For some players, the dream of playing college soccer is the ultimate goal. But for these superstars, the dream didn’t end there. These players succeeded at the highest levels of club and international soccer. Here are ten players who went on to achieve great things after their college careers came to an end.
1 Cobi Jones – UCLA Bruins
Cobi Jones’s professional career spanned almost 2 decades. After winning the NCAA National Championship with UCLA Bruins, Jones featured in the English Premier League with Coventry City, played for Vasco de Gama in Brazil and shone in his home state of California with the LA Galaxy.
Cobi Jones is considered one of the original stars in the MLS and became the face of the Galaxy and MLS for years. With the US National Team, Jones earned 164 caps which is still a USMNT record.
He played at the 1992 Olympics and World Cup in 1994, 1998 and 2002. Cobi has since formed a successful career as a soccer analyst and can be seen sharing his insight on Fox Sports, BeIn and the Pac-12 Network.
2 Brian Mcbride – St Louis Billikens
After becoming SLU‘s all-time leading scorer, Mcbride Turned pro with the Milwaukee Rampage and it wasn’t long before he took his goalscoring talents overseas to VFL Wolfsburg. He returned to the USA in style becoming the first-ever draft pick for the Columbus Crew.
After impressive spells on loan with Preston North End and Everton, Mcbride moved to England full time and became a fan favourite at Fulham in the Premier League. Mcbride finished his club career with Chicago Fire averaging 1 goal every 3 games.
On the international scene, Mcbride became the first American to score in 2 World Cups and made a massive 95 appearances. McBride’s service to the USMNT didn’t end there, in 2020 he was unveiled as the team’s new General Manager.
3 Vedad Ibesivic – St Louis Bilikins
An incredible story, after fleeing worn-torn Bosnia with his family, Ibesivic arrived in the United States as a teenager barely able to speak English. Within two years, the striker had graduated high school and earned himself a soccer scholarship to Saint Louis University. As well as impressive performances for SLU in 2003, Ibisevic played with the St. Louis Strikers and the Chicago Fire PDL teams.
From 2007 to 2020 he was a star in the Bundesliga appearing in over 120 games for Hoffenheim and scoring 48 league goals. He transferred to VFB Stuttgart with a transfer-free reported to be over 6 million dollars. He continued his success at Hertha Berlin before retiring after a brief spell with Schalke.
Ibisevic helped Bosnia-Herzegovina qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup by scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory against Lithuania. In total he made 83 international appearances scoring 28 goals for his country.
4 Shaka Hislop – Howard University
After playing for Howard University, an HSBU, Shaka Hislop played over 400 games for club and country in a 15-year professional career. The goalkeeper spent much of his time in the Premier League as a fan favourite for Newcastle United before moving south to play with West Ham, Reading and Portsmouth.
During his time at Newcastle United, the team finished second in the Premier League for two consecutive seasons. He also played for England under-23s, along with being an unused substitute in one England friendly. Hislop was eligible to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the international level and made 26 appearances for the “Socca Warriors”.
Shaka retired from soccer in 2007 after a successful season with Dallas FC in MLS. Hislop has since returned to college soccer, serving as a goalkeeper coach for Quinnipiac University alongside his career in broadcasting.
5 Brad Friedel – UCLA Bruins
The second goalkeeper on the list, Brad Friedel played collegiately at UCLA where he earned the Hermann Trophy in 1992. He finished his college career early in an attempt to turn pro, initially with Nottingham Forest.
His senior career spanned more than 20 professional seasons, 17 of those in the English Premier League. Between 1997 and 2015, Friedel made 450 league appearances in England’s top flight with Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur.
As an international, Friedel collected 82 caps for the USA over 13 years and was a member of three United States World Cup squads in 1994, 1998 and 2002. The Lakewood, OH native also represented the United States at two Olympic Games in 1992 and 2000.
6 Oguchi Onyewu -Clemson Tigers
Raised in the Washington DC area. Oguchi Onyewu attended Clemson University in 2000, before moving to France to begin his professional career in 2002. Onyewu had a 15-year professional career in Europe playing in France, Belgium, England, Italy, Holland, Portugal, and Spain.
Some of the iconic clubs he has played for include, Newcastle United, Standard de Liege, Sporting Lisbon and Malaga CF. A former member of the US Men’s National Team, Onyewu spent more than 10 years as a regular in the backline and started games in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.
7 Claudio Reyna – Virginia Cavileers
Under the leadership of Bruce Arena, Claudio Reyna won the NCAA Championship in each of his three seasons with the Virginia Cavaliers.
Forgoing his senior year, he began a 12-year professional career starring for five major European clubs: Bayer Leverkusen, Vfl Wolfsburg, Rangers F.C., Sunderland AFC and Manchester City.
While at Vfl Wolfsburg, he was the first US player to wear the captain’s armband while in a European league. Before his retirement in 2008, Claudio played one season in the MLS with the NY Red Bulls.
Reyna served the United States National team in 4 World Cups from 1994 to 2006 and made 112 appearances in total. He became the first American player to be selected in a FIFA All World Cup team for his play in South Korea 2002. He also represented the US in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.
8 Carlos Bocanegra – UCLA Bruins
Carlos Bocanegra was a three-year standout at UCLA, helping the Bruins to the 1997 National Championship and 1999 College Cup. He achieved national Best XI status as a sophomore in 1998, and All-American and Player of the Year nominations as a junior in 1999.
Turning pro after his junior year he was selected No. 4 overall in the 2000 MLS SuperDraft by the Chicago Fire. He won the MLS Rookie of the Year Award in 2000 and back-to-back MLS Defender of the Year Awards in 2002 and 2003.
In 2004 he signed with English Premier League club Fulham, where he played four seasons. Bocanegra then transferred to France’s Ligue 1 and played for Rennes and Saint-Etienne until he joined Rangers of the Scottish Premier League.
In July 2013, he returned to California to play for Chivas USA, where he finished his career holding the all-time record for most international goals scored by a U.S. defender. Since his retirement, he remains in the sport and was appointed technical director of MLS franchise Atlanta United in March 2015.
9 Jack Harrison – Wake Forest
The only currently active player on this list, Jack Harrison’s rise to the elite level of soccer had an unconventional path. Having played for both Liverpool and Manchester United’s academies as a youngster, Jack Harrison left England to attend Berkshire School – a leading private boarding school in Massachusetts. As a standout High School soccer star, Jack attracted the attention of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Harrison was a top performer in his one season at Wake Forest. He was a first-team NSCAA All-American and a semi-finalist for the Hermann Trophy.
Harrison was drafted in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft initially by Chicago Fire and then traded to New York City FC. He spent two seasons in New York sharing the field with World Cup winner players David Villa and Andrea Pirlo.
Harrison was then signed with partner club Manchester City in 2017. After some time on loan at Middlesbrough, he joined Leeds United and has since become a star player in the Premier League. His first hattrick came in a 3-2 win vs West Ham in January 2022
10 Clint Dempsey – Furman University
Clint Dempsey spent three seasons at Furman University and won the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) and All-America honors. He inspired the Paladins to one of the highest national rankings in the team’s history.
Drafted by the New England Revolution, Dempsey was named MLS Rookie of the Year in his first season. Between 2007 and 2013, Dempsey played with Fulham and Tottenham in the English Premier League, scoring 72 goals in all competitions, a record for American players. He then returned to the MLS in 2013 with the Seattle Sounders.
With the USMNT, Dempsey played in 4 Gold Cups, winning two, and three FIFA World Cups. Dempsey scored goals in the 2006, 2010, and 2014 World Cups, becoming the first American male to score in three World Cups. Dempsey is featured on the cover of EA Sports FIFA 15 and Sports Illustrated magazine twice. Clint Dempsey is recognized as one of the greatest American soccer players of all time.
Who did we miss? Should anyone else have made the cut? Which female soccer players should be featured on an all-women’s list?