MLS Stars in the Premier League: Ranking the Top 10 of All-Time
In recent years, it has become popular for former English Premier League players to head over the Atlantic Ocean and join Major League Soccer.
This has included star players such as David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Juan Pablo Angel, and Freddy Ljungberg; mid-level players like Darren Huckerby and Carl Robinson; and even Americans returning home in Kasey Keller and Claudio Reyna.
However, since MLS's inception in 1996, there have also been a number of players heading the other way too—with varying levels of success.
When Aston Villa signed Michael Bradley (pictured) during the January transfer window, he became the latest in a long line of American players to move to the Premier League.
Here we count down the 10 greatest who have gone before him.
10. It's a Tie!
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The following four ex-MLS players have managed just a season's worth of appearances in the Premier League thus far, but all had positive contributions during their time.
However, no single one of them could beat the other three out to earn 10th place on this list outright.
Therefor, 10th place on the list is shared by....
After starring for Chicago Fire and the US Men's National Team during the first few years of the century, he managed to catch the attention of scouts in Europe.
He arrived in the Premier League from PSV Eindhoven and went on to score three league goals for Manchester City in 18 games. Eventually, he made the move north of the border to join Glasgow Rangers in Scotland.
Jozy broke onto the MLS scene as a strong and skillful striker for the New York Red Bulls at the tender age of 16. After a strong performances for club and country, he was snapped up by Spanish club Villarreal for $10 million just two season later.
Struggling to see action in Spain, Altidore was loaned to Hull city for the 09/10 season and became a fan favorite despite only notching up one goal in his 28 Premier League appearances.
Convey is currently back in MLS with the San Jose Earthquakes after beginning his professional career with DC United.
In between, he played five seasons in England with Reading, two of which in the Premier League. He was a popular and dependable left sided player, but unfortunately, injury restricted him to just 29 appearances in the EPL.
Landon's spell with Everton was brief and included just 10 league appearances. However, he quickly impressed teammates, supporters, and management alike. So much so, that David Moyes looked to bring him back to the club on loan during the last transfer window.
With Donovan still in the prime of his career and starring for the national team, there is still time for a move back to the Premier League and climb higher up this list.
9. Stuart Holden
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Born in Scotland and raised in Texas, Holden's first professional club was English side Sunderland FC in 2005. But a series of injuries held him back, and he never made a first team appearance for the Black Cats.
After leaving Sunderland, Holden moved to the Houston Dynamo for the 2006 MLS season and established himself as a starting center midfielder over his three seasons there. These strong showings eventually broke him into the US national team.
Following the 2009 season, Holden spent several weeks in England where he was eventually signed by Bolton Wanderers during the 2010 January transfer window.
After impressing during his first season with the club, Holden was rewarded with a new contract and has since established himself as a starting midfielder for the Trotters. He has been in fine form throughout the 2010/11 season.
8. Stern John
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The Trinidad and Tobago striker moved to the United States to attend college. He wound up being one of the most prolific goalscorers in MLS history, notching up 44 goals in 55 appearances for Columbus Crew.
These goalscoring exploits earned him a move to England with Nottingham Forest, and, despite spending much of his career in the League Championship, he did manage to play part of four seasons in the Premier League with Birmingham and Sunderland.
Most of his 63 appearances in the Premier League were as a sub and John amassed only 10 goals. But this included a farewell goal to the league in his final game for Sunderland—a last minute equalizer against his former team Birmingham.
7. Marcus Hahnemann
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It is a testament to the strength of the US goalkeeping position over the last decade that a keeper like Marcus Hahnemann has only won eight US caps while playing over 350 games in England's top two leagues.
It wasn't instant success for Marcus who arrived at Fulham following three seasons in Major League Soccer with Colorado Rapids. After making just two appearances for the Cottagers, he found himself in Reading, where his exploits between the sticks helped them gain promotion to the Premier League.
After two seasons in the Premier League, Reading slipped back down to the Championship. But Hahnemann was only there for a season before he returned to the top flight with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Despite being signed as a back-up at Wolves, he was eventually given a chance in the first team by Mick McCarthy. A series of impressive performances kept Wolves in the League and won the 38-year-old American a contract extension through the end of the 2011 season.
6. Carlos Bocanegra
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The US Men's National Team captain was part of the "Fulhamerica" team of the mid to late 2000's, so called for the number of American players at the West London club.
Bocanegra made a total of 124 Premier League appearances for Fulham over five Premier League seasons, and he was eventually made captain of the team before leaving for Rennes after the 2008 season.
