The best Americans to play in the Premier League: From Dempsey to Pulisic

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From Fulhamerica to a Champions League winner, GOAL takes a look at the best Americans to play in England's top-flight

The Premier League is viewed by many people in the United States as the pinnacle of the club game. It's the division where the spotlight is brightest, the one where stars are made and broadcast onto TVs all over the world. It's where kids honing their crafts on stateside pitches aspire to play.

A total of 49 Americans have competed in England's top flight, with the league hosting many of American soccer's best ever exports.

From a seemingly unending stream of bald goalkeepers to a legendary group at Fulhamerica, the U.S. has delivered very important players to Premier League teams in recent decades.

With that said, GOAL takes a look at the 10 best Americans to ever play in the Premier League.

  1. Landon Donovan
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    #10 Landon Donovan

    Tenth on our list not because of lack of impact but rather a lack of time.

    The LA Galaxy icon spent just a few months on loan at Everton across two spells, but the impact he made during his brief stays in England was massive.

    During his first stint in 2010, Donovan scored two goals in 13 appearances and was named the club's Player of the Month in January.

    In his second crack at the Premier League, he provided three assists in just seven games, including helpers in wins over Chelsea and Manchester City.

    Everton would have loved to have kept him, but it wasn't to be as the Galaxy were determined to keep hold of their legendary American star.

    However, those brief spells proved that Donovan did, in fact, have the talent to make it at the highest level.

  2. John Harkes
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    #9 John Harkes

    A true trailblazer, a player that was present for the transition into what we now know as the Premier League, Harkes was the first American to play in the newly-formed division as a member of Sheffield Wednesday.

    He made a total of 137 top-flight appearances for the Owls, even if a bulk of those came before the formation of the Premier League.

    Harkes, who also lined out for Derby County and West Ham, was one of the greatest American players of his era and one of the first to prove that USMNT stars could cut it at the highest level in Europe.

  3. Geoff Cameron

    #8 Geoff Cameron

    Only one American outfield player amassed more Premier League appearances than Cameron, who was a regular for Stoke as the club remained a top-flight regular for years.

    Cameron's career began with the Houston Dynamo, where he earned a move to Stoke at the age of 27. He appeared in 168 Premier League games as he proved something of a Swiss Army Knife for the club.

    A player who could line up as a holding midfielder, right back or center back, Cameron provided a rare level of versatility during his six-year stay.

    He moved to QPR in 2018-19 to begin a three-year stint in the Championship before eventually joining FC Cincinnati in 2021.

  4. Claudio Reyna
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    #7 Claudio Reyna

    The original Captain America.

    Reyna is one of America's best-ever exports, having also starred at Rangers before arriving in England.

    His spell at Sunderland was marred by a torn ACL, and his time at Manchester City also saw him battle several injury issues.

    However, he did make a total of 105 appearances in the Premier League and was a hugely popular figure, even if his best days were spent in Scotland and Germany.

    Fun fact: His son, Borussia Dortmund star Gio, was born in Sunderland, making him eligible for England's national team. However, as we all know, he followed in his father's footsteps by playing for the USMNT.

  5. Carlos Bocanegra
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    #6 Carlos Bocanegra

    Probably the greatest American defender of all time, Bocanegra had a long European career that included time at Rennes, Sant-Etienne, Rangers and Racing Santander.

    But it was at Fulham that he had his longest stay as he spent six seasons as a regular at Craven Cottage.

    One of the few Americans to earn the honor of captaining a team at that level, Bocanegra was one of the leaders of the Fulhamerica revolution, making 133 total appearances while scoring eight goals for the club. Strangely, during the 2006-07 season, he was Fulham's second-leading scorer with five goals.

    After Fulham, Boca toured several other European countries before ending his career in 2014 as a member of the now-defunct Chivas USA.

  6. Brian McBride
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    #5 Brian McBride

    A true hero at Craven Cottage, McBride's impact at Fulham cannot be understated. They even named a pub after him!

    After a loan spell at Everton, McBride moved to Fulham in 2003, embarking on a six-year run with the club. He scored 33 Premier League goals across 140 appearances – numbers that don't fully describe the impact he had.

    Indeed, he was named Fulham’s Player of the Year twice and was awarded the captaincy in August 2007.

    McBride's time at Fulham ended in 2008, as he returned to the U.S. to join the Chicago Fire, but his legacy remains to this day at Craven Cottage, much like the pub that now bears his name.

  7. Christian Pulisic
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    #4 Christian Pulisic

    The only active player on the list, Pulisic is still writing his story, but he's already accomplished things Americans could never have dreamed of a decade or two ago.

    While a Champions League trophy technically shouldn't lift his Premier League resume, it certainly counts for something as Pulisic has reached unprecedented heights at Chelsea. He's also won the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup with the Blues, becoming this generation's Captain America in the process.

    In the Premier League, Pulisic has scored 19 goals in 74 games for Chelsea, even as he's battled untimely injuries.

    While his career is still young, Pulisic has already solidified himself as an American legend, and any further glory in the Premier League will only take that status even higher.

  8. Tim Howard
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    #3 Tim Howard

    A true Everton icon with a decade of positive moments at Goodison Park.

    Howard initially moved to England to join Manchester United, serving as the club's full-time No. 1 throughout his first season at Old Trafford. However, he was eventually replaced by Edwin van der Sar, opening the door for a life-changing transfer to Merseyside.

    From 2006-16, Howard was a fixture in the Everton starting line-up, helping the club regularly challenge the top six.

    He famously scored a goal for the Toffees but it was his presence between the posts that endeared him to supporters. For years, Howard embodied everything good about the club, which continued to compete with the big boys for the entirety of his time at Goodison.

    He made 414 total appearances for the club before leaving in 2016 to return to MLS with the Colorado Rapids.

    "I will remain an Evertonian for life," he said at his farewell. "This will always be my team, my club."

  9. Brad Friedel
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    #2 Brad Friedel

    Not just an American legend, but some would say a Premier League legend given the longevity of his career in England, which took in spells at Liverpool, Blackburn, Aston Villa and Tottenham.

    He played 450 Premier League games across 16 total seasons – the most of any North or South American player. Friedel also still holds the record for most consecutive appearances, with 310.

    The goalkeeper was named to the PFA Team of the Year in 2002-03 while with Blackburn. He also led the league in clean sheets that season.

    For the better part of two decades, Friedel was a fixture in the Premier League and is remembered as one of the most consistent and reliable shot-stoppers English soccer has seen in the last 30 years.

  10. Clint Dempsey
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    #1 Clint Dempsey

    As arguably the best American outfield player of all time, Dempsey's legacy goes far beyond the borders of the U.S., as he remains the poster boy for the 'Fulhamerica' movement and a pioneer for all who followed.

    Dempsey was unlike anything the Premier League had seen before from an American: a brash, skilled, unapologetic star who knew he belonged at the highest level.

    From THAT goal against Juventus to those back-to-back Fulham Player of the Year trophies, Dempsey is an icon at Craven Cottage.

    He left as the club's leading Premier League goalscorer with 50 strikes and will be fondly remembered for his role in dragging the club to the Europa League final in 2009-10.

    Dempsey left Fulham to sign with Tottenham, where he added seven more Premier League goals to his tally, before bringing his starpower to MLS as the league moved into a new era.

    However, his peak was at Fulham, where Dempsey shattered the perceptions of what an American player was and could be.