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Top 20 Soccer Players To Have Played in the USA

The history of soccer in the United States is a curious one. Played since the 1860's, it has not been greeted with quite the popularity that the sport has found in other reaches of the globe. In 1968 the North American Soccer League was founded and through the ambitious signings of the New York Cosmos, soccer in America began to gain some momentum. The Cosmos themselves attracting large crowds, sometimes in excess of 70,000.

However, despite spells of popularity, the league struggled to attract enough interest to maintain itself and began to decline in the early 1980's, as indoor soccer seemed to capture the public's imagination. The league folded in 1984, but when the United States hosted the 1994 World Cup, interest in the sport flourished once more. In 1996 the MLS was created and has been growing ever since. Today, soccer is the third most popular sport in the U.S. and continues to grow at a rapid rate.

Given the struggle for mass interest that soccer has labored with over the years in America, one may expect that the quality of players attracted to the country's shores may be a bit limited, but this is not the case. It may be that players began playing in the U.S. when they were past their prime, this list is not in relation to their performance in America but merely the most talented players to have ever played professionally in the United States, or in the major U.S. league at the time (including Canadian teams).

20 Ruud Krol

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19 Zoltan Czibor

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18 David Beckham

via sbisoccer.com

17 Vava

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16 Johan Neeskens

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15 Elias Figueroa

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14 Hristo Stoichkov

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13 Carlos Alberto

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12 Gordon Banks

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11 Romario

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10 Thierry Henry

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

9 Hugo Sanchez

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8 Lothar Matthaus

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7 Gerd Muller

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6 George Best

Colorsport/Stewart Fraser

5 Bobby Moore

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4 Eusebio

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3 Franz Beckenbauer

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One of the most decorated men in the history of the game, I shan't bore you by reeling off all of Franz Beckenbauer's honors, but it's worth quickly recapping some. He won the Bundesliga, European Cup, World Cup, European Championships and the Ballon d'Or, some of which he won on multiple occasions. He essentially invented the 'libero' or sweeper role, and to this day no-one has played it with more style, elegance or effectiveness. He captained both Bayern Munich and West Germany from the age of 23 and won a second World Cup as manager of the German National Team.

2 Johan Cruyff

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1 Pele

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It was not a particularly difficult choice selecting who should top this list, Pele is commonly regarded as the best player of all time. He was voted both World Player of the Century and FIFA Player of the Century, among a vast array of other lofty awards. As a player, he won three World Cups, and remains the only man to have done so. He spent 18 years at Santos, before embarking upon his American adventure, joining the New York Cosmos in a landmark transfer deal for American soccer in 1975. Pele spent two years with the Cosmos, scoring 31 goals in 56 games.

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Top 20 Soccer Players To Have Played in the USA