United States
USMNT All-Time XI: Does Christian Pulisic make the cut?
United States

USMNT All-Time XI: Does Christian Pulisic make the cut?

Updated Jun. 24, 2024 3:48 p.m. ET

The Summer of Stars is in full swing on FOX with the European Championship in Germany and the United States-hosted Copa América. Both tournaments feature the world's best soccer players, but how many of them are all-time great players for their respective countries?

To answer that question, FOX Sports has put together 11 all-time international teams. Up next is the United States.

*All-time stats and records for individuals mentioned below refer to men's national team only

GK: Brad Friedel


Caps: 82
Notable clubs: Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur

It's hard not to go with Tim Howard, the Americans' all-time caps leader in goal who made a World Cup record 15 saves in the 2014 round of 16 loss to Belgium. But with all respect to Howard, Friedel was the most talented in a long line of elite USMNT keepers. In 2002, he backstopped the most successful U.S. team of the modern era, saving two penalty kicks in the group stage — including one in a crucial 1-1 tie with World Cup co-host South Korea — as the U.S. reached the quarterfinals. Friedel retired from the national team a year before Germany 2006 but continued to excel in the English Premier League into his 40s. He still holds the Prem record for consecutive games played, with 310. 

DEF: Sergiño Dest

Caps: 32
Notable clubs: Ajax, FC Barcelona, AC Milan, PSV Eindhoven

As solid a servant as Steve Cherundolo was as the USMNT's No. 1 right back for more than a decade, Dest is the most gifted right back in program history. Born and raised in the Netherlands to a Dutch mother and American serviceman dad, he rejected the advances of then-Oranje manager Ronald Koeman and committed his international future to the U.S. in 2019.  Just 23, he's already suited up for Ajax, Barcelona, AC Milan and current club PSV — teams with 17 European titles between them. Dest was a standout at the 2022 World Cup, starting all for games and providing the game-winning assist to Christian Pulisic in the 1-0 group stage win over Iran — a victory that put the U.S. into the knockout stage. 

DEF: Eddie Pope

Caps: 82
Notable clubs: D.C. United, Real Salt Lake

Widely considered the best U.S. defender of all time despite spending his entire professional career in Major League Soccer, Pope backstopped his country to the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002 and was a first-choice starter in 1998 and 2006, too. His elegant style on the field and low-key manner off of it belied his physical dominance, particularly in the air. The University of North Carolina product was also superb at club level, leading D.C. United to three MLS Cups, two Supporters Shields and Concacaf, Intercontinental and U.S. Open Cup titles in the late 1990s. 

DEF: Carlos Bocanegra

Caps: 110
Notable clubs: Chicago Fire, Fulham, Rangers

A starter at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, Bocanegra captained the USMNT at the latter and at the 2009 Confederations Cup, where the U.S. stunned all-conquering Spain in the semis before falling 3-2 to Brazil in the final. The UCLA product also wore the armband for Fulham in the Premier League and for Rangers in Scotland. In addition to his leadership and lockdown defending, Bocanegra also had a penchant for scoring in big moments. His 14 goals are the most of any U.S. center back, and he was Fulham's second top marksman during the 2006-07 season, trailing only fellow American Brian McBride. 

DEF: Antonee "Jedi" Robinson

Caps: 41
Notable clubs: Fulham

For decades, the USMNT's left back depth chart was so shallow that a parade of right backs or converted wingers — Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Lewis and  DaMarcus Beasley among them — ended up manning the hard-to-fill spot. But natural lefty and noted Star Wars fan Robinson has made the position his own. England born and raised, the lightning quick two-way fullback was one of the top American performers at the 2022 World Cup, helping shut down right-sided Three Lions stars Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka in a scoreless draw with England in Qatar. He's only gotten better since, emerging as one of the best left backs in the Premier League in 2023-24 and winning the Cottagers' player of the season award.

MID: Weston McKennie

Caps: 51
Notable clubs: FC Schalke 04, Juventus

It's not just that McKennie has been an automatic starter ever since making his U.S. debut — and scoring — against Portugal in 2017, when he was still just a teenager.  Now 25, the hard-running Texan was one of the top midfielders in all of Italy's Serie A last season. In May, McKennie helped Juventus win the Italian Cup, his second since arriving in Turin in 2020. He's played in the UEFA Champions League with both Juve and German club Schalke, which signed the six-foot, box-to-box midfielder out of the FC Dallas academy in 2016. McKennie was voted U.S. Soccer's Male Player of the Year in 2020 and he was named the  Concacaf Nations League finals MVP a year later. He started all four games for the U.S. at the 2022 World Cup and also helped the USMNT retain their Nations League crown in 2023 and 2024, playing all 210 minutes in this year's finals as the Americans topped Jamaica in the semis and Mexico in the title decider.  

