Brian McBride: From MLS to England and Back

Brian McBride: From MLS to England and Back

Player Profile: Brian McBride

Date of Birth: 19/6/1972
1.83m (6 ft 0 in)
National Team:
United States of America (USMNT)
International Caps:
International Goals:

Club Career

The path to the professional game for American soccer players in the early 1990’s wasn’t as obvious as it is today. Most players at this time did things the traditional American sports way, through college. Brian McBride was no different.

After earning All-American honors at Saint Louis University, McBride made the jump to the professional game.

His career started with a brief stint with the Milwaukee Rampage, a minor league club in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This level proved too easy for him as he scored 17 goals and assisted on another 18 in just 18 games.

In 1994, VfL Wolfsburg came calling and McBride made the move to Germany. Initially, the move to a new country and language was made much easier because of the presence of fellow American Mike Lapper. Over the course of the next few seasons, Wolfsburg became a destination for a few young Americans looking to make a mark in Europe.

Despite Wolfsburg playing in the 2. Bundesliga, the second division of German football, McBride had a difficult time making it on to the field. If you aren’t playing, you certainly aren’t scoring. In total, McBride played 18 times and scored just twice for the German side.

In 1996, McBride was offered a lifeline in the form of Major League Soccer. The new American league had been formed and play was set to begin in ’96. McBride was the first overall pick in the MLS Draft, a way to allocate talent around the league to ensure parity.

Ohio was the destination, and the Columbus Crew was the team. It turned out to be a match made in heaven, as McBride would go on to spend the next 5 season in the black and gold of Columbus Crew. During his first spell in Columbus, McBride scored 55 times, in 131 appearances.

However, despite this individual success, McBride wasn’t able to get the team a trophy. Three times he lead the Crew to appearances in the Eastern Conference Championship game, but each time their entrance to the MLS Cup was thwarted.

Despite the lack of trophies, his goalscoring exploits caught the eye of the English Championship side Preston North End, and then manager David Moyes. But it was never meant to be for McBride at Deepdale stadium as a freak injury limited his playing time.

In his very first game with the club, McBride took a hard collision which resulted in a blood clot in his arm. This required surgery, and amazingly, the removal of a rib. This limited McBride’s playing time to just 9 games that season.

With the loan deal coming to an end, and McBride having impressed in the games he was able to play, Preston attempted to make the loan deal permanent with a $1.8 million bid. MLS believed McBride was worth twice that price and the deal was dead.

He returned to Columbus for the next three seasons, but those seasons were interrupted by yet another loan move to England. Again, David Moyes came calling, but this time as manager of Everton in the Premier League.

McBride was in Merseyside for just 3 months, but he made a big impact in Everton’s climb back up the table. He scored 4 times in 8 games, holding his own in a forward line that included Everton legends, Duncan Ferguson and a young Wayne Rooney.

Moyes wanted to keep McBride around, this time on an extended loan, but a deal was not agreed upon and McBride was on his way back to Columbus yet again.

Despite the loan moves, McBride managed to keep good form for the Columbus Crew, and was finally able to lift a trophy when the Crew won the U.S. Open Cup in 2002.

Eventually, McBride got his permanent move to England when in January 2004, Fulham bought him for $1.5 million.

The jump in quality from MLS to the Premier League had its effect on McBride’s goal tally, but not on his work rate. He quickly became a fan favorite in West London for his solid work ethic and dedication to the shift every time he was called upon.

It took until his third season at Craven Cottage to hit double figures in a season, which he only did twice for the Cottagers.

However, those team-leading 12 goals in the 06-07 season were essential to Fulham remaining in the Premier League. He was named Fulham’s Player of the Year for his efforts.

The following season McBride was named Fulham captain and once again won the club’s Player of the Year award.

With the end of his career in sight, McBride chose to leave Fulham and return to Major League Soccer with his hometown Chicago Fire. McBride left Fulham having played 140 times and scoring 33 times.

McBride played his final two and a half seasons as a professional in Chicago scoring 19 times in 66 matches. While there were no trophies won in Chicago, McBride did pick up the Fire’s Team MVP award in 2009.

McBride retired following the 2010 MLS season.

International Career

Brian McBride’s international career began in 1993, with his first call-up coming while he was still an amateur athlete at Saint Louis University. Over the course of his career, McBride received 95 caps and scored 30 times.

McBride was part of the U.S. team at 3 World Cups, 1998, 2002, and 2006, and became the first American player to score at multiple World Cup tournaments with goals in ’98 and ’02. He ranks fourth in American history for World Cup goals with 3.

Despite the goals, McBride is best remembered for the incident with Italy’s Daniele De Rossi, when De Rossi elbowed McBride in the face and left him bloodied. De Rossi was subsequently banned for 4 matches.

McBride was able to lift some silverware with the National Team, winning the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup and was named MVP of that tournament while also picking up the Golden Shoe, for the most goals scored.  

McBride retired from international play following the 2006 World Cup and his 30 goals for the USMNT rank him 5th in U.S. history.

Where is Brian McBride Now?

After his retirement from playing, McBride opened the Brian McBride Soccer Academy in Lake Zurich, Illinois. He also co-founded TiPEVO, which connects families of young athletes of all sports to leagues and clubs in their neighborhoods. McBride also has spent time working as a soccer analyst for ESPN.

In January 2020, Brian McBride was named General Manager of the US Men’s National Team.

Did You Know? Brian McBride Facts

– McBride is so beloved at Fulham that after his departure from the club they renamed the sports bar at Craven Cottage McBride’s.

– Part of McBride’s endorsement deal with Nike ensured that his high school team received new uniforms every two years.

– He was inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame in 2014.