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Ranking USA's 10 Greatest Footballers

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2014

Ranking USA's 10 Greatest Footballers

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    Yves Logghe/Associated Press

    The United States may not have a long and storied footballing tradition like nations in Europe and South America, but it has cranked out plenty of quality in regards to individuals. 

    As the sport continues to grow in the States, more great players will develop, but for now we will have to look at the 10 best players who have already donned the Stars and Stripes. 

    This was far from an easy list to compile thanks to a plethora of fine players that have shined bright for club and country, but only 10 were able to make the list. 

    Here is a look at the 10 best footballers ever produced by the United States. 

10. Marcelo Balboa

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Long before the days of the United States emerging as a power on the international scene, Marcelo Balboa helped bring the Yanks back to the World Cup in 1990 and 1994. 

    Balboa was the first player to ever earn 100 caps for the Yanks, which is an accomplishment that has been repeated by other players on this list. 

    The man famous for his ponytail and facial hair was twice the U.S. Soccer Player of the Year, and he helped launch Major League Soccer in 1996 with the Colorado Rapids

    The former captain retired from international duty in 2000 with 128 appearances and 13 goals under his belt. 

9. Tim Howard

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    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    The latest member of the 100-cap club, Tim Howard, has helped guide the United States into a new direction on the international stage, while becoming a stalwart at the club level with Everton

    Howard is one of the fiercest leaders and competitors to ever play for the Yanks, and it doesn't hurt that he is one heck of a keeper as well. 

    He began his international career in 2002, and with a spot in the lineup in Brazil secured, he will have participated in three World Cups, two of which he has started in net. 

8. Steve Cherundolo

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Injuries cut short the 2014 World Cup chances of Steve Cherundolo, who was one of the most consistent defenders ever produced by the United States. 

    Cherundolo was the first-choice right-back for close to two full World Cup cycles, and he deserved every accolade he achieved in his career with the Yanks, and with Hannover in the Bundesliga. 

    "The Mayor of Hannover" was forced to retire earlier this year because of lingering injury issues, but he does have a bright managerial future, which may see him lead the Yanks into a World Cup as the head coach one day.

7. Eric Wynalda

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    Lennox McLendon/Associated Press

    Although he is despised by most of the American soccer-viewing public now, Eric Wynalda was adored during his playing career thanks to his eye for goal.

    The first true prolific goalscorer for the Yanks played in three World Cups and scored 34 goals in 106 appearances. 

    Wynalda's most memorable goal may have been the one he scored on home soil in 1994 against Switzerland. 

    The free-kick from nearly 30 yards out at the Pontiac Silverdome was a defining moment in a tournament that changed the course of the game in America. 

6. Michael Bradley

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    At just 26, Michael Bradley is already one of the best players produced by the American system, but by the time his career ends, he could be the best that ever played.

    Bradley has been a crucial part of the national team for the last four years thanks to his terrific ball skills in the midfield and his cerebral approach to the game. 

    Seen as one of the three major leaders on the current United States team, Bradley has also succeeded almost everywhere he has gone at the club level, with a short loan spell at Aston Villa in 2011 being his only setback. 

     

5. Cobi Jones

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    CHRIS PUTMAN/Associated Press

    Cobi Jones left an incredible mark on soccer in the United States from 1992 all the way up to 2007. 

    Jones is still the most capped player in United States history with 164, a mark that could hold up for another generation if Landon Donovan doesn't return to international duty. 

    The veteran of three World Cups was another pioneer who helped grow the game domestically at the club level. 

    With the LA Galaxy, Jones won two MLS Cups, two Supporters' Shields, two U.S. Open Cups and five Western Conference championships.

    As a surprise to no one, Jones was inducted to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2011 in his first year of eligibility. 

4. Clint Dempsey

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Clint Dempsey has gone from being the only American to score at the 2006 World Cup to the player who will lead his side out for the three games in Group G this month. 

    During the eight years between his first and most recent World Cup, Dempsey has proved himself as one of the best playmakers and leaders in American history.

    He succeeded in Europe with Fulham and Tottenham before he made the switch back to MLS with Seattle in 2013, and he has scored on 37 occasions on the international level, which is second-best all-time behind Donovan. 

    Dempsey also brings plenty of intangibles to the table, like his grit and determination, which makes him a wonderful all-around player. 

3. Brian McBride

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    The words grit and determination defined the career of Brian McBride as a forward at the highest level of the game. 

    The veteran of three World Cups began his international career in 1993 and officially ended it in 2008 after playing for the Stars and Stripes in the Beijing Olympics. 

    McBride scored goals at every level, and on every big stage for club and country, including his goals in 1998 and 2002 that made him the first American to score in two different World Cups. 

    He made a name for himself overseas with Fulham and produced double-digit goal totals for two seasons, as he helped pave the way for players like Dempsey in the next generation of American soccer. 

2. Claudio Reyna

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    MARK HUMPHREY/Associated Press

    Claudio Reyna wasn't handed the nickname "Captain America" just because he wore the armband for the Yanks on numerous occasions. 

    He earned the moniker because of his determination and will in the American midfield from 1994 to 2006. 

    Reyna made 111 appearances for the United States and played in three World Cups. He was named to the 1994 team, but he did not appear in a game. 

    Reyna also made a massive impact on the perception of Americans abroad, as he was a tremendous asset to teams like Rangers, Sunderland and Wolfsburg before retiring in 2008. 

1. Landon Donovan

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Naming the best player in American soccer history is quite easy because all you have to do is look at the record books. 

    Almost every record in American history, including most goals and assists, belongs to Landon Donovan, who is eight caps shy of the mark Jones set during his career. 

    Donovan is responsible for a ton of memorable moments at the international level, including his last-minute goal against Algeria in 2010, and his impact on the pitch during the 2002 upset over Portugal. 

    Donovan makes every single player around him better when he steps on the pitch, and despite not having a chance to shine in Brazil, his mark on the game in the States is a remarkable one that may never be matched. 

     

    Follow Joe on Twitter: @JTansey90.

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