Best XI U.S. Men's National Team All-Time Legends
After the 1950 World Cup, the United States disappeared from international soccer and remained a nobody until re-emerging with qualification to the 1990 World Cup.
Since then, the U.S. has qualified for six straight World Cups and is currently in the process of qualifying for its seventh in a row.
Because of the 40-year period where American soccer virtually did not exist on the international stage, the bulk of “legends” of the United States men’s national team are from the modern era.
With that being said, here is the best XI U.S. Men’s National Team all-time legends, lined up in a 3-5-2.
Goalkeeper: Brad Friedel
With all due respect to the U.S.’ rich history of excellent goalkeepers, Brad Friedel wins the gloves here. In his international career, Friedel made 82 appearances for the USMNT and three World Cup rosters.
He was U.S. Soccer’s Athlete of the Year in 2002 based on his excellent performance in the U.S.’ memorable World Cup run that year and earned the nickname “The Human Wall” due to his play in the tournament.
Friedel retired from the U.S. while still in his prime, turning the job over to Kasey Keller, who himself became a U.S. legend, playing in four World Cups.
Left Center-Back: Carlos Bocanegra
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Current U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra is already a USMNT legend. While he is now near the end of his playing career, Bocanegra has been a stalwart for the U.S. over the past decade at both left-back and center-back.
He has earned 110 caps, which puts him sixth all time for the USMNT and, despite being a defender, is 10th all-time in points with 14 goals and eight assists.
Bocanegra represented the U.S. at both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and may do so again in 2014.
Center-Back: Eddie Pope
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Eddie Pope represented the U.S. at the World Cup three times in his career and started every game of the U.S.’ magical run in Korea in 2002.
Pope earned 82 caps for the USMNT in his career and is in the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame.
Right Center-Back: Marcelo Balboa
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Marcelo Balboa represented the U.S. in three World Cups, including playing every minute of every game in the U.S.’ fantastic run at home in 1994.
Balboa was twice named U.S. Soccer’s Athlete of the Year and is a Hall of Fame member. He earned 127 caps in his career—good for fourth all time—and scored 13 goals for the USMNT.
Holding Midfielder: Claudio Reyna
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Claudio Reyna is one of the most decorated players in the history of the USMNT. He represented the U.S. 112 times, making him fifth in all-time appearances for the Red, White and Blue.
He scored eight international goals in his career and racked up 19 assists while representing the U.S. in a remarkable four World Cups.
In the U.S.’ World Cup quarterfinal run in 2002, Reyna was named to the All-Tournament team alongside international legends Oliver Kahn, Roberto Carlos, Sol Campbell, Michael Ballack, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Miroslav Klose and Ronaldo.
Right Midfielder: Earnie Stewart
Earnie Stewart scored one of the most important goals in the history of the USMNT, the eventual game-winning goal against Colombia in the 1994 World Cup.
In his career, Stewart accumulated 101 appearances for the Nats while scoring 17 goals and picking up 10 assists. He ranks ninth all time in points for the U.S. and represented the U.S. in three World Cups.
He is a U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame member and was U.S. Soccer’s Athlete of the Year in 2001.
Center Midfielder: Tab Ramos
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Tab Ramos is generally regarded as the best midfielder the U.S. has ever had and represented the U.S. in three World Cups, including starting every game of the team’s outstanding run to the Round of 16 in 1994.
In his career, he earned 81 caps, was named U.S. Soccer’s Athlete of the Year in 1994 and is a member of the Hall of Fame.
Left Midfielder: Cobi Jones
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Cobi Jones’ 164 caps makes him the all-time appearance leader in U.S. history, and his 15 career goals and 22 assists lands him sixth all time in total points.
Jones is one of the few U.S. players who represented the Nats in both the 1994 and 2002 World Cups—the best two finishes of the U.S. in the modern era. He was named U.S. Soccer’s Athlete of the Year in 1998 and is a member of the Hall of Fame.
Attacking Midfielder: Landon Donovan
While Landon Donovan is approaching the end of his USMNT career, there is no question to his legendary status. Donovan holds virtually every U.S. record, including the most starts, goals, assists and points.
He has been U.S. Soccer’s Athlete of the Year a record four times and has represented the U.S. in three World Cups.
Forward: Eric Wynalda
Eric Wynalda earned 106 caps in his illustrious USMNT career, finishing with 34 goals and 16 assists. He is second all time in points.
Wynalda was U.S. Soccer’s Athlete of the Year in 1996 and represented the U.S. in three World Cups, scoring one of the most important and most forgotten goals in U.S. soccer history—the game-tying goal in the U.S.’ 1-1 draw against Switzerland in 1994.
Forward: Clint Dempsey
Clint Dempsey is still in the prime of his international career and, while he's still the U.S.’ go-to-guy in terms of scoring, has an impressive history behind him as well.
He has already earned 94 caps, scoring 32 goals and picking up 11 assists, which puts him third all time in points. He has been named U.S. Soccer’s Athlete of the Year on three occasions and, barring an unforeseen disaster, will represent the U.S. in a third World Cup next summer in Brazil.
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