Ranking the 10 best American stars in Premier League history: Pulisic fourth, Friedel second…

Ryan Baldi
Christian Pulisic, Brad Friedel

Former Premier League stars Christian Pulisic and Brad Friedel

Since the Premier League began in 1992, a total of 57 American players have featured in England’s top flight, and at least one US native has appeared in each Premier League season since its inaugural campaign.

With football/soccer on the rise in the US, TEAMtalk’s Ryan Baldi decided to rank the 10 best American stars in Premier League history.

10 – Kasey Keller

A goalkeeper who played over 100 times for the United States, Keller spent four seasons in the second tier with Millwall upon arriving in English football.

In 1996, he got his chance in the Premier League when he joined Leicester, helping the newly promoted Foxes seal a top-half finish and a League Cup triumph in his first season at Filbert Street.

After two seasons in Spain with Rayo Vallecano, Keller returned to the Premier League in 2001, joining Tottenham. He played 97 times for Spurs before short stints with Southampton and Fulham.

9 – John Harkes

The first American ever to play in the Premier League, John Harkes was already a League Cup winner with Sheffield Wednesday before the top flight was rebranded in 1992.

A US soccer trailblazer, Harkes also had spells with Derby County and West Ham, as well as a short return to England on loan with Nottingham Forest in 1999.

The midfielder went back to his homeland for the inauguration of MLS in 1996 and was twice an MLS Cup winner with DC United, in addition to earning 90 USMNT caps.

8 – Landon Donovan

So good they signed him twice! Landon Donovan was the poster child of US soccer in the 2000s. And although his European career is best remembered for his time in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen, he played 17 Premier League games for Everton across two loans spells.

The attacking midfielder earned Player of the Month honours in his first stint at Goodison Park and impressed sufficiently that the Toffees wanted to extend the deal they’d struck with LA Galaxy to keep him longer, but the MLS side refused.

He came back two years later, however, for another loan at the end of the MLS season. And although he wasn’t able to add to his tally of two goals from this initial Everton loan, Donovan provided seven assists in just nine games before heading back to the Galaxy.

7 – Claudio Reyna

Claudio Reyna was regarded as one of the most gifted American players of his generation, and he certainly lived up to that billing with the USMNT, earning 112 caps and appearing in three World Cups.

But he was never quite able to sustain his best form during five years in the Premier League. He arrived in 2001 fresh off winning a league and cup double in Scotland with Rangers. But injuries were a frequent factor during spells with Sunderland and Manchester City.

The peak of his career in England came during the second half of the 2004-05 season, when he was a key figure in City’s eight-game unbeaten run to earn an eight-place finish under Stuart Pearce.

6 – Carlos Bocanegra

Regarded as one of the best defenders the United States has ever produced, Carlos Bocanegra was named MLS Defender of the Year twice in his early career before he signed for Fulham in 2004.

The 110-cap USMNT star spent four and a half years at Craven Cottage, racking up 113 appearances and becoming a firm fan favourite for his endeavour and uncompromising style of play.

The centre-back was even the club’s second-highest scorer in the 2006-07 season, when his return of five goals was bettered only by fellow American Brian McBride…

5 – Brian McBride

…who just happens to be the next player on this list. McBride’s initial introduction to English football was through a short loan spell with David Moyes’ Preston in 2000.

He only managed one goal in nine appearances for the second-tier side, but Moyes was evidently impressed as, after the Scot had taken charge at Goodison Park, he brought in McBride for another loan from parent club Columbus Crew in 2004. And the manager’s faith was rewarded as the powerful striker netted four times in eight games.

It was with Fulham that McBride truly established roots in English football, though. He scored 41 goals in four and a half seasons at Craven Cottage and was twice named the club’s Player of the Year.

4 – Christian Pulisic

Christian Pulisic arrived at Chelsea in 2019 with expectations as high as his £58million price tag.

The USMNT superstar had shot to prominence as a teen at Borussia Dortmund, quickly establishing himself as one of the most dynamic attacking midfielders in Europe.

Ultimately, his four seasons at Stamford Bridge didn’t quite match those early expectations, but 26 goals from 145 games and a Champions League winners medal would represent serious success by most measures.

3 – Tim Howard

The latest in a long line of keepers attempting to fill the void left in the Manchester United goal by Peter Schmeichel’s 1999 departure, Tim Howard was a shock signing from the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in 2003.

Howard took Fabien Barthez’s place as the No.1 at Old Trafford and impressed initially, an FA Cup winner in his first season and named in the PFA Team of the Year.

After difficult subsequent form and losing his starting place to Roy Carroll, Howard re-established himself as one of the Premier League’s top goalkeepers across a decade with Everton.

2 – Brad Friedel

Liverpool signed Brad Friedel from Columbus Crew for £1.7m in 1997 and, despite a bright start to life at Anfield, a downturn in form saw him have to settle for a back-up role for much of his three years with his club.

But a free transfer to Blackburn in November 2000 rejuvenated the American goalkeeper’s career. He was part of a League Cup-winning team in his first full season with the club, and no Premier League goalkeeper kept more clean sheets than Friedel in 2002-03, a campaign in which he was also named in the PFA Premier League team of the year.

Over eight seasons with Blackburn and another three with Aston Villa, Friedel remained one of the most consistent and reliable goalkeepers in the Premier League.

1 – Clint Dempsey

The $4m Fulham forked out to sign Clint Dempsey from the New England Revolution in December 2006 was the biggest fee ever paid for an MLS player at the time. It would turn out to be one of the great Premier League bargains.

An adept scorer from midfield, Dempsey’s goals powered the Cottagers’ unlikely run to the Europa League final in the 2009-10 season, including a sublime chip against Juventus as Fulham vanquished the Italian giants in the last-16.

The 141-cap USMNT star scored 60 goals in 223 games for Fulham – including a team-high 23 in his final season with the club – before signing for Tottenham in 2012.

He was unable to replicate his best form at White Hart Lane and returned to MLS with the Portland Timbers after just one season. But for his five and a half glorious years at Fulham, Dempsey is remembered as the Unites States’ greatest Premier League star.