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The best soccer players of all time from every state in America

Written by Will Parchman

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The best soccer players ever from every state? A mammoth undertaking, so let’s dive in, shall we?

This encapsulates the whole shebang: full career, ability, accomplishments – and we’re throwing men’s and women’s into the same pot (madness!). We’re taking both on their own merits in their own realms of influence, of course. It takes a well-rounded soccer player to make the cut, though some states are admittedly more hotly contested than others.

Many of these are up for impassioned debate (some, notably Alabama and Hawaii, are probably not), but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? The “where they’re from” question is largely answered in where they spent formative time developing, not necessarily where they were born, though there isn’t a hard and fast rule as to how I sliced it (as you’ll notice with our first state). This cannot possibly be exhaustive, especially where some of the more sparse states are concerned, but it’s as close as we’ll get for now.

A note. This is almost (but not entirely) exclusive to players who’ve appeared in the post-semi pro, U.S. World Cup era (1990-present) primarily because, quite simply, both the uptick in technical ability was notable and we have more visual evidence on their abilities. With apologies to players like Willy Roy and Ricky Davis, the best players – as international results dictate – have largely come along in the last 30 years. Not a slight, simply a widely accepted point.

So anyway, without further ado, into the breach, dear friends. We have miles to go before we sleep.

Alabama
Mia Hamm: No questioning or introduction needed on this one. Hamm’s career at North Carolina is still unmatched in a variety of ways, and she was the original American soccer icon. Hamm was an army brat and spent time in a lot of different places, so we’re going with her birth state here. No apologies.

Alaska
Kelly Cobb: Never heard of Cobb? She won a U20 World Cup with the U.S. in 2012, and the Duke junior could be in the NWSL in two years. That’s tops from a state with next to zero soccer lineage.

Arizona
Brad Evans: There aren’t many players in Arizona’s soccer history who’ve made an appearance on the full USMNT. Evans has 17, including a critical goal against Jamaica in World Cup qualifying last year. Robbie Findley, a forward, is also an Arizona native and World Cup vet. But he hasn’t scored for the senior team.

Arkansas
Domenic Mediate: This is the story of Arkansas soccer: the state’s best ever player sandwiched life in the Dallas area between a truncated high school career in Northwest Arkansas in the late 90’s. To this day, he’s the only player affiliated with the state of Arkansas who’s been drafted in MLS (Columbus Crew in 2005).

California
Landon Donovan: Picking California? Good luck. The majority of U.S. Soccer’s Best XI (both men’s and women’s) hail from the Golden State, so arguments abound. But Donovan’s impact on American soccer may be unmatched in the men’s game in this country. As is, he could well be the best men’s player we’ve ever produced as a country.

Colorado
April Heinrichs: The first female player ever inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame? Not Hamm. Not Lilly. That’d be Heinrichs, the captain of the first World Cup-winning team in American history in 1991 and a hugely influential soccer player at a critical time for the game in the U.S.

Connecticut
Kyle Martino: Connecticut’s produced four national Gatorade Players of the Year, and two were in 1999. One of those was a shared girls title, and the other belonged to Martino. Connecticut’s produced top college players, but never a pro like Martino, who appeared 141 times in MLS and even has a USMNT goal to his name.

Delaware
Andrew O’Malley: The First State is also among the smallest, and it currently has no pro players getting minutes in a first tier league. So we go to Salesianum product O’Malley, who became one of the only (if not the only) Delaware products to captain a team to a Division I national title as he did with Notre Dame in 2013.

Florida
Jozy Altidore: Florida surprisingly doesn’t have as great a history prodding its own to great soccer heights as you might suspect, though players like Alejandro Bedoya and Eddie Johnson do call it home. But nobody’s done more at a younger age in USMNT history than Altidore, who’s had two World Cups under his belt before his 25th birthday.

Georgia
Clint Mathis: The deep south’s history of producing pro players is short considering football’s historic stranglehold, but that’s slowly changing. Mathis was an unreal talent up top and brought some southern charm to the USMNT. Morgan Brian, however, is hunting him.

