When it comes to soccer, the United States doesn’t have the same storied history as many of the more glamorous footballing nations of Europe or South America. Despite that, they have been slowly clawing their way into relevancy over the last three decades. After failing to qualify for every single World Cup between 1954 and 1986, the United States have been a part of every tournament since Italia ’90. They even hosted the 1994 World Cup, coinciding with the launch of their own domestic league, Major League Soccer. While the overall quality of MLS is still lacking behind the top leagues in Europe, it’s important to remember that those other nations had about a 100-year head start on developing players.
That’s not to say that the U.S. hasn’t had any good players wear their jersey — quite the opposite. America has produced a number of good — even great — players over the years, who would probably hold legend status if they had been lucky enough to be born in Italy, Spain, Brazil, Germany, or Argentina. Instead they are merely adored by the small (but quickly growing) segment of Americans who call themselves soccer fans. Here are our picks for the greatest American soccer players ever (males only, this time).
13. Alexi Lalas
You may think we only included Alexi Lalas on our list so that we could talk about his glorious hair/goatee combo that made his famously recognizable. But that would be a discredit to his on-field career, which was also quite good. Lalas played two seasons for Padova in Serie A before joining MLS in its inaugural 1996 season. He played for four different MLS sides, culminating in a handful of silverware with the Los Angeles Galaxy — a U.S. Open Cup in 2001, and both the Supporter’s Shield and MLS Cup in 2002.
On the national team, Lalas racked up 96 caps (with 9 goals to boot, which isn’t bad for a defender). He played every minute of every game for the U.S. in the 1994 World Cup on home soil and selected as the 1995 U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year by the United States Soccer Federation. These days, Lalas remains involved in the game, working as an analyst for MLS broadcasts on FOX Sports.(AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle)