In the years that soccer has become popularized in the United States, the English Premier League has seen many Americans ply their trade in the world’s most famous league.
We have been blessed with players like Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan across the pond, while practically all of America’s top goalkeepers of the past 20 years have played in the Premier League.
From the early days with players like Joe-Max Moore to shot-stoppers like Brad Friedel and Tim Howard, we look at the best American players in Premier League history.
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The Best Americans in Premier League History Ranked from 1-6
The debate surrounding the best American soccer player of all time currently falls between Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. In terms of Americans in the Premier League, however, the latter only played in 17 matches in two loan spells for Everton and scored just two goals, so Dempsey is the clear winner in this debate.
In total, Dempsey netted 50 goals in 184 Premier League games for Fulham, as well as seven in 29 games in his one season at Tottenham Hotspur. This makes him the highest scorer of all American Premier League players by quite a lot.
Dempsey’s last two seasons at Fulham are the stuff of legends, as he earned the club’s Player of the Season in 2010-11 and 2011-12. In the first of those campaigns in west London, he scored 12 goals in 37 games from attacking midfield. His final season at Fulham ended with a stunning 17 goals in 37 games — a record that legendary goal-scoring midfielders like Frank Lampard would love.
The former New England Revolution man also scored a goal that “might become the most famous goal in Fulham’s history,” as stated by The Guardian, when he netted a beautiful long-range chip against Juventus as part of its run to the Europa League final against all the odds.
All due respect to Donovan, but he is more known for his time with German giants, Bayern Munich, rather than for his two loan spells in England.
Tim Howard made his debut for the national squad in 2002, and a year later, he would join Manchester United in England’s top flight in a move that stunned other Premier League clubs.
At the time, United was winning almost everything in England. Although Edwin van der Sar would force Howard out of the club after four seasons, American fans may remember him for winning the FA Cup with United. Subsequently, he became the first and only American to win the FA Cup in its 152-year history.
Most will remember Howard from his days at Everton, becoming a key player across 10 years at Goodison Park. He made 399 top-flight appearances in England, including 132 clean sheets and even one goal. Howard is also famed for having made the most saves in a World Cup game, with 15 against Belgium at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Howard will always be regarded as one of the best U.S. soccer players ever.
Similarly to Dempsey and Donovan, the debate regarding the best American footballers in the in goal falls between Howard and Friedel.
Although Howard boasts a better career with the national team, Friedel wins the argument at the English Premier League club level. The former Aston Villa goalkeeper has the most consecutive appearances in the Premier League from a starting spot, with 310 in a row from 2004-12.
Friedel also spent three seasons at Liverpool, but made a name for himself more so at Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham, while his three-year stint at Aston Villa saw him help the club to sixth in the league twice.
He ended his career in England after 450 appearances, which remains a record for any North or South American player, as he also registered one goal and 132 clean sheets.
One of the most famous Americans in Premier League history is Claudio Reyna. The former Manchester City man was one of the first superstars to arrive across the pond and earned the nickname ‘Captain America’.
Reyna played 105 times in the Premier League and scored seven goals and one assist. Three of those goals came in his debut season in the division with Sunderland in 2001-02. After one more season with the Black Cats, Reyna moved to Manchester City with a reputation as arguably the greatest American soccer player on the planet.
Terrible luck with injuries stunted his career in England, but his partnership with Joey Barton at City helped the Citzens avoid relegation during his four-year stay in Manchester. For this, he gets ahead of previous Americans in the Premier League like Donovan, Harkes and Carlos Bocanegra.
While people will argue the case for Christian Pulisic to be higher on this list, after just 90 appearances for Chelsea in the Premier League and only 20 goals, Pulisic has struggled to adapt in England and has missed an almighty amount of games because of his poor form. With this in mind, we can’t look past Brian McBride for number five
McBridge started his Premier League career with a loan spell at Everton, where he became an instant cult hero at Goodison Park with four goals in eight Premier League appearances.
