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Who are the three best USMNT players ever?


The U.S. men’s national team is less than two weeks away from playing the 500th match in national team history on January 19th against Sweden. In honor of that landmark moment, The U.S. Men’s national team soccer blog is asking national team fans a very tough question. Who are the three best U.S. national team players of all time?

The only guideline to follow is that you must only take into account a player’s national team career, and not club career. All other factors are up to you.

So who would you choose? Landon Donovan, Eric Wynalda, Tab Ramos, John Harkes, Kasey Keller, Eddie Pope, Claudio Reyna, Earnie Stewart, Cobi Jones, Marcelo Balboa? Joe Gaetjens?

Who is on my ballot? I’m going to need some time to figure that one but I think Donovan and Wynalda make strong cases to be on the list. Same goes for Keller. That isn’t my list, just some guys who have really strong cases.

Let us hear your list. Name your top three U.S. men’s national team players of all time (and remember to submit your entry on the USMNT blog as well).


  1. Josh:

    “Really? Saying Donovan for the most part only shines against lesser opposition isn’t a valid argument?”

    No. Not when other FIELD players have not shone as bright as Donovan against the same lesser opposition, OR had more than a game or 2 (except maybe Reyna in 2002) against better opposition where they actually looked good.

    What non-concacaf opposition did Ramos play against?

    I also don’t think that Reyna has had a more consistent career than Donovan. He and Donovan might actually be evenly frustrating in this regard.

    Don’t get me wrong, after the ’06 WC I never imagined that I would EVER defend Donovan in any regard.

    I think that Donovan takes excessive criticism because he is one of the first US players who actually posseses the ability to take the game to a higher level than any of his predecessors.

    Also, the age of a player is irrelevant (particularly when the player in question has already matched or broken any offensive records). Rarely does the status of a player change (except in McBride’s case) from good to great while they are in their late 20s or ealry 30s.

  2. Really? Saying Donovan for the most part only shines against lesser opposition isn’t a valid argument?

    Players like Ramos, Keller, Friedel, McBride, Harkes, Wynalda and Reyna for the most part showed up to play no matter who was on the other side of the field.

    Don’t get me wrong, Donovan is massively talented. He’s also frustratingly inconsistent. He’s also only 25. I think it’s a little premature to call him one of the best ever at that age.

  3. Reyna

    Reyna – greatest player usa has produced (so far)
    McBride – How many players in the world can say they have scored in 2 WC’s.
    Keller – Greates usa goalkeeper of all time (so far)

  4. wow, un-bee-lee-vah-bull. any list of Best American Players that does not include Tab Ramos is an uneducated list. He is the only American player that Johan Cruijff rated as able to play in any European lineup.

    My picks:

    Friedel (edges out Keller on the basis of Japorea ’02)

  5. Here is the problem with the “all he’s ever done is kick the crap out of third world countries.” argument used against Donovan.

    If you are going to compare him to other non-USMNT players then sure the argument is fine, but if you compare him to other USMNT players, then there is no other US player that has “kick[ed] the crap out of third world countries” as convincingly and frequently as Donovan.

    And he is still only 25.

    Lets hope that he still feels like he has room for development/improvement.

  6. 1. Joe Gaetjens
    2. Walter Bahr
    3. Brian McBride
    4. Hugo Perez
    5. Kasey Keller
    6. Tab Ramos
    7. Claudio Reyna
    8. Thomas Dooley
    9. Eddie Pope
    10.Landon Donovan

  7. There is no way that Donovan should be excluded from any list. He is far and away the best field player in national team history. He is the best at creating goals in the history of US soccer. He is a danger to score or to create a goal for somebody else, which is why he is the all time leader in both goals and assists. Everybody bashes Donovan for a playing poor in the 2006 but so did the rest of the team and Donovan still put in one of the all time great performances of any US player in the game against Italy. Plus if you look at 2007, any time Donovan wasn’t on the field for the US, our build up play and offense in general looked pretty bad and resorted to a lot of long ball tactics. He is the most important player on the national team right now and he is the best field player in national team history, end of discussion.

