A Brief History of American Soccer Players in the Premier League

A Brief History of American Soccer Players in the Premier League

Since its inception in 1992, the Premier League has often been the dream of young American soccer players. The league is unquestionably the most popular soccer league in the United States, and so many kids in the States grow up watching Premier League matches on TV and wearing the jerseys of Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea, among others. It’s no wonder the league has such a deep history with American players. 

As you will see, the flow of Americans to the Premier League started as a trickle in the early 90s and there were seasons where only a couple of men were on rosters “across the pond.” But as the game and talent have grown in the United States, so have the numbers of Americans suiting up in cities like Birmingham, London, and Sunderland. 

At first, America’s greatest footballing export was its goalkeepers. Men like Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller tended the nets in England for decades. Slowly but surely, America produced outfield players good enough to become legends at their clubs like Clint Dempsey and Brian McBride at Fulham. 

So, if you’re looking for the story of Americans in the Premier League, we’ve got you covered.

Top 10 American Players in the Premier League by Appearance

10. Marcus Hahnemann

Premier League Appearances: 115

Premier League Clubs: Reading, Wolves, Everton

Marcus Hahnemann appeared over 115 times for 3 Premier League clubs. His longest spell came at Reading, where he minded the net from 2001-2009. He appeared for The Royals 276 times, but most of those were in the Championship. 

Hahnemann also spent two seasons in the Premiership with Wolves. During his first season with Wolves, the Castrol Performance Index ranked him as “The Best Goalkeeper in the World” according to their metrics. 

9. Carlos Bocanegra

Premier League Appearances: 116

Premier League Clubs: Fulham

Fulham signed defender Carlos Bocanegra from MLS’s Chicago Fire in January 2004, and Bocanegra quickly became a fan favorite. His versatility across the backline and in defensive midfield made him indispensable. Incredibly, Bocanegra was Fulham’s second-leading scorer in the 06/07 season behind fellow Yank, Brian McBride. After making over 100 appearances for the club, Boca was released by Fulham following the 07/08 season. 

8. Jonathan Spector

Premier League Appearances: 124

Premier League Clubs: Manchester United, Charlton Athletic, West Ham United

Jonathan Spector had a quiet but successful professional career despite not living up to the hype that comes with signing for Manchester United when you’re 17 years old. The defender only featured 3 times for United in league play and was shipped out on loan to Charlton Athletic for the 2005/06 season. 

A permanent transfer to West Ham United got his career going and he played for the Hammers for 5 seasons, featuring 101 times. Spector’s appearance numbers would be much higher had any of his 6 seasons at Birmingham City been in the Premiership and not in the Championship. 

7. Brian McBride

Premier League Appearances: 148

Premier League Clubs: Everton, Fulham

Brian McBride’s first introduction to the Premier League was a short-term loan deal with Everton. He scored four goals in 8 games and Everton manager David Moyes wanted to extend the deal. Major League Soccer, who owned McBride’s contract at the time wanted a permanent deal. Two years later, Fulham signed McBride on a permanent deal worth $1.5 million and the rest is history. 

McBride spent the next 5 seasons at the West London club and although he never scored more than 9 goals in a season, he became beloved by the Fulham faithful for his work ethic. So much so that there is a pub inside Craven Cottage called McBride’s, named after the striker.

6. Brad Guzan

Premier League Appearances: 154

Premier League Clubs: Aston Villa, Middlesbrough

It took Guzan a while to get his chance with Aston Villa. For the first three seasons of his time in Birmingham, Guzan played backup to fellow American Brad, Brad Friedel. Finally, in the 2012-13 season, Guzan got his chance. For the next 4 seasons, Guzan was a Villa hero, helping the club to an FA Cup Final and avoid relegation. 

When the drop finally came for Villa, Guzan took his gloves to the newly-promoted side Middlesbrough. He played in just 10 games for Boro, in an ill-fated season that saw them go right back to the Championship. 

