Clint Dempsey scored 71 goals during his time in England. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
Major League Soccer is rapidly becoming a breeding ground for young soccer players looking to make it abroad, as well as a destination for young imports looking for regular game time.
The exploits of Tyler Adams in last season’s UEFA Champions League underlined the potential of young U.S. players making it abroad, and the news that no fewer than 10 U.S. men’s national players have been picked in this year’s Champions League squads is further proof of the potential the USA has.
Christian Pulisic is part of a new generation of USMNT players making a name in England.
For example, Christian Pulisic is with English team Chelsea, former Champions League winners, and in a country that is well known for domestic soccer, and has been welcoming U.S. stars for several years.
While the rest of Europe is just waking up to the potential of American soccer, England has been welcoming players with open arms for the past few decades, with several notable names plying their trade in the Premier League. So with that in mind, here are four of the best Americans who made their name long before Barcelona and Bayern Munich started to bring in U.S. talent.
Dempsey had two spells in MLS, one with New England Revolution at the start of his career, and another with Seattle Sounders in his final years. In between, he had a sensational spell in the Premier League, with Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur. He was part of the Fulham team that reached the UEFA Cup final in 2010 before moving to the Spurs for a fee reportedly to be worth $ 9million. Dempsey played 275 games in England, scoring an impressive 71 goals. He also had a great run for the USMNT, netting 57 times in 141 outings.
Keller emerged in England before Dempsey, having been understudy to Tony Meola at the 1990 World Cup. That prompted a move to Millwall, where he impressed sufficiently to join Leicester City in the Premier League. He played 99 times for Leicester, whose Premier League title win in 2016 was named by Gala Bingo as one of the top winning moments of the year. Keller helped Leicester to an unlikely League Cup win in 1997, a tournament that the club also won in 2000. He spent the rest of his career in Europe, with spells in Spain and Germany and in England with Fulham and Spurs.
Harkes was a trailblazer in the English game, leaving the Albany Capitals (American Professional Soccer League) for Sheffield Wednesday after appearing in the 1990 World Cup. In his first season, he secured goal of the season in the First Division, later the Premier League, and became only the second U.S. soccer player to appear at Wembley, the first as a professional. He also performed for West Ham, Derby County and Nottingham Forest, before returning to MLS with D.C. United and Columbus Crew SC. He is the head coach of USL League One side Greenville Triumph SC, which will play for the league championship Friday.
U.S. keepers have tended to have more success than outfield players, and few could be considered as having more success than Howard. He played for North Jersey Imperials (U.S. Interregional Soccer League) and MetroStars, who became the Red Bulls. Then he made a move to Manchester United, one of the most successful clubs in the world. While at Old Trafford, Howard won the FA Cup and the League Cup but found himself on the fringes of the first team. That prompted a move to Everton, where he appeared 414 times in a 10-year stay, including scoring a goal with a wind-assisted 101-yard clearance. He later returned to the U.S. with Colorado Rapids and most recently Memphis 901 in the United Soccer League.