If there is one venue the U.S. Men’s National Team could call home outside United States, it would undoubtedly be Fulham’s Craven Cottage. Plenty of current and former players can find the stadium on the river Thames without a GPS.
The list of U.S. internationals that pulled on the Fulham jersey is long and distinguished, including goalkeepers, goal scorers, FIFA World Cup veterans and aspiring leaders.
Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann (1999-2002) was the first to don the Cottager’s kit in the modern era and former U.S. MNT midfielder and defender Eddie Lewis arrived a year later (2000-2002). Despite not playing a game the whole season, his coach Jean Tigana insisted on keeping Lewis until season’s end, making him the last to arrive at the USA’s pre-World Cup training camp in 2002. Lewis went on to deliver one of the most famous crosses in U.S. history.
Later in the decade, three-time World Cup veteran Kasey Keller spent a season at Craven Cottage (2007), while striker Eddie Johnson had a three-year spell there (2008-11) spent mostly on loan.
The most accomplished and celebrated U.S. players at Craven Cottage are strikers Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey. McBride (2004-08) scored 33 goals during his tenure and became such a fan favorite that the stadium pub now bears his name. He was a two-time Fulham Player of the Year, and was named captain for the 2007-08 season. Most recently, McBride was named to a special committee to help select the club’s next manager.
“I think it’s the perfect fit. The Fulham supporters are incredibly loyal and have a great appreciation for what the American players bring to the table,” McBride said of Craven Cottage. “For the U.S. players and fans who will be there for the first time, they will experience a very special place. There is a heart and soul to Craven Cottage that goes beyond just a stadium; it’s like playing in front of your family.”
Not to be outdone, Dempsey picked up McBride’s scoring reins at Fulham. In addition to famous goals – the game-winner against Liverpool that saved Fulham from relegation in 2007 and the wonder strike against Juventus in the Europa League Round of 16, among others – the Texan set the team record for the most career tallies in the Premier League (50) by an American, surpassing his 2006 World Cup teammate, McBride.
Former U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra also made a big impression with the Fulham faithful (2004-08), becoming one of the few MNT players in history playing outside the United States to wear the captain’s armband for both club and country. He was the second leading scorer in the 2006-07 campaign with five goals – behind McBride – and finished his career there with eight total in 116 appearances.
“I’m thrilled that the U.S. Men’s National Team will play at a stadium that has meant so much to the American players who got their chance at Fulham,” Bocanegra said. “The fans there were incredibly supportive of us, and we have so many great memories there. Craven Cottage has one of the most intimate atmospheres I’ve ever played in. Sitting in the Cottage is like having a rooftop seat at Wrigley Field – it’s an experience every fan should have in their lifetime.”
The American line of succession at Fulham has now been passed to 18-year-old Emerson Hyndman, who played extensively in Fulham’s Youth Academy and scored a goal in the U-18 FA Cup Final. Now earning regular minutes for the first time, Hyndman debuted for the senior MNT in the 1-0 win against the Czech Republic in Prague this past September.