5. Geoff Cameron

Premier League Appearances: 168

Premier League Clubs: Stoke City

Even some American fans may be surprised that Geoff Cameron found his way this high onto the list, but that’s what happens when you spend most of your career playing on a cold, windy night in Stoke. The versatile defender spent 6 seasons in the Premier League with Stoke and was an integral part of that team. Cameron is currently playing at Queen’s Park Rangers in the Championship after being sold by Stoke following their relegation in 2018. 

4. Kasey Keller

Premier League Appearances: 201

Premier League Clubs: Leicester City, Tottenham, Fulham

Kasey Keller played an incredible 176 times for Millwall in the Championship before finally making the move to the Premier League with Leicester City. He was part of the Foxes side that won the 1997 League Cup and were runners up again in 1999. 

Keller also spent time with Spurs, until he was ousted by former England number 1 Paul Robinson. Finally, Keller spent one season at Craven Cottage, as it seems all American footballers must do. 

3. Clint Dempsey

Premier League Appearances: 218

Premier League Clubs: Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur

“Deuce” is the greatest outfield player the United States has sent to the Premier League. Dempsey spent 7 seasons at Fulham where he became a star and a part of Fulham lore. He scored 50 league goals for Fulham, including 17 in the 11/12 season that saw Fulham finish 9th. 

Two seasons earlier, Dempsey scored his most famous goal in a Fulham shirt when his cheeky chip knocked Juventus out of the Europa League Round of 16. He would also spend one season at Spurs, before returning to Fulham on loan for one final season in 2013/14. 

2. Tim Howard

Premier League Appearances: 399

Premier League Clubs: Manchester United, Everton

Tim Howard was thrust into the global spotlight after signing for Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. Howard’s United career started bright, but a few shaky performances in his second season left him low in confidence. As a result, United brought in Edwin van der Sar and Howard was shipped to Everton. It was a match made in heaven for both parties. 

Howard would go on to a magnificent career on Merseyside, which saw him play over 400 times in all competitions for The Toffees. When he left, Howard said, “I will remain an Evertonian for life. This will always be my team, my club.”

1. Brad Friedel 

Premier League Appearances: 451

Premier League Clubs: Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur

Some say Old Man Friedel is still tending the net somewhere in the far reaches of the English Football League. Friedel played for so long that he is the oldest player to have appeared for two separate clubs, Tottenham and Aston Villa. He spent so much time in England that he no longer has an American accent, but he doesn’t have an English accent either. It’s just a Friedel accent. 

The goalkeeper was named in the PFA Team of the Year in 2002-03 for his work with the club he spent most of his time with, Blackburn Rovers. What’s more impressive than that is his run of 310 consecutive games in the Premier League. The streak started with Blackburn in 2004 and ended with Spurs in 2012. Amazing. 

Who was the First American to Play in the Premier League?

U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer John Harkes was the first American ever to play in the English Premier League. The midfielder joined Sheffield Wednesday in 1990, in the then English Second Division. He helped Wednesday win promotion to the newly christened “Premier League” for its inaugural season in 1993. 

During that season, Harkes scored in a League Cup Final, becoming the second American to score at Wembley, and played in an FA Cup Final. Harkes’ Wednesday side lost both finals to Arsenal. 

He would play for Derby County and West Ham United the following two seasons before returning to the States for the inaugural season of Major League Soccer in 1996. 

Midfielder Preki was also involved in the first Premier League season, playing for Everton, but at the time, he was still a citizen of Serbia and for our purposes, does not count as the first, although he receives credit for his time below.  

