If America’s Best Athletes Played Soccer: Starting XI

The United States Mens National Team just finished a memorable journey in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Although their performances were heralded as “valiant”, “gutsy”, “formidable”, etc., they ultimately fell short. There was an obvious gap in ability when playing against superior opponents such as Germany and Belgium. The U.S. is making strides in its ability, but is nowhere near the level of technical abilities of other dominant nations. We boast the most athletic people in the entire world and it’s not even close. Unfortunately, the majority of these athletes are playing football and basketball instead of soccer. What if some of our most elite athletes had grown up with a soccer ball at their feet? The list below assumes that fact, not that these guys could instantly step onto the field and be great. We are assuming that they were groomed from a young age to play soccer and only soccer. The results would be amazing. Here’s my list of US all-stars below lined up in a 4-4-2 diamond. Enjoy.

Goalie: Anthony Davis

This was arguably the toughest decision on my squad as there are countless directions you could go here. I ultimately went with absurd length, wingspan, and athletic ability. His biggest issue might be getting down to ground quick enough, but his ability to block balls heading towards the upper corners would be unmatched. We’ve never seen such a tall goalie, but I think he could make it work. I deliberated on Kawhi Leonard here as well due to his freakish athleticism and enormous wingspan too.

Left Back: Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook might be the most purely athletic player in the NBA, and yes, that includes Lebron James. His immense athleticism combined with a motor that never stops would instantly make him a world class player. The only question was where he would play on the field. You could make an argument for goalie, defensive midfield, or one of the wingers, but I think he fits best in this spot given his versatility.

Center Back: J.J. Watt

Some might argue that J.J. Watt is too big and slow to play soccer, even if he had started at a young age. To that, I would say this, have you watched J.J. Watt play before? It doesn’t even make sense how quick he is given his enormous frame. His motor never stops and would harass smaller strikers into submission.

Center Back: Mike Trout

Baseball players get a bad rap for being some of the worst athletes in professional sports. While this is largely the case, that doesn’t mean that all baseball players are bad athletes. Mike Trout is a freak and could definitely play other sports, including soccer. His physicality and speed would be a nightmare matchup for opposing strikers.

Right Back: Richard Sherman

Sherman has been locking down the top receivers in the NFL for a few years now, and he could likely shut down attacking forwards in soccer as well. His athleticism is off the charts, but his intelligence could be one of his greatest assets. Sherman might be the first to coin the phrase “lock-down fullback” for his ability to erase their best player.

Defensive Midfield: Tony Allen

Can you imagine the Grindfather playing soccer? He would absolutely be a yellow-card machine, but would make life a living hell for the other team. He never stops hustling and would be a constant menace on the field. Much like basketball, he would like struggle at times with the technical aspects, but these could easily be overlooked for the intangibles be brings.

Left Midfield: Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson will likely start to fade away in the next few years as he racks up the mileage on his body. When healthly, however, Peterson is a monster with unmatched physical traits. He would employ a more direct approach than his running-back partner on the other side (McCoy), but would definitely be a force.

Right Midfield: Lesean McCoy

McCoy has juke moves that can normally only be created in a video game. Imagine these skills if he had grown up with a soccer ball at his feet? It would be like Ronaldinho with more athleticism. His compact frame would also make him very difficult to push off the ball.

Attacking Midfield: Chris Paul

Paul’s creativity and passing ability is the best in the world. If he were a soccer player, he could play the same creative role. I’m imagining him sending exquisite through balls for his strikers to run onto or dribbling right by defenders. I envision him playing a role like Xavi for Spain or Pirlo for Italy, only a far more athletic version.

Striker: Lebron James

This striker partnership is terrifying to think about. These two athletes are freaks that physically dominate their sports like no one before them. James’ breakaway speed, strength, and quickness would make him a physically imposing specimen. His ability to win balls in the air from crosses or set pieces is fun to imagine. Imagine Jozy Altidore, but far more athletic.

Striker: Calvin Johnson

See everything that was said about LBJ and insert here. The only difference is that Megatron wouldn’t cramp up 15 minutes into the game.

Honorable Mentions:

Kawhi Leonard – Goalie

Jadeveon Clowney – CB

Kenneth Faried – CB

Andre Iguodala – RB/LB

Troy Polamalu – RB/LB

Vernon Davis – Defensive Midfielder

Patrick Willis – Midfielder

LM/RM – Jamaal Charles

LM/RM – Andrew McCutchen

Attacking Mid – Derick Rose (when healthy)

Striker – A.J. Green

Striker – Kobe Bryant


Who did I leave out? There are countless elite athletes that could have been amazing soccer players. Let me know who you would include in the comments.