The left-footed defender began his professional career with Chicago Fire where he played for four seasons before securing his move across the pond.
5. Clint Dempsey
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It didn't take long for people to take note of Dempsey's ability once he was drafted into MLS by the New England Revolution.
He was a starting player immediately, took home Rookie of the Year honors in 2004, and helped the club reach consecutive MLS Cup finals before the MLS finally sold his rights to Fulham (after a failed bid by Charlton).
Clint's playing style has been described as tenacious and hardworking, combined with sublime ball control and attacking flair. All this made him a favorite with the Fulham faithful soon after his arrival.
One of his most memorable moments was when his lone goal gave Fulham a 1-0 win over Liverpool and saved the club from relegation.
English football fans also know him as the man who scored the goal for the USA against England in their 2010 World Cup group match (his second successive World Cup with a goal).
With 19 international goals already tallied in just 68 appearances, he has been just as impressive for his country as he has for club.
Thus far, in his five seasons in the Premier League, the man known as the "Deuce" has amassed over 137 appearances for Fulham and scoring 30 goals.
These stats are much more impressive than his rapping!
4. Brian McBride
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The US soccer hero has scored goals wherever he has played. His two spells in MLS with Columbus and Chicago resulted in over 80 goals, another 46 during his time in England, and a further 30 goals came for the US National team.
After time in Milwaukee and Germany, McBride was drafted #1 overall in the Inaugural MLS draft by Columbus. His goalscoring exploits interested clubs in Europe, and loan spells with Preston and Everton eventually resulted in a permanent move to Fulham for $1.5 million.
Aside from his goalscoring ability, McBride's work-rate and commitment endeared him to Fulham's fans and management alike. He was named the club's Player of the Year in 2005 and 2006, made team captain in 2007, and finished his career at Craven Cottage with 41 Premier League goals.
Perhaps the most telling sign of McBride's popularity in Fulham was recognized when the sports bar in Craven Cottage was renamed McBride's in his honor following his return to Major League Soccer in 2008.
3. Ryan Nelsen
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This Kiwi is not only captain of the New Zealand national team but the captain of the club where he has spent the last seven years of his career, Blackburn Rovers.
Despite initially being denied a work permit in England, Ryan impressed so much during his first six months there that he was rewarded with a three-year contract by the manager at the time, Mark Hughes. Nelson was made captain in his third season with Rovers.
The center defender was also a fan favorite and natural leader on his previous team, DC United. There, he built up a list of accolades and captained the team to an MLS Championship in 2004.
While captaining New Zealand in the 2010 World Cup, the "All Whites" were the only team to go through the tournament undefeated.
2. Tim Howard
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The British tabloids mocked Manchester United when they signed this "disabled" Yank back in 2003.
There's not many mocking him now.
The disability they were referencing was Tourette Syndrome which Howard was diagnosed with in the 6th Grade. Despite this, he was a standout high school athlete in his native New Jersey before getting his professional break for his local MLS team, the New York/New Jersey Metrostars.
During his sixth season of playing in the Meadowlands, Manchester United were still looking for a reliable replacement for Peter Schmeichel. They turned their attentions to Howard, who was impressing many with his performances in MLS.
His time at United has its ups (an FA Cup, League Cup, winning penalty save in the Community Shield) and downs (Champions League error which eliminated the team, losing his place to Roy Carroll twice) before the signing of Edwin Van Der Sar ended his United career.
In order to get first team football, Howard was loaned out to Everton, who quickly made the move permanent.
Almost 200 appearances for the Merseyside club later, Howard is not only regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the League, but his international performances have helped raise global recognition that he is one of the finest on the planet.
1. Brad Friedel
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This American goalkeeper began his professional career in Europe with Brondby and Galatasaray before joining the Columbus Crew during the inaugural season of Major League Soccer.
After two seasons and an MLS Goalkeeper of the Year accolade in 1997, he was given a chance with one of the biggest clubs in the world, Liverpool FC.
It was at Blackburn Rovers where he really made a name for himself as a solid, dependable, and often spectacular goalkeeper. He also became just the second goalkeeper in Premier League history to score a goal.
Following nearly 300 appearances for Blackburn, Friedel moved to Aston Villa in 2008 where he is still going strong at the ripe old age of 39 (a Villa record).
With nearly 400 Premier League appearances over 13 seasons, including the EPL record of consecutive appearances (he reached 250 on 1/16/11), there is no real debate as to who is the greatest ex-MLS player to have graced the English Premier League.
His name is Brad Friedel.