MID: John O'Brien

Caps: 32
Notable clubs: Ajax

Injuries cut short his ascendant career, but it's no coincidence that O'Brien was a key figure on the two most successful U.S. men's teams of the modern era. The cerebral, technically brilliant, two-way central midfielder logged every minute of the Americans' run to the semifinals of the 2000 Olympics and the quarters at the 2002 World Cup, where he scored the opening goal in the 3-1 group stage upset of Portugal. 

"When he's on the field, he makes us so much better," U.S. captain Claudia Reyna said at the time of O'Brien, who left his native California for Ajax's famed academy at 16 and went on to help the Amsterdam club win two Dutch titles and reach the last eight of the Champions League. His last professional match came in 2006 at the age of 28. 

MID: Tab Ramos

Caps: 87
Notable clubs: Real Betis, MetroStars

Arguably the most skillful attacking talent in program history, Ramos was the piano player on U.S. squads dominated by piano carriers at the 1990, '94 and '98 World Cups. Born in Uruguay, Ramos moved to New Jersey at 11 and soon found himself on the same youth team as fellow future National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee John Harkes. He was drafted by the New York Cosmos of the old North American Soccer League while still in high school, and though he accepted a college scholarship instead, Ramos went on to play for Spain's Real Betis (who he helped get promoted to La Liga) and Tigres of Mexico before coming home to help launch MLS in 1996 as the new league's first signing. A year after being named Concacaf's best player, in 1994, he helped the U.S. reach the semifinals of the Copa América — a run that included a stunning 3-0 group stage win over Argentina

FW: Christian Pulisic

Caps: 66
Notable clubs: Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea FC, AC Milan

Still just 25, Pulisic is well on his way toward becoming the best American men's player ever. He was the first U.S. player to appear in and win the UEFA Champions League when he helped former club Chelsea to the European title in 2021. He's got four U.S. Soccer Player of the Year awards already, tied with Landon Donovan for the most all-time, and he scored the game-winner over Iran to send the USMNT to the knockout stage of the 2022 World Cup. Pulisic is only improving as his prime approaches. In his first season with Italian titan AC Milan in 2023-24, Pulisic set career highs in goals (15), games (50) and minutes played (3,617). His next strike for the U.S. will pull him even with Brian McBride for fifth on the USMNT's all-time scoring chart and just two shy of fourth-place Eric Wynalda. 

FW: Clint Dempsey

Caps: 141
Notable clubs: New England Revolution, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur, Seattle Sounders FC

The only American to find the net at three different World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014), Dempsey is also the joint-top scorer for the national team along with Donovan — though "Deuce" bagged his 57 career U.S. goals in 16 fewer games. The rangy Texan would surely stand alone if not for a heart ailment that sidelined him for parts of 2016 and '17. Dempsey is also still Fulham's all-time leading scorer in England's Premier League, with 50 Prem goals for the London club between 2006-12. He tallied another 47 times for the Seattle Sounders and won an MLS Cup before calling it a career midway through the 2018 season. 

FW: Landon Donovan

Caps: 157
Notable clubs: San Jose Earthquakes, LA Galaxy, Bayern Munich, Everton

Donovan burst on the scene at the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Cup, where the Southern Californian won the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player and led the Americans to the semifinals. Three years later, he scored twice at the main event in Japan/Korea as the U.S. narrowly lost to Germany in the quarters. (Donovan was named the top youngster at the 2002 World Cup afterward.) He had three goals in four games in South Africa in 2010, and he won a record six MLS Cups between stints with topflight European clubs Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and Everton. With 58 career assists, Donovan trails only Brazilian great Neymar for the most helpers ever at the international level. 

Honorable mention

Tim Howard, Marcelo Balboa, DaMarcus Beasley, Claudio Reyna, Michael Bradley 

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered the United States men's and women's national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him at @ByDougMcIntyre.

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