What is your all-time Best XI?

When we think of the great players in American soccer history, we think of players that we considered the best. Whether they provided us with key goals or assists, if they took over on the field, or gave us moments that will last a lifetime. But, when we really break it down, what if we could put the absolute best players our men’s and women’s national teams have produced on the field at the same time? Whether they be WNT or MNT legends or a mixed team, if we all could wave a magic wand and have our best team in front of us, what would that look like?

We contacted several chapter leaders and members from around the country to have them give us their all-time USA Best XI along with 3 substitutes. The team could be all-MNT, all-WNT, or they could combine the two teams to take the best from each. Here are what some of the best answers were, along with some abbreviated thoughts from the members about why they opted for the lineup they did.

Katie Hadley, AO Charlotte

Mixed 4-4-2

GK: Hope Solo (Best female keeper of all time)

D: Kelley O’Hara, Carla Overbeck, Eddie Pope, Steve Cherundolo

M: Landon Donovan, Michelle Akers, Claudio Reyna, Christian Pulisic

F: Abby Wambach, Brian McBride

Subs: Tim Howard (Best USMNT keeper of all time), Mia Hamm, Clint Dempsey

For Katie, her Best XI represented “[t]he team that would do anything for the US to win.”

Michael Dovellos, AO Chicago

MNT 4-4-2 (diamond)

GK: Friedel

D: Bocanegra, Pope, Balboa, Cherundolo

M: Reyna, Bradley, Donovan, Dempsey

F: McBride, Wynalda

Subs: Earnie Stewart, Tab Ramos, Cobi Jones

From Michael: “I picked 11 players that played at the highest level whenever they put on the shirt for the USMNT. Each and every one of them played their heart out every time they wore the shirt.”

David Chamberlain, AO San Diego

MNT 4-4-2

GK: Brad Friedel

D: Eddie Pope, Steve Cherundolo, Carlos Bocanegra, John Brooks

M: Landon Donovan, Claudio Reyna, Tab Ramos, Christian Pulisic

F: Brian McBride, Jozy Altidore
Subs: Tim Howard, DaMarcus Beasley, Earnie Stewart

Said Chamberlain of Eddie Pope’s inclusion in his Best XI, “the younger generations do not realize how F*****G good Eddie Pope was.” He also added that Claudio Reyna and Tab Ramos are “the two smartest players I think ever played for the U.S.”

Jackson Spivey, AODC

Mixed 3-4-3

GK: Tim Howard

D: Eddie Pope, Christie Rampone, Carlos Bocanegra

M: Claudio Reyna, Kristine Lilly, Landon Donovan, Michelle Akers

F: Mia Hamm, Clint Dempsey, Abby Wambach

Subs: Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Brian McBride

Max Croes, AO Helena (unofficial)

WNT 3-5-2

GK: Hope Solo

D: Christie Rampone, Julie Ertz, Joy Fawcett 

M: Carli Lloyd, Michelle Akers, Kristine Lilly, Julie Fowdy, Megan Rapinoe

F: Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach

Subs: Alex Morgan, Brandi Chastain, Carla Overbeck

From Max: “This list skews heavily toward recency and you can't get anymore in than this, it's impossible. The women of the 90's were absolute pillars at their positions and racked up 200+ caps each. I'll acknowledge that I'm wrong to put Rapinoe in over Morgan, but I'm all in on the cultural impact she's had over the last two years.”

Heather Borjon, AO Orange County

Mixed 4-4-2

GK: Tim Howard

D: Ali Krieger, Crystal Dunn, John Brooks, Carlos Bocanegra

M: Julie Ertz, Brandi Chastain, Cobi Jones, Landon Donovan

F: Megan Rapinoe, Mia Hamm

Subs: Mallory Pugh, Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey

Heather Borjon did a mixed lineup because “[my] dream is to watch the USWNT play the USMNT. I put together a lineup of some of my favorite players that are and have been fun to watch. I want a mix of players I thought had a bright future with the team and players who have made a huge impact on either team.”

Ryan Rosenblatt, AO National

MNT 4-3-3

GK: Brad Friedel

D: Steve Cherundolo, Eddie Pope, Marcelo Balboa, DaMarcus Beasley

M: John O’Brien, Tab Ramos, Claudio Reyna

F: Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan

Subs: None

Ryan includes John O’Brien on his MNT Best XI because “when healthy, [he] was better than anyone the MNT has ever had. What [O’Brien] could do was sublime and I am choosing him under the guide of health, which is a fool's errand, but he was that good.” However, he does mention that if he opted for a combined Best XI, “it'd be entirely women's players since they're all among the best to ever play the sport and we have unfortunately not produced a man who we can say the same about.”

Matt Anderson, AO Lincoln

Mixed 4-4-2

GK: Brad Friedel

D: Meghan Klingenberg, John Brooks, Oguchi Onyewu, Tony Sanneh

M: Brek Shea, Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Carli Lloyd

F: Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey

Subs: Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Gio Reyna

Matt Anderson’s Best XI is “based on the good and often specific memories my fandom and experiences as an Outlaw have given me,” and that some of his favorite moments “are why I’m in AO.” He recalls Brad Friedel’s performance in the 2002 World Cup, where he”really, truly fell in love with the USMNT.” To Anderson, that World Cup signified “a hell of a lot of late nights/early mornings (it didn’t hurt that I was an unemployed college student spending the summer in [my] parents’ basement).” Finally, he lists 3 subs who are very young--Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, and Gio Reyna--because Anderson think “they’ll no doubt give us [some moments] in the years to come.”

Peter Jones, AODC

Mixed 4-4-2

GK: Tim Howard

D: DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu, Marcelo Balboa, Brandi Chastain

M: Rose Lavelle, Michael Bradley, Megan Rapinoe, Clint Dempsey

F: Landon Donovan, Mia Hamm

Subs: Hope Solo, Claudio Reyna, Abby Wambach

Peter Jones went with players who had terrific moments, like Tim Howard (“[he] made us look competent in losing to an amazing Belgium team with 15 saves!!!”) and sentimental favorites like Oguchi Onyewu (“[Gooch] has one of the great nicknames behind Deuce). However, on Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan he mentioned that they were two of his favorites. “Peak Americanness in their physicality and competitiveness over style. Let they be eclipsed by a new generation of Christian Pulisics, Weston McKennies, and Tim Weahs.”

Malia Dunbar, AO St. Louis

Mixed 4-3-3

GK: Briana Scurry

D: Tim Ream, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn, DaMarcus Beasley

M: Michael Bradley, Julie Foudy, Clint Dempsey

F: Jozy Altidore, Carli Lloyd, Mia Hamm

Subs: Hope Solo, Lori Chalupny, Graham Zusi

Malia stayed true to her St. Louis roots in making some of her selections. “I grew up watching the 99ers and MLS days of old, so a lot of my starting XI reflects that. Plus, anytime I can give a shoutout to STL players, I do. These were players I enjoyed watching. Could it be a dream team? Sure. Will it get shade? Probably, haha.”

Chrissy Webb, AO Nashville

WNT 4-5-1

GK: Hope Solo

D: Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Christie Rampone, Ali Krieger

M: Julie Ertz, Carli Lloyd, Julie Foudy, Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach

F: Mia Hamm

Subs: Kelley O’Hara, Christen Press, Lindsay Horan

Webb was simple when asked why she picked the WNT Best XI she did: “I chose these players because of their performance and tenacity on and off the field.”

Donald Wine, AO National/AODC

Mixed 4-4-2 (diamond)

GK: Tim Howard

D: DaMarcus Beasley, Christie Rampone, Eddie Pope, Steve Cherundolo

M: Kristine Lilly, Claudio Reyna, Landon Donovan, Michelle Akers

F: Clint Dempsey, Mia Hamm

Subs: Christian Pulisic, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan

There are so many that I could have added here, and really I could fill out a full 23-person roster and still leave one of my all-time favorites off the list. My locks were Dempsey, Hamm, Akers, and Beasley. On defense, I got some classic players that always got the job done. That will put less pressure on the midfielders, which has some of the best star quality around. Up front, Deuce and Mia will provide all the goals. My subs would be Pinoe and Morgan for instant attack, and Pulisic for that creative edge that we’ll need in the final 30 minutes.

So, there you have it. Many of the greatest players in American soccer history have made it onto the list of several, but every member’s team was slightly different. There may have been a sentimental favorite, one that they idolized, one that exemplified toughness or one who was always dependable. There were some players from the 1990s and some of our youngest heroes as well. 

Now, it’s time to hear from you! What would be your Best XI? Chime in on Facebook or Twitter to let us know who you would include!

April 28, 2020