Top 10 Jewish American soccer players of all time
In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, we celebrate the greatest Jewish players in U.S. soccer history.
Jewish Americans have historically cemented a legacy in Major League Baseball, with legends as old as the great Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax to more modern icons like Ryan Braun and Alex Bregman.
Baseball isn’t alone. The U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team featured two Jewish American players on its most recent World Cup squad -- Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner and Inter Miami defender DeAndre Yedlin. In recent years, the U.S. has developed a proud tradition of consistently sending multiple Jews to the World Cup tournament.
Of course, many of the famous Jews playing in major European leagues tend to come from Israel, such as Fulham’s winger Manor Solomon or Celtic midfielder Liel Abada. Notably, David Beckham identifies as “half Jewish,” according to his autobiography.
To honor Jewish players’ contributions to American soccer during Jewish American Heritage Month, we have compiled a list of the 10 greatest Jewish American players of all time.
Are there any Jewish soccer player in the MLS?
There are. In addition to Yedlin on Inter Miami, other notable active Jewish MLS players include Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Zac MacMath, New York Red Bulls midfielder Daniel Edelman, and former USMNT defender Steven Birnbaum of DC United.
Current Jewish American Soccer Players
A few notable Jewish American soccer players are playing abroad in 2023. The most notable is Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner, who started in net for the USMNT at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Fellow goalkeeper Josh Cohen, born in California, starred for Israeli squad Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League against teams that included Juventus and PSG.
Famous Jewish American Soccer Players
David Beckham’s maternal grandfather is Jewish, leading the former Real Madrid and Manchester United star to say he’s half-Jewish. Israeli winger Yossi Benayoun played for Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, and West Ham. Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids was capped 74 times by the Dutch national team and was born in Suriname, but is Jewish from his mother’s side. Argentine-born coach Jose Pekerman, who coached both Argentina and Colombia at the World Cup, is the grandson of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine.
Ranking the 10 Best Jewish American Soccer Players of all time
- Josh Cohen
Years Active: 2015 to present
Teams: Burlingame Dragons, Orange County Bliss, Phoenix Rising, Sacramento Republic, Maccabi Haifa
Awards: Israeli Premier League Championship (2021, 2022, 2023), Israel State Cup Champion (2021), Israeli Footballer of the Year (2020-21)
Josh Cohen grabbed the spotlight in the fall of 2022 when his team, Maccabi Haifa, drew a loaded UEFA Champions League Group that included PSG, Juventus, and Benfica. After triumphing against Red Star Belgrade in a fiercely contested playoff, Cohen held his own, including in a historic 2-0 home victory over Juventus
A native of Mountain View, Calif., Cohen started his career at USL PDL (the fourth tier of American soccer). He toiled around the USL before transferring to Maccabi Haifa, an unusual career choice that has paid off for the now 30-year-old. He is also an Israeli citizen and was one of 10 Americans (and the only Jewish American) to play in the 2022-23 UEFA Champions League.
- Steve Birnbaum
Position: Center back
Years Active: 2010 to present
Teams: Orange Country Blue Star, DC United, Richmond Kickers (2014 loan)
Awards: Greater Washington Jewish Hall of Fame (2017), Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (2020)
Born in Newport, Calif., Steve Birnbaum was captain of the University of California, Berkeley, soccer team before becoming the second overall selection by DC United in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. The 6-foot-1 center back has been a one-club MLS man ever since, appearing in 235 games with DC United.
Birnbaum has been capped 11 times for the USMNT, but none since 2017. However, he was a rotational defender in America’s infamous 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign. He was also featured in the 2016 Copa America Centenario.
- Benny Feilhaber
Years Active: 2006 to 2020
Teams: Hamburger SV, Derby County, AGF Aarhus, New England Revolution, Sporting Kansas City, Los Angeles FC, Colorado Rapids,
Awards: CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship (2007), MLS Cup Championship (2013), MLS Best XI (2015), Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (2010)
A longtime MLS veteran, Feilhaