Players hailing from the USA in the UEFA Champions League are a relatively modern occurrence. Only since the mid-1990s have Americans started making regular appearances in the world’s premier club competition. But which Americans are the most successful in the UEFA Champions League?

Breaking into a big European club is a major mark of success for an American player. Furthermore, being named to the team sheet for an elite tournament like UCL is an even higher level of achievement. So by the metric of total appearances in the Champions League, these are the most successful American players in history:

Americans in Champions League by appearances

Christian Pulisic5177Dortmund, Chelsea, AC Milan
Weston McKennie2441Schalke, Juventus
Sergiño Dest2310Ajax, Barcelona, AC Milan, PSV
Jermaine Jones2323Leverkusen, Schalke
DeMarcus Beasley2242PSV, Rangers
Gio Reyna1704Dortmund
Tyler Adams1410RB Leipzig
Sacha Kljestan1413Anderlecht
Tim Howard1000Manchester United
Fabian Johnson1022Mönchengladbach
Claudio Reyna800Rangers
Kenny Saief701Gent
Tony Sanneh601Hertha Berlin
Michael Parkhurst600Nordsjælland
Frankie Hejduk600Leverkusen
Jovan Kirovski510Dortmund
John O’Brien500Ajax
Ethan Horvath400Club Brugge
Maurice Edu410Rangers
Chris Richards300Bayern Munich

Recent standout players have quickly emerged as the most prolific Americans on the European stage.

Leading the pack is Christian Pulisic. The USMNT captain is far and away the leader in appearances, with more than double the next-closest player. His seven goals and seven assists are also top marks when it comes to offensive production in the competition. And Pulisic has done it with three of the continent’s biggest clubs, in three different leagues – Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, and now Milan. Pulisic doing it as a member of such massive clubs only adds to the impressiveness of the feat.

Up next is Weston McKennie. At 24 appearances he stands alone in second, having done so with Schalke 04 and Juventus. Meanwhile, Sergiño Dest has risen up the rankings in short order, currently tied with Jermain Jones at 23 appearances. Dest’s stints with Ajax, Barça, Milan, and PSV mark the most UCL nods with different clubs.

The old guard

Jones and DeMarcus Beasley set the pace for the generation of USA players that held the fort during the first decade-plus of the 21st century. Their careers at Leverkusen and Schalke, and PSV and Rangers respectively, helped set the tone that Americans could hold their own in Europe.

However despite guys like Beas, Jones, Pulisic, and others showing that Americans can kick it with the best of the best, overall the UCL is historically relatively bare in terms of American presence.

Still, both youngsters, Tyler Adams and Gio Reyna seem poised to continue to feature in the competition. But after those two, it’s fairly slim pickings – even including some of the more notable names like Tim Howard and Gio’s father, Claudio.

In fact, places 11-20 in the top 20 above have 54 total UEFA Champions League appearances combined. It’s probable that Christian Pulisic will equal that figure by himself when the 2023/24 Group Stage wraps up this December.

As the game continues to improve and grow in the US, we will undoubtedly export more players to Europe. And some will surely make noise in the Champions League. But we’ve still got a way to catch up to the traditional powers in the sport in terms of producing truly world-class players.

Photo: Imago