Hawaii
Brian Ching: Not much competition for Ching here, but it’s impossible to argue for any other case with any seriousness. A World Cup player and a distinguished top-flight pro career.

Idaho
John Gwin: Idaho’s produced one Gatorade national soccer player of the year, and that’s Boise’s Gwin in 1987. He went to Duke later that year, a year after the Blue Devils won their first soccer national championship, and played in the 1985 U16 World Championship. That’s more than anyone from Idaho since.

Illinois
Brian McBride: Captain America, Mr. Bloodyface himself was among the first outfield players to show an EPL fan base that top American players can hack it in the world’s biggest league too.

Indiana
DaMarcus Beasley: Did Beasley spend the last few years of his career reinventing himself as the best left back in USMNT history? Pretty terrific argument to be made.

Iowa
Ian Christianson: Iowa is wide open, so we have to get a bit creative here. Christianson enjoyed a standout four-year career at Georgetown and became one of the first Iowa-developed players (the first? Could be) to play in MLS this month with NYRB. This is hardly glamorous, but then that’s Iowa’s soccer history.

Kansas
Matt Besler: When Besler stepped foot in Brazil, he became the first Kansan in history to appear at a World Cup, let alone start. Not only that, but there’s an argument to be made that he was the best U.S. defender during an entire World Cup cycle. Hard to top that, Kansas.

Kentucky
Andrew Farrell: Kentucky’s history of producing in-state titans of soccer is pretty sparse, but they seem to have hit a good one with Farrell. Farrell came of age in Peru but played much of his high school career in Louisville, and he has the best pro (and national team) prospects of any Kentucky player perhaps ever.

Louisiana
Patrick Mullins: Louisiana doesn’t have much of a soccer lineage, so when the New Orleans native won back-to-back Hermann Trophy awards in ’12-13 as the best college player in the nation, it ranked above any soccer accomplishment of any native son in history.

Maine
Roger Levesque: A Seattle Sounders legend, Levesque is a bonafide Mainer from Portland. The third highest scorer in the state’s history, he played 201 games as a pro and even got a couple caps for the U.S. U23 MNT. No fellow Maineiac can boast the same. Plus, he might be the most beloved player for the nation’s most well-attended pro club.

Maryland
Bruce Murray: Maryland’s had a lot of good ones, namely guys like Kyle Beckerman and Dante Washington, but none reach Murray status. A rare talent that could’ve slotted in on pure ability to just about any U.S. MNT over the years, Murray remains one of the only U.S. national teamers ever to have a goal and an assist in one World Cup (1990).

Massachusetts
Mike Burns: In addition to 75 caps for the USMNT (including two World Cups), Burns was among the initial serious wave of Americans to pop into Europe for minutes. He got 15 games with Viborg in 1995. He also played on every international level available, something no Mass soccer man has done since. We love Bert Patenaude, but he only played four games (!) in the U.S. shirt.

Michigan
Alexi Lalas: Known in the 90’s as the rocker dude with the wild ginger hair and goatee, Lalas backed the image by quickly becoming one of the best defenders in American history. He became the first American to play in Serie A in 1994 and finished with nine goals from the back in a U.S. shirt.

Minnesota
Briana Scurry: Before there was Solo, there was Scurry, the most decorated international keeper in WNT history (if not the best). The only keeper in U.S. history with two gold medals and a World Cup title, Scurry was hugely influential for a generation of goalkeepers who fell in love with the game in the 90’s.

Mississippi
Justin Mapp: Mapp’s story is one of “what if’s,” since he had all the wing talent in the world but couldn’t quite put it together enough to be a USMNT regular. That said, it’s hard to argue that Mississippi’s produced a better one considering his lengthy pro career and unique skill set as a winger.

Missouri
Steve Ralston: Want to debate Ralston? That’s fine. That’s why we’re here. But nobody in American history played more professional games (412), and nobody in MLS has assisted on more goals (135), though Donovan might snap that later this year. Unparalleled consistency and production.

Montana
Heather Olson: Montana’s never produced a pro, but Olson did score a state record 91 goals in her career at Billings Capital from 1993-96. Rick Thompson, the dean of Montana soccer coaching, called her the best player he’d ever seen. That’s enough here.