This earned him a move to Fulham, where McBridge scored 33 times in 140 games. This is a lower goals-to-game ratio than Pulisic, but the ex-Fulham man also played for a team not competing for league titles like Chelsea.
McBride was an integral part of the Fulham team that narrowly avoided relegation in 2006-07, as he played every game and scored nine times. This also earned him the captaincy for his fifth and final season at Craven Cottage and he also got Fulham’s Player of the Year award in 2005 and 2006.
A superstar in his own way, but McBridge is also perhaps the most underrated of all Americans in Premier League years.
Despite only playing in 90 Premier League games from a possible 131 since joining Chelsea, Pulisic remains the best of all American Premier League players right now.
The ex-Borussia Dortmund man has scored 20 times in the league and scored goals in the FA Cup semifinals and the Champions League, too.
There is barely an argument for Pulisic to be higher on this list, despite his excellent ability. Over time, this could change as long as he plays more than he is now.
In fact, of all active Americans in the Premier League, Pulisic is playing much less frequently than stars like Brenden Aaronson.
How Many Americans Play In The Premier League?
As of January 2023, seven USMNT players are in the Premier League as USMNT players like Zack Steffen and Ethan Horvath are on loan from Premier League clubs in the Championship.
There are also stars like Folarin Balogun, who has American citizenship and played for the United States U-18 men’s national team, but is currently opting to play for England instead.
Who are USMNT players, U.S. managers, and coaches in EPL 2022-23?
There are more Americans in the EPL than in previous years. Leeds United has the most, as they have two players and one manager from the U.S. Jesse Marsch is the manager of Leeds United, and last season, he brought in Brenden Aaronson from RB Salzburg and Tyler Adams from RB Leipzig. Tyler Adams is also the captain of the USMNT.
Another club with a few USMNT players in England’s top flight is Fulham. Antonee Robinson has been with the Cottagers since 2020, joining famous Americans like McBridge and Dempsey, who have played for Fulham.
Tim Ream is another man at Fulham, and last season, he played every game in the division below the Premier League to help Fulham win the league title and earn promotion back into the top flight. Tim Ream also played for Bolton Wanderers in the league in 2011-12 and started his career in 2003 with Chicago Fire Premier.
Matt Turner was the latest American to join the famous line of goalkeepers from the United States, as he joined from the New England Revolution last year. Matt Turner only plays for Arsenal as a backup to Aaron Ramsdale, and he is unlikely to make that many Premier League appearances while with the club.
Crystal Palace also has Chris Richards in defense. Chris Richards is one of the rising stars of U.S. soccer, having come through Bayern Munich’s famous youth academy before joining Crystal Palace.
Christian Pulisic needs no introduction, as he has already won trophies like the Champions League with Chelsea at just 23. Reports claim that Pulisic won’t sign a one-year contract extension with the Blues, however, because of a lack of playing time. Nevertheless, he remains the best of all Americans playing in the Premier League.
Do any American players play in the Premier League?
Yes, several, in fact. There are seven Americans who play for a club in England’s top tier, such as former Red Bull Salzburg star, Brenden Aaronson, and Antonee Robinson. The man nicknamed ‘Captain America’, Christian Pulisic, plays in the Chelsea attack, too.
Do any Americans play soccer in Europe?
There are many Americans currently playing in Europe and they are spread out across top leagues. Players like Weston McKennie play for Juventus in Italy, while stars like Yunus Musah are at Valencia in Spain.In fact, out of the 23-man squad that went to the World Cup for the USMNT, 17 of those played in Europe.
Who was the first American to play in the Premier League?
John Harkes was the first American at a Premier League side. He was first in the league with Sheffield Wednesday in 1990 and later joined English clubs like West Ham and Nottingham Forest. He made 82 appearances for the Owls between 1990 and 1993, scoring seven goals.
Has an American ever played for Liverpool?
Brad Friedel is the best-known American previously at Liverpool. He made just 31 appearances in three seasons. Zak Whitbread is another ex-Liverpool man. He only played seven times in three years. Hugh Lester played for the club in 1911, becoming the first non-Brit to play for Liverpool.
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