In 2002, Reyna was one of the best players in the tournament.

5. Brian McBride

Brian McBride may have scored less goals than Wynalda, but he scored some huge goals for the USMNT. McBride scored 3 World Cup goals for the USMNT and helped the US win the 2002 Concacaf Gold Cup. One of the best strikers the US has ever had, McBride had a missile on his head. 

4. Tim Howard

For two World Cup’s Tim Howard commanded the nets for the USMNT, no errors, no flamboyance, pure skill. A remarkable shot stopper but also athletic keeper. Howard is an Everton legend and was Premier League goalkeeper of the year playing during Manchester United’s glory days. Howard holds the record for most saves in a World Cup match.

3. Tab Ramos

Still one of the most, if not most skillful, American midfielders ever produced. Born in Montevideo, Uruguay but made in New Jersey, Ramos was explosive on the dribble but even more explosive when he’d cut into his right and let loose a strong shot on goal. Elegant, quick, and with that heart known by soccer players in Uruguay, Ramos is a player that even today would be a lock starter. 

2. Landon Donovan

Mr. World Cup, Landon Donovan showed up when it mattered most, the big games. Donovan has 5 World Cup goals, none bigger than his strike at the last second against Algeria to send the USMNT top of their group and on to the round of 16 in 2010. Overall, Donovan had an accomplished career, 57 goals in 157 games, winner of four Concacaf Gold Cups, and the face of American soccer for almost a decade. 

1. Clint Dempsey

Tied with Donovan for 57 USMNT goals, but in less games, 141, Dempsey was skill, heart, and never say die. Dempsey scored 4 goals in three World Cup’s, 3 in the Copa America in 2016, and 3 in the Confederations Cup in 2009. Dempsey was all American and as tough as nails proving himself over and over again at Fulham in the Premier League. Dempsey would continue to score for the US until the 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup. 

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