Nebraska
Jason Kreis: One of the best coaches in U.S. history is also from Nebraska, where he turned into the best player in the state’s history – 305 pro appearances and 108 goals? That’ll do it.

Nevada
Herculez Gomez: Gomez was born in California but came of age in Las Vegas, where he quickly became the most talented native son in the state’s soccer history. No other Nevadan has ever played as many national team games or been to a World Cup.

New Hampshire
Jay Heaps: So Heaps actually went to high school in neighboring Massachusetts, but he’s from Nashua, N.H., near the border between the two states. So we’ll give the former Hermann Trophy winner, MLS stalwart and now Revs coach over to the Granite State.

New Jersey
Claudio Reyna: New Jersey’s legacy of production is incredible, and Tim Howard may one day come for this state. But not yet. Reyna is the best this hotbed has ever produced, borne out by his captaining of the best U.S. run in a World Cup in history. Plus: it’s Reyna.

New Mexico
Edgar Castillo: Las Cruces born and bred, Castillo was responsible for a lot of firsts in New Mexico’s relatively truncated soccer history. He was an established pro in Mexico at Santos Laguna by the time he was 21, scored a goal for the Mexican U23 national team by the time he was 23 (go figure!) and is currently sitting on 16 career USMNT caps.

New York
Kristine Lilly: Better than Wambach et al? You bet. She went to high school in Connecticut but was born in the Empire State, which will claim her for our purposes. The longevity and consistency in Lilly’s career almost defies description, and she takes the cake in the country’s most developmentally robust state historically behind only California.

North Carolina
Eddie Pope: Might Pope be the best defender in U.S. Soccer history? Arguments. Either way, North Carolina has never produced a better player, and Pope deserves his place in the firmament of U.S. Soccer’s recent history.

North Dakota
Alec Rauhauser: Woof. Soccer in North Dakota is… something… and even Rauhauser moved on to play hockey after high school. But he was the key to Bismarck Century’s back-to-back titles earlier this decade (the first time that’s happened in N.D. since the 90’s) and scored their title-winner in 2012. So… that’s something.

Ohio
Brad Friedel: Tim Howard may be coming for Friedel’s title of the best keeper in U.S. history (which, make no mistake, Friedel still owns), but not yet. The best keeper in a sea of incredible ones deserves his honor here, even if he did grow up a bit too close to Cleveland for comfort.

Oklahoma
Joe-Max Moore: So Moore’s family moved to California when he was 14, but that was plenty of time to get him rooted to the game in America’s heartland. He had four goals and two assists in one game for the USMNT in 1995, and no American matched that since. One of the most underrated strikers in national team history.

Oregon
Tiffeny Milbrett: The leading goal-scorer on the U.S.’s last World Cup-winning team? That’d be Milbrett, who still owns or shares four WNT all-time records and was one of its most important finishers for years. Finished with a clean 100 goals in 204 caps.

Pennsylvania
Walter Bahr: A nod here to the 1950 team that became the last to make a World Cup for 40 years, Bahr was the best player (sorry Joey G, but it’s true) on the team that improbably upset England, which might still be the biggest win in USMNT history. Former Scotland standout Tommy Muirhead once said of Bahr that he was good enough to play for any first division team in the UK.

Rhode Island
Michael Parkhurst: No Rhode Islander in history boasts the kind of soccer resume Parkhurst does: U17 residency, MLS Rookie and Defender of the Year awards, two Gold Cups, an Olympics, and involvement in two World Cup cycles. Crazy he’s only 30 still.

South Carolina
Enzo Martinez: The former North Carolina and Real Salt Lake midfielder (he’s now with the RailHawks permanently) was named the ESPN RISE High School Boys Player of the Decade for the aughts after winning three state titles, a FAB 50 national title and scoring 182 goals.

South Dakota
Chris Houser: As the only South Dakota native to play in MLS, Houser is on hallowed ground. The defender was picked up by the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1998 and played 27 games in Florida before ending his pro career in 2002. His time spent developing in Germany as a kid didn’t hurt matters.

