American Soccer Players in Europe
The U.S.' starting goalkeeper in the 1998 and '02 World Cups, the 6-foot-3 giant (far right) has earned more respect than any American in the hard-knocks English Premier League. The 35-year-old retired from international play in '05 but is still at the top of his game. Formerly with Liverpool and Turkey's Galatasaray, he's become an Ewood Park legend, starting nearly 250 matches for Rovers since '00.
The Scoring Machine
A proven goal scorer, a tireless worker and a fearless freak who'll throw his oft-bloodied noggin into places that make most of us cringe? No wonder English fans love McBride. Now in his third year at Fulham, he's 14th on the Premier League leader board with nine goals. But what's most remarkable is that McBride -- at age 34 and retired from the U.S. national team -- is having the best season of his 13-year career.
The Silver Spoon
It's tough being the son of the U.S. national-team coach, but Bob Bradley's boy is making a name for himself. Big, strong, and hard-nosed, the 19-year-old holding midfielder joined Heerenveen of the Dutch Eredivisie in January '06 and has become a steady option in the middle of the park.
Injuries have ravaged Convey (left) like Attila the Hun on the Steppes of Asia. After four impressive seasons with D.C. United and a failed $3 million transfer to Tottenham, the 23-year-old joined Reading in '04. A natural left-winger with fearless cleverness and a wicked free kick, he has adapted to the rough English game -- mentally, at least. His body has suffered repeatedly, including several vicious ankle injuries.
The Comeback Kid
After a stellar debut as Manchester United's starting keeper in '03-04, Howard fell back to earth -- and straight onto the bench -- the following season. Now he's having the last laugh as the starting keeper at Everton. Howard has 12 shutouts through 27 matches and an incredible .81 goals-allowed average this season, cementing his place among the elite club of successful American keepers in the Premiership.
The Mystery Man
The 22-year-old Pearce flies under the radar because he plays in relative obscurity in the Danish Superliga. But he could become the U.S.' left back of the future in the Frankie Hejduk mold. He's already made a handful of national-team appearances and, come next season, the Modesto, Calif., native will likely move to Germany, Holland or Scotland to further develop his game.
Like a good Hollywood story, "Beaz" has gone from the top of the U.S. soccer scene to the bottom and back. The slim, slinky darling of the '02 World Cup enjoyed a big-time transfer to PSV Eindhoven in '04, but injuries and coaching differences left him marginalized. Then last summer, the 24-year-old moved to Manchester City and, after a slow start, he has adapted to the fast, furious English game and taken ownership of the Sky Blues' left flank.
The Pretty Boy
Ask the ladies -- they'll tell you "Boca" is a hottie. In his third Premiership season, the 27-year-old (at right) is backing up his cover-model looks with some stellar play in the Cottagers' back line. Intimidating and blessed with a big, media-friendly personality, Boca has become a U.S. Nats regular, starting two matches in the 2006 World Cup.
The Real-Life Rocky
Cue the orchestra. This Green Bay, Wisc., native is living a fairy tale. An unknown after a college career at Illinois-Chicago, he moved to England and joined non-professional side Northwood. During a preseason match against Watford, he impressed the Hornets' coach, earning a two-week trial. The 27-year-old joined the club in '04 and became a central defensive mainstay -- and vice-captain -- during its run to promotion to the Premiership.
Is 6-foot-5, 215 pounds enough to intimidate you? "Gooch" is the biggest American player position player ever, and he's an imposing menace to any poor, tiny soul who dares dribble his way. The U.S. national-team defender transferred to Newcastle on loan in January after being chased by some of the world's biggest clubs, including Chelsea, Real Madrid and AC Milan.
So much for a homegrown superstar. When the motherland came calling for his services at age 13, New Jersey-born Rossi and his Italian parents packed up and moved back to the Boot. Currently on loan to Parma from Manchester United, the 20-year-old looks like he'll don the Azzurri jersey in international play, too -- the talented striker has turned down repeated offers to play for the U.S.
The Gold Standard
Arguably the most successful American soccer player in history, Keller is universally respected across the world for 15 years of steady play in goal in England, Spain and Germany, where he's currently the captain at 'Gladbach. The veteran of four World Cups famously held a 1-0 shutout against Brazil at the 1998 Gold Cup, prompting legendary Brazilian striker Romário to remark, "That is the best performance by a goalkeeper I have ever seen in a match."
There's a wide gap between underrated and underappreciated. Shaven-head and acrobatic, the intimidating Seattle native (at lower right) has started nearly 200 matches in goal for surprising Premiership debutants Reading since joining the club in '02. Tim Howard appears to be Kasey Keller's heir-apparent for the U.S., but Hahnemann's top-flight form might demand the Nats give him a shot at the starter's role.
The Question Mark
Don't let that boyish appearance fool you. Spector may be the best American player you've never heard of. The Chicago native was plucked at age 18 by Manchester United and made his first-team debut that season. Now 21, the defender is already a veteran of the English Premier League and is on the verge of a breakout role with the national team.
The Great American Hope
Straight outta Nac-Town! Nacogdoches, Texas, that is. The entertaining midfielder/striker -- and aspiring rapper -- has all the creativity and X-factor tools to make a huge impact overseas. He scored a jaw-dropping goal against Ghana at the '06 World Cup and led the New England Revolution to two consecutive MLS Cup finals before transferring in January to Fulham for $4 million.