Pulisic, Reyna, Dempsey: Ranking the top 10 Americans to play in the Premier League

  • Tom Ward
Ranking the top 10 Americans to play in the Premier League

The United States of America has had a multitude of stars represent the red, white and blue flag in the Premier League over the years. 

And while some have become household names, others have flown under the radar. 

The likes of Clint Dempsey, Brad Friedel, Christian Pulisic and Claudio Reyna have all given a good account of themselves for the Prem’s ‘Big Six’.  

But there are some names who younger football fans might not remember quite as well but also fully deserve their place on this list. 

We take a look at the greatest Americans to ever grace the Premier League…

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10. John Harkes

Included on this list by virtue of the fact he was the first American to ever play in the Premier League, the former USMNT captain first crossed the Atlantic to join Sheffield Wednesday in 1990, playing a total of 87 games and scoring seven goals for The Owls.

Widely regarded as one of his country’s all-time greats, he spent seven seasons playing in England and was the first American to appear in the newly-formed Premier League.  

Landon Donovan in action for Everton against Liverpool

9. Landon Donovan

The former LA Galaxy forward was the poster boy for Major League Soccer but his career in the English top flight could have been so much more than it was.

Donovan was greatly admired at Everton during two successive stints at Goodison Park, but sadly for them he was well past his prime, and announced his initial retirement two years later. 

However, two goals and nine assists in 22 appearances across all competitions is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.

Marcus Hahnemann of Reading

8. Marcus Hahnemann

Up next we have Marcus Hahnemann, who established himself as the first-choice goalkeeper at Reading, making over 300+ appearances for the club and racking up 13 clean sheets and more saves than any other top flight ‘keeper during the 2006-07 season – the year before the Royals got relegated. 

Can’t say we remember too much about him but he is also apparently a qualified pilot, heavy metal enthusiast and keeper of chickens.

Need we say more? 

Carlos Bocanegra battles for the ball with Wayne Rooney

7. Carlos Bocanegra

A former international teammate of Donovan’s, it’s a shame the two don’t exactly see eye to eye anymore these days.

Bocanegra may not have been the most technical nor the most brilliant on this list, but he was by far one of the most reliable.

A two-time MLS Defender of the Year, the centre-back chipped in with goals as well, finishing the 2006-07 season as Fulham‘s second-highest goalscorer with five goals, behind only fellow American Brian McBride. 

Brian McBride celebrates after scoring against Everton

6. Brian McBride

Like Bocanegra, McBride was also a key figure for Chris Coleman’s Fulham side that kept themselves in the top flight at the end of the 2006/07 season. 

McBride went on to make 148 league appearances for the Cottagers, and although he didn’t score many – just 36 in that time – he showed plenty of grit and determination at the top of the pitch.

He didn’t manage to win a trophy at Craven Cottage but was named Fulham’s captain ahead of the 2008/07 campaign.  

Christian Pulisic in action for Chelsea

5. Christian Pulisic

Some may say that it’s perhaps a little bit too premature for Pulisic to be so high up on this list, but when you look at what he’s managed to achieve in such an incredibly short space of time, it’s hard to argue otherwise.   

Pulisic signed for Chelsea in 2019 after four years at Borussia Dortmund, aged just 20. He made headlines later that year when he scored his first hat-trick for the club in a 4-2 away win over Burnley and ended the season with 11 goals and 10 assists in all competitions. 

Overall ‘Captain America’ has played 54 times for Chelsea, winning the Champions League and UEFA Super Cup.  

Claudio Reyna in action for Manchester City

4. Claudio Reyna

Reyna joined Manchester City in 2003 with a reputation for being one of the best players the United States has ever produced. 

While the ravages of injury robbed the world of the opportunity of seeing the original ‘Captain America’ at the peak of his powers, the father of Giovanni Reyna still gave fans a glimpse of what he could do – striking up a fine partnership with Joey Barton and helping Stuart Pearce’s side avoid the drop zone.

Brad Friedel tussles with Peter Crouch

3. Brad Friedel

He arrived in England in the Premier League with Liverpool but it was at Blackburn Rovers Friedel would gain a reputation for having the safest pair of hands in the top flight. 

Between 2000 and 2008, he made 290 total appearances for Blackburn; he then starred for Aston Villa, playing 114 times over three seasons in the EPL during the late Noughties. 

He left Villa Park for one final shot at glory with Tottenham Hotspur, proving an able deputy for the newly-arrived Hugo Lloris.  

Tim Howard saves a penalty from Dimitar Berbatov

2. Tim Howard

In his prime, Howard was one of the league’s best stoppers.

With Manchester United, under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, he was a key part of the side who won the FA Cup, the League Cup and Community Shield during the early-2000’s.

After playing 45 games for the Red Devils, the New Jersey native went on to play for Everton – where he made over 300 appearances – and the Colorado Rapids. 

Clint Dempsey is widely recognised as the greatest men's American soccer player in history

1. Clint Dempsey

Who else? In the history of the Premier League, there are few Americans who have captured the hearts, souls and minds of fans more so than Clint Dempsey. He is widely regarded as the greatest men’s American soccer player in history.   

Like a few others featured on this list, Dempsey made a name for himself at Craven Cottage. After moving from New England Revolution, he enjoyed his best season with the Cottagers in  2011–12, scoring 20 goals in all competitions. 

Moving on to Tottenham and then Seattle, he helped the Sounders win the Supporters’ Shield in 2014, though they were eliminated in the conference finals of the MLS Cup by rivals La Galaxy. 

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