US Soccer: The Greatest Men's National Team XI of All Time

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US Soccer: The Greatest Men's National Team XI of All Time
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

What is the "Greatest XI" in the history of the U.S. men's national soccer team?

A visiting Scot once said Walter Bahr could play for any team in the UK. That was quite a compliment. The UK was seen at the time as the center of the football universe (especially by people there). And the United States was further away than the width of the Atlantic. That’s why the result in 1950 between England and the American team Bahr captained remains arguably the most shocking in World Cup history.

Bahr never played for a UK club, and only had an opportunity to play in one World Cup finals tournament. We probably will never know how good a player he was, or how good he might have been, with more exposure to stronger competition.

The same is true of Joe Gaetjens from that storied game in 1950, who headed in Bahr's cross for the only goal.

How about Bert Patenaude, the first player ever to score a hat trick in a World Cup? Yes, that honor is accredited to an American, even if the accreditation took 70 years to become official. 

How does anyone deal with these questions when naming a "Greatest XI"? Or for that matter not just making a list of the greatest ever just a list of U.S. men's national team goalkeepers? Simple. He does what I'm about to do: Pull up a virtual bar stool, throw out 11 subjective opinions and deal with the counter arguments as they come.

Fair warning about methodology—if torn between two or more players, I tend to lean heavily on comparisons of club career achievements. The bottom line for me is Bayer Leverkusen plays higher level soccer than Burke’s Undertakers did, despite their impressive two-year run a while back in the St. Louis Soccer League. That's my tip-off, the veterans of that men's national team win over England in 1950 didn't make the cut.

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