List of Every American Player to Play in the Premier League

Brad Friedel (1997-2001 Liverpool, 2001-2008 Blackburn Rovers, 2008-2011 Aston Villa, 2011-2015 Tottenham Hotspur) 

Tim Howard (2003-2007 Manchester United, 2006-2017 Everton)

Clint Dempsey (2006-2013 Fulham, 2012/13 Tottenham Hotspur, 2013/14 Fulham)

Kasey Keller (1996-1999 Leicester City, 2001-2005 Southampton, 2007/08 Fulham)

Geoff Cameron (2012-2018 Stoke City)

Brad Guzan (2008-2016 Aston Villa, 2016/17 Middlesbrough)

Brian McBride (2002/03 Everton, 2003-2008 Fulham)

Jonathan Spector (2003-2006 Manchester United, 2005/06 Charlton Athletic, 2006-2011 West Ham United)

Carlos Bocanegra (2003-2008 Fulham)

Marcus Hahnemann (2001/02 Fulham, 2006-2008 Reading, 2009-2011 Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2011/12 Everton)

DeAndre Yedlin (2014-16 Tottenham Hotspur, 2015/16 Sunderland, 2016/17 Tottenham Hotspur, 2017-21 Newcastle United)

Claudio Reyna (2001-2003 Sunderland, 2003-2007 Manchester City)

Roy Wegerle (1992/93 Blackburn Rovers, 1993-1995 Coventry City)

Jozy Altidore (2013-15 Sunderland)

Joe-Max Moore (1999-2003 Everton)

Preki (1992-1994 Everton)

Tim Ream (2011/12 Bolton Wanderers, 2018/19, 2020-present Fulham)

John Harkes (1992-1994 Sheffield Wednesday, 1995/96 West Ham United, 1998/99 Nottingham Forest)

Christian Pulisic (2019-present Chelsea)

Juergen Sommer (1995/96 Queens Park Rangers)

Jay DeMerit (2006/07 Watford)

Eric Lichaj (2007-2013 Aston Villa)

Bobby Convey (2006-2008 Reading)

Stuart Holden (2005/06 Sunderland, 2009-2012 Bolton Wanderers)

Eddie Lewis (2001-2003 Fulham, 2007/08 Derby County)

Danny Williams (2017-2019 Huddersfield Town)

Jovan Kirvoski (2002-2004 Birmingham City)

Cobi Jones (1994-1995 Coventry City)

Eddie Johnson (2007-2011 Fulham)

Antonee Robinson (2015/16 Everton, 2020-present Fulham)

DaMarcus Beasley (2006/07 Manchester City)

Zak Whitbread (2003-2006 Liverpool, 2011/12 Norwich City)

Landon Donovan (2009/10, 2011/12 Everton)

Jermaine Jones (2010/11 Blackburn Rovers)

Lynden Gooch (2015-2017 Sunderland)

Oguchi Onyewu (2006/07 Newcastle United)

Benny Feilhaber (2007/08 Derby County)

Jemal Johnson (2004-2006 Blackburn Rovers)

Ian Feuer (1993-1995, 1999/2000 West Ham United, 2001/2002 Derby County)

Owen Otasowie (2019-present Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Indiana Vassilev (2019-present Aston Villa)

Michael Bradley (2010/11 Aston Villa)

Brek Shea (2012-2015 Stoke City)

Emerson Hyndman (2016-2019 AFC Bournemouth)

Matt Miazga (2015-present Chelsea)

Maurice Edu (2012-2015 Stoke City)

Johann Smith (2006-2008 Bolton Wanderers)

Zack Steffen (2019-present Manchester City)

Americans Currently Playing in the Premier League

The following players are currently on the roster for Premier League clubs this season. The standout name is Christian Pulisic who plays on the wing for Chelsea and is the most expensive American player in history after his £58 million move from Borussia Dortmund. 

Other names include Manchester City backup goalkeeper Zack Steffen, Fulham defenders Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson, and Wolves youngster Owen Otasowie. Not included on this list is Matt Miazga, who is a Chelsea player on loan at RSC Anderlecht in Belgium. 

List of American Soccer Players Currently Playing in the English Premier League:

Zack Steffen (Manchester City)

Tim Ream (Fulham)

Antonee Robinson (Fulham)

Christian Pulisic (Chelsea FC)

Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

The Premier League has long been home to some of the best players the United States has produced. Names like Friedel, Dempsey, and McBride have proven that Americans can play at the highest level. And despite the recent surge of American talent into the German game, it should be expected that England is still a preferred destination for Americans looking to make it in Europe. Keep watching to see who the next great American in the Premier League will be.