  8. Just a comment several are commenting on these players club careers and that is not suppose to be a consideration.

    For my three

    I chose Keller over Friedel because it was not his faul that in the two world cups that he played in the Team socred 1 Goal in 06 and 2 or 3 in 98 not much to help get the wins.

  9. BTW, as far as defenders go, I can’t believe that Caligiuri isn’t even in the conversation. The Shot Heard Round the World, scoring the first goal in modern (i.e., post 1950) US World Cup history, and 110 caps. What’s Pope done that’s better? I would put Balboa ahead of Pope, too.

  10. 2002 World cup was without a doubt the best showing for the US National therefore I would have to say the following:

    Claudio Reyna
    Brad Friedel
    Landon Donovan

    But geez this is hard to narrow down to just 3 players, so I would have to also mention the following:

    Tab Ramos
    Kasey Keller
    Brian Mc Bride
    Marcelo Balboa
    John Harkes
    Eric Wynalda
    Thomas Dooley

  11. Tab Ramos – he brought US Soccer to the next level. Pre-Ramos, no World Cup appearances; post-Ramos, US is a World Cup regular. Sure other players (Harkes, etc.) are responsible for the climb out of oblivion, but Ramos is the most resonsible. That’s why he’s the most important player in US history. He is far more important than Reyna, IMO.

    Freidel – better than Keller and was most responsible for ’02. Meola also has to be given some consideration.

    Donovan, just barely over Wynalda.

  12. Tab Ramos. Most talented player ever to pull on a US jersey.

    Kasey Keller. I know a lot of people go back and forth between Keller and Friedel but for me, Kasey always produced more moments that kept the US in the game.

    Last one’s the toughest, but I’ll go for Reyna. Yes, I agree that he was infuriatingly passive at times. But for talent, brains, and longevity he’s got to be in there. We’re seeing how important he was right now as Bradley tries to fill that hole in the middle of his midfield. (By the way, does anybody remember when Claudio first arrived on the scene? When he was an attacking player, a player who took people on? The hattrick against Mexico? I wish he would have stayed that sort of player.)

    Honorable mentions to Wynalda, McBride, Harkes, Balboa.

    Side note. Regardless, of my dislike for Donovan, isn’t it a little premature to call him one of the three best USMNT players ever? Aside from one good World Cup all he’s ever done is kick the crap out of third world countries.

  13. Bahr for sure. Do you know he is listed on FIFA’s site as part of what is essentially the all-star team for 1950? It was done retroactively, but that’s still pretty high praise. Then Bert Patenaude, scorer of the first ever World Cup hat trick (finally recognized by FIFA) in 1930. He is also on the retroactive All Star team for 1930. For the third, Donovan, Friedel, McBride and Reyna are all good choices. If you include youth teams, Keller deserves a look as he won the Silver Ball at his U-20 World Cup.

  14. Landon – He’s so young and will set most of the all-time records soon

    Ramos – I don’t remember a whole lot about him but he seemed to be better than Reyna to me.

    O’Brien – Spent a short time with the program, but was the classiest and best player by far when he was on the field.

    GK – Friedel

  15. Heres mine, though top 3 is hard. I am going to stay away from players like Dooley or Regis, who only represented us late in their careers because they wanted to play international football. They are different from players like Ramos who actually identified as Americans.

    1) Brad Friedel – I think he has had the best national team and club career of any US player.
    2) John Harkes – The 1998 disaster can be partially explained by this man’s absence from the squad.
    3) Landon Donovan – I don’t care what people say, we lack significantly in the attack without Landycakes in the lineup.

    Gonsalves, Stewart, Balboa, Wynalda, Bahr and a few others are less than half a notch below these three.

  16. Ives: Have you thought about running a poll regarding this, and possibly that Best XI since 1990 idea? That could be an interesting post. You could run it by SBI Reader roll call emails to protect the validity of the results.


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