Tennessee
Cindy Parlow: The Memphis native won three national titles with North Carolina and won the Hermann Trophy twice, in 1997 and 1998. Oh, and she has two Olympic golds and scored twice at the 1999 Women’s World Cup.

Texas
Clint Dempsey: This one’s no contest, though Texas has a fine (albeit recent) history producing very good soccer players. Dempsey is up with Tab Ramos as perhaps the most technically able USMNT player in history.

Utah
Kealia Ohai: No soccer player in the state’s history has done what Ohai has already, and she’s only just 22. She scored the goal that gave the U.S. the 2012 U20 World Cup title, and she has a national title under her belt after a standout career at North Carolina. As the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NWSL draft, big things are expected of Utah’s brightest.

Vermont
Kristi Lefebvre: The state’s first two-time Gatorade winner in 1999-2000, Lefebvre played for an elite club team in Maryland 500 miles away before joining UConn and guiding them to a national title game in 2003. In 2011, she became Vermont’s head coach at the ripe age of 26.

Virginia
John Kerr: Kerr’s winding career took him from Portsmouth to the New England Revolution, but before that he was winning a national title with Duke (the team he now coaches) and becoming one of the first Americans to play in the newly formed English First Division in the early 90’s.

Washington
Michelle Akers: Born in California but raised (and developed) in Seattle, Akers was more formational for U.S. women’s soccer than any male has been on that side of the gender line. Two World Cups and the FIFA Female Player of the Century speak for themselves.

Washington D.C.
Oguchi Onyewu: That’s right. We even take into account The District, and nobody better than Onyewu has been birthed from its political loins.

West Virginia
Tommy Trupo: West Virginia is quiet as far as national soccer contributions are concerned, but nobody’s won more in-state than Trupo, who had three state titles, two Gatorade state player of the year trophies and 102 career goals.

Wisconsin
Jay DeMerit: DeMerit’s story is so incredible that it’s hard to pick against the one-time USMNT stalwart at center back. Don’t let that obscure a fantastic club career that just drew to a close this year, either.

Wyoming
Ariela Schreibeis: Can we get a lifeline here? Schreibeis won three state titles and was one of just three girls players in Wyoming history to repeat as Gatorade state champs. She also went on to a solid career with NC State, which sets her apart in Wyoming soccer.

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47 Comments
  • Brian

    Wait, how does Friedel “own” the best US keeper ever? Kasey Keller? Hello? It’s not cut and dry by any stretch of the imagination.

    • Will Parchman

      A committee of soccer historians and former players, coaches, media members and administrators at the national team level picked an “official” U.S. Soccer All-Time Best XI late last year, and Friedel picked up as many votes than Howard and Keller combined. Not saying that’s ironclad, but it’s a pretty darn good litmus. I happen to agree with them, but fair play to all three.

      • dikranovich

        will, in fairness, that was before brasil, and howards stature was elevated by his performance this past summer.

  • Robert

    Jason Kreis should be the pick for Nebraska or Louisiana

  • B

    Thoroughly enjoyed this listing. It’s a fun debate. As a Mississippian, I would just interject that we claim Jermaine Jones via a possible u6 season in the Greenwood Youth Soccer Organization. I don’t have any documentation to back that up, but I choose to believe he played while here.

  • James Knowles

    While we’re making subjective lists for the fun of it (and, in all honesty, who doesn’t love that?), I think you left out a category in best Foreign-Born Player. Might I suggest Earnie Stewart or Tab Ramos?

    • Will Parchman

      Good shout James. I’d put Hugo Perez on that shortlist as well.

    • bayonetbrant

      You could put Pablo Mastroeni on that foreign-born list, too.

  • soccerinDE

    hailing from Delaware, i was very interested to see who you dug up. i think you might have missed Rob Smith though: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Smith_(soccer). very fun article!

    • Will Parchman

      Thanks for the nod. I’d actually found Smith, but based on player ability I gambled on O’Malley (more skill-driven era, Smith played in early MLS days). Could definitely go either way.

      • soccerinDE

        sounds like a fair assessment — such a small state. loved reading this. (on a side note, having played briefly at UD, i was surprised to see how international their squad is now. good team.)

  • Nate

    Just FYI, South Dakota has had soccer for a while now. It used to be a club sport through schools, including state playoffs and a tournament. Now we are in the third year of sanctioned soccer, though the last two seasons had less than ten teams.

  • bayonetbrant

    You could’ve added Washington DC to your list, too – that would’ve put Roy Lassiter on the list, and he really ought to be there somewhere.

    Also, there *is* some competition for the title in Louisiana, since Jason Garey won a Hermann Trophy playing at Maryland, and also won an MLS Cup and a pair of Supporters’ Shields with Columbus 08-09.

    South Carolina’s list of potential players gets a lot better if you include guys that played in college there, considering that Dempsey went to Furman, and Wolff & Mathis both played at USC, and there’s a host of great players who played at Clemson (Bruce Murray, Oguchi Onyewu, Stuart Holden off the top of my head).

    • Daniel

      Add Ricardo Clark to Furman (understanding that he doesn’t stand as tall as the other names you’ve mentioned)

  • Mark Mulder

    I suspect I know the reasoning behind not picking him, but I would put Giuseppe Rossi in for New Jersey. He has had injury problems, but when he’s fit he is top class.

    • bayonetbrant

      Regardless of who Rossi chose to play for, I’d take Reyna over him any day, and probably put Meola and Harkes ahead of him, too. Reyna captained his country at the World Cup and was club captain in several top-tier leagues and an automatic first-choice pick in the lineup anywhere he played. Rossi can’t check any of those boxes.

    • coachray40

      How about Peter Vermes–all time leading scorer in NJ state HS history at Delran HS, National team player, I believe a former USMNT captain, and now a successful coach. reyna? thats crap

  • jacktackular

    I get putting Akers in there…but I think you gotta pick Kasey Keller from Washington

    • Travis

      “Player of the Century”

      I love Keller, and he has had a tremendous career and impact on the game. But I don’t think he can top someone who was “Player of the Century.”

      Let’s be glad the state has such high profile players, with many more developing.

  • Casey

    What about Joe Larson from ND? Went to Liberty and played semi pro for a number of years. If you’re going to give a shout to soccer there it probably has to go to someone from Fargo South.

  • Don Haggar

    Here are a couple of names from South Dakota. Chris Houser was a defender who played for the MLS Tampa Bay Mutiny and briefly for the USL PDLSioux Falls Spitfire. TJ Rolfing was a striker who played for the USL A League Carolina Dynamo and the USL PDLSioux Falls Spitfire. Rolfing was one of the top scorers in both the A League and the USL PDL League.

  • loJic

    Jason Kreis, although not born in Louisiana, spent majority of his teenage years here and would probably be considered the choice for most Louisianians. Also there’s Jason Garey who also is a Hermann winner and had a decent stint in the MLS.

    • bayonetbrant

      I mentioned Jason Garey from Louisiana below, too 🙂

  • Barb

    What about JEN CARLSON from Vermont??…..Kristi Lebfave had# a great career but she followed in Jen’s footsteps to Uconn…..Jen was inducted into the Vermont Hall of Fame, a 3x HE All American, U21 national team pool, USYSA Boston Bolts National champion, 2nd all time leader scorer/points at UConn, All American and WUSA drafted….I think she deserves some props from Vermont, but nothing to be taken away from Kristi!!

    • j clark

      Kristi is 4 years younger than Jen so I wouldn’t say she followed in her footsteps. If you Google Kristi, you will find out that she has a lot more accomplishments than what was listed in the article, including stints with the national team, a national championship with Bethesda Fury, All American, etc.

      • Barb

        As does Jen….the accolades go on and on….both were great but Jen is what Vermont Soccer is

  • K.H.G.

    My vote for Wisconsin would go to Leslie Osborne but Jay DeMerit is excellent too.

  • wondo29

    I know they are both foreign born but both Sydney Leroux and Pablo Mastroeni played most of their club soccer lives in AZ. I think Brad Evans is a great player but not sure why those two were not considered?

  • Gary B

    The only choice from Connecticut is Kristine Lily.

  • Southside

    There are many more players better than Brian McBride that came out of Illinois. McBride only received more hype. Trust me, McBride couldn’t even hack it at the amateur level in Chicago. He was lucky to have people helping him push through.

  • Roy Straight

    Yes, Tom Trupo is without a doubt the best soccer player to come out of WV, but watch out for his brother Joe, who is hot on Tom’s heels.

  • srod

    Abby Wambach… World player of the year, 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist, World Cup Finalist, College National Champ, 3 times all american, 6 time winner of US athlete of the year, highest goal scorer for US national team for both men and women..is not on the list but
    Kristine Lilly is..2 Olympic goals, 1 World Cup, 3 National Championships…Boring.

    WE COULD PUT A BUNCH OF ATHLETES WITH BIG TEAM HONORS ON HERE. Wambach is a better indidvual.

    Wambach for NY!!!

  • tsingletonvt

    How about Charlie Davies from NH?

  • srod

    Nobody cares about wambach? nobody thinks shes better than lilly?

  • Guest

    How about Darryl Gee for Maryland….The guy was drafted out of high school by the New York Cosmos (ever heard of them) and played with Pele’, Beckenbauer, etc….

  • Guest

    This such a disgrace for any guys that played prior to 1990….WTF

  • PerfectW

    Kristin Lilly is not a NYer. She was raised in Wilton, CT. Attended HS in Wilton. She made the USWNT while still in HS. The town even named the soccer field after her.

    She is CT soccer. Kyle Martino would even agree

  • Eric

    Tough crowd…lol

  • Justin

    The correct answer for Wyoming is Trey Harrington. He was a goalkeeper who was three time high school player of the year at Cheyenne East who went on to a sterling career at Evansville (with All-American honors in 1992) and played several seasons with the Colorado Foxes in the APSL/A-League. He also had a cup of coffee with the U-23 national team. He’s continued on in youth coaching in Colorado.

  • Jason Ungar

    although I guess Donovan is the best from California, playing with many of them i’d disagree. i’d take Wynalda

  • Jeffrey Scofield

    Doesn’t do Arizona justice. Pablo Mastroeni
    was born in Argentina, but grew up and went to high school in Arizona—we’re claiming him.

  • coachray40

    “Louisiana doesn’t have much of a soccer lineage, so when the New Orleans native won back-to-back Hermann Trophy awards in ’12-13 as the best college player in the nation, it ranked above any soccer accomplishment of any native son in history.. ” whoever wrote this….Will Parchman?…has no knowledge or credibility at all. Between 2005 and 2013, the Herrman trophy was won 4 times by native Lousianans–Jason Garey from St Amant LA in 2005 (who currently hold the national career HS goal scoring record at 178, who was also a finalist in 2004, won a national championship at MD in 2005 scoring the game winner), Joe Lapira from Lake Charles LA who won the Herrman trophy in 2006 whie attending the University of Notre Dame (along with playing professionally in Norway and making an appearance with the Irish National side due to his mothers birthplace), and then subsequently Mullins. This doesnt even take guys like Derek Thomas, Joey Belfour, William Bagayoko, or a slew of others into consideration. I’d say 4 Hermanns in 8 years is a pretty hefty soccer lineage for any state products. Can any other state even match that?

  • SoccerBuff

    Natasha Kai should be Hawaii. She scored I think game winner in Olympics over Norway. Brian Ching never made a World Cup roster!!!

    • Will Parchman

      Yes he did.

  • hatrik

    Bent Goulet was born in ND. Key player for the 88 Men’s Olympic Team qualifying and finals. An actual American goal scoring threat who deserved more than the handful of caps he earned

  • Driver Decade

    Women in the picture! Looks like women in soccer sure deserve more exposure. So there might be lists like this, only for women.

  • Andrew

    Maryland straight up claims Onyewu, He grew up in Silver Spring and Olney and went to Sherwood. He would have gone to my high school if it had existed one year earlier. Also he is from Maryland and Omar Gonzalez the only taller outfield player in U.S. history went to UMD.

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