With so many U.S. nationals playing abroad these days, it’s easy to forget that the process of earning respect and those opportunities has been a long road paved through decades. While players are now spread out across of a multitude of countries and leagues, a handful of clubs have shown a particular faith and affinity for the American professionals.
Over the next week, we’ll take a look at clubs where U.S. players have made a particularly strong impact in numbers and performance through the years.
This week’s coverage has stretched to English clubs Everton FC and Fulham, German Bundesliga sides VfL Wolfsburg and Hannover 96 and Club Tijuana of Liga MX. Today, we close the series with revered Scottish Premier League side Rangers FC.
The term “Captain America” has been deployed often to describe standout U.S. internationals who played professional overseas. Glasgow Rangers perhaps deserves the right to exclusive use, having employed two consecutive captains of the U.S. Men’s National Team – even the colors match up! They are among a group of seven Americans to appear for one of the storied clubs in soccer and have combined to collect 14 trophies.
Claudio Reyna was the first to don the Light Blues and to raise a trophy, helping Rangers to the 1999-00 Scottish Premier League title. The U.S. captain scored in his debut and three of the first four league matches; however, his most famous goal came in a 2-0 win against Parma in Champions League qualifying which pushed the club into the tournament proper that season.
WATCH: Reyna Beats Buffon to Push Rangers to Champions League
While he previously patrolled the center of the park, Rangers boss Dick Advocaat deployed him on the right flank – apparently USMNT head coach Bruce Arena was watching, as he deployed Reyna in the same spot in the team’s 2-0 Round of 16 victory against Mexico in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Later, DaMarcus Beasley enjoyed a fruitful career at Ibrox Stadium. Arriving in 2007, he became the first U.S. international to score in the Champions League for two different clubs after having done so for PSV Eindhoven. During his three seasons, Beas collected six titles in total, including back-to-back league titles in 2008-09 and 2009-10 and two Scottish FA Cups.
WATCH: American Rangers Tribute Video
A year after Beasley’s arrival, Maurice Edu joined the Glasgow outfit. He matched Beasley’s six-pack of silverware, winning three league titles and two league cups during his four-year spell.
Edu became part of Rangers history in the most classic way possible: scoring a game-winner against bitter rivals Celtic. This strike in the 1-0 win on Feb. 28, 2010, was particularly significant as it all but sealed the SPL crown.
WATCH: Edu Scores Crucial Goal in Old Firm Derby
A pair of U.S. internationals landed in Glasgow the same day in 2011, as then-U.S. skipper Carlos Bocanegra and Alejandro Bedoya signed up for the reigning champions coming from two different clubs on the continent. Bedoya moved from Swedish side Orebro, while Bocanegra came from St. Etienne in France’s Ligue 1.
During their two seasons at Ibrox, Bocanegra often wore the armband. Sadly, the famous club went into bankruptcy and dropped to the third division for the start of the 2012-13 campaign, forcing all three U.S. players into departing.
WATCH: MNT In Scotland Part 1
U.S. youth international Gedion Zelalem spent a year on loan from Arsenal, logging 28 appearances for the Glasgow club in all competitions during the 2015-16 campaign. That proved a pivotal year in the resurrection of the club, with Rangers winning a Scottish Challenge Cup title and finishing first in the Scottish Championship that earned promotion back to the top-flight Premier League.
WATCH: MNT In Scotland Part 2
The following year, Emerson Hyndman had a sixth-month loan spell starting in January of 2017. Enjoying his best stretch as a professional season, he made 13 appearances and scored four goals. Despite only joining the club midseason, Hyndman was selected Rangers Young Player of the Year for the 2016-17 season.
The most recent edition to the fraternity is once-capped USMNT defender Matt Polster, who crossed the pond from Chicago Fire in January of 2019 to join the club coached by former England international Steven Gerrard.
WATCH: Hyndman Scores First for Rangers