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Ultimate USMNT Dream Team: Donovan and Pulisic in, Altidore out

10:00 GMT+3 03/12/2022
USA Dream Team
GOAL takes a look at the best players to feature for the Stars and Stripes

The U.S. men's national team has had a complicated history, as it truly took some time for the sport to catch on in America.

But it's fair to say that soccer in America is on the rise thanks to the contributions of several stars across a number of different eras.

From trailblazers like Tab Ramos to icons like Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey and even modern stars like Christian Pulisic, the U.S. has no shortage of players to choose from.

But who makes it into the USMNT's ultimate dream XI?

  • Tim Howard Trinidad 11172015

    GK: Tim Howard

    We start with what might just be the toughest position to choose from.

    Over the years, the U.S. has been defined by the country's ability to produce legitimate goalkeepers capable of playing at the top level. Players like Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and Tony Meola are all candidates for this spot, and all are worthy of it depending on the criteria.

    But we'll go with Howard, the player that put on what is likely the best big-game performance in USMNT history.

    Who can forget that incredible game against Belgium, one which saw Howard make a total of 16 saves? The fact that we remember that performance so fondly despite the fact that the U.S. lost shows just how good Howard was.

    With 121 caps to his name and a legendary career at Everton on the club level, Howard gets the nod.

  • Cherundolo 2010

    RB: Steve Cherundolo

    The Mayor of Hannover.

    Perhaps the most underrates USMNT star of all-time, Cherundolo's career can stack up against any other American's. He was a staple at Hannover for 15 years, playing with the club at the highest level in Germany while establishing himself as a local legend.

    On the international stage, he earned 87 caps and appeared at three World Cups. For the entirety of his national team career, Cherundolo was as reliable as they come. It took years for the U.S. to truly replace him, and you could easily argue that they never have found someone who is as steady as he is in the full-back position.

  • Carlos Bocanegra USA Germany World Cup 2006

    CB: Carlos Bocanegra

    You don't get the nickname Captain America for no reason.

    Bocanegra was the USMNT's captain for six years and, to this day, remains one of the most well-renowned leaders the national team has ever seen.

    He earned 110 caps for the U.S., featuring at two World Cups while winning the Gold Cup twice. On the club level, he was a key figure at Fulham, Rangers, Rennes and Saint-Etienne in addition to being a two-time MLS Defender of the Year with the Chicago Fire to start his career.

  • Pope USMNT World Cup

    CB: Eddie Pope

    Unlike many on this list, Pope never made the move to the highest levels in Europe, but he was so good that he didn't need to for him to earn his spot on this list.

    A legendary figure in MLS with D.C. United, the Metrostars and Real Salt Lake, Pope won three MLS Cups and was named to the MLS Best XI four times. He was also a part of three World Cup squads, including in the legendary 2002 team.

    There are other contenders for this spot, players like Alexi Lalas and Marcelo Balboa, but it's near impossible to leave off Pope given what he meant to the national team throughout his career.

  • DaMarcus Beasley USMNT

    LB: DaMarcus Beasley

    No all-time USMNT list would be complete without Beasley, so we've got him in here even if it is at a position he only took up later in his career.

    There isn't an American that has come close to matching the longevity of Beasley, the only USMNT player to feature at four World Cups. And he wasn't a benchwarmer at those World Cups, but a key figure, all the way from his days as a young hotshot winger in 2002 to his performances as a wily veteran full-back in 2014.

    In total, he amassed 126 caps over his 16-year national team career, having been a part of many of the most high-profile moments in program history.

  • Claudio Reyna USA 07172006

    CM: Claudio Reyna

    The younger generation may know him as Gio's dad, but anyone who saw Reyna play knows the standard he set.

    A former captain, Reyna is widely considered one of the most talented players the U.S. ever produced. He played for the likes of Bayer Leverkusen, Rangers, Sunderland and Manchester City while earning 112 caps for the national team.

    After an injury robbed him of the chance to play at the 1994 World Cup, he featured in 1998, 2002 and 2006, becoming the third American ever to be named to the World Cup all-tournament team in 2002.

  • Tab Ramos USMNT World Cup

    CM: Tab Ramos

    It's hard to explain just how smooth Ramos was.

    A talented dribbler that was never afraid of having the ball, Ramos was ahead of his time when it came to pure talent in the USMNT pool. He famously assisted Paul Caligiuri's goal against Trinidad & Tobago, which is remembered as the goal that saw the U.S. clinch their first World Cup appearance since 1950.

    He went on to star at three World Cups, including the memorable 1994 tournament on home soil and the historic run in 2002.

    As for other contenders for this spot, Michael Bradley, Cobi Jones and John Harkes could all be considered.

  • Christian Pulisic USMNT 2022

    LM: Christian Pulisic

    In some ways, it feels weird putting a 24-year-old active player on this list ahead of his first World Cup, but Pulisic is just that good.

    He's already earned 52 caps and is tied for seventh all-time in USMNT goals. His goal-per-game ratio is tied for the best in national team history despite the fact that he's a winger nowhere near the prime of his career.

    And then you take into account his success on the club level, including that Champions League triumph with Chelsea.

    Facts are facts, and Pulisic has more than earned his place on this list already.

  • Donovan USMNT Algeria World Cup 2010

    RM: Landon Donovan

    Donovan could play a number of positions on this team, as he did with the national team, but we'll put him at right midfield to make this process easier.

    Whether you think he's the USMNT GOAT or not, and he very well could be, you cannot deny Donovan's impact on American soccer as a whole. He transcended the niche nature of the sport to become a mainstream star, especially in the wake of his famous goal against Algeria in 2010.

    The fact that his national team career ended the way it did was a shame, as he was left off the 2014 World Cup roster. But that doesn't define his legacy as much as his efforts in 2002 and 2010 with Donovan still the USMNT's joint all-time top scorer alongside the next guy on this list.

  • Clint Dempsey USMNT 2014

    ST: Clint Dempsey

    The man tied with Donovan atop the USMNT scoring charts.

    Dempsey was something special. As Bruce Arena famously said, the Texas-born star "tried sh*t", and there isn't a better way to really describe him. Dempsey was elegant, as he had the ability to truly dazzle with the ball, but he was also no-nonsense as he would certainly get in your face if you tried to take it from him.

    He's locked in alongside Donovan in that GOAT conversation, and there's a pretty good argument to be made for Dempsey, a player who scored 47 goals across 140 caps, including finishes at each of the three World Cups he featured in.

  • Brian McBride USMNT 2006

    ST: Brian McBride

    An absolute warrior, McBride wins a fierce competition for that second striker role.

    His famous goal against Portugal in 2002 helps him earn the nod, with McBride embodying just about everything the USMNT meant during his era.

    Tough, hard-nosed and effective, McBride has the fifth-most goals in USMNT history, but he just about gets the nod over numbers three and four.

    In third is Jozy Altidore, a player that does deserve his flowers and never truly gets the credit he deserves, while fourth is Eric Wynalda, who was a USMNT regular and a key figure in USMNT's rise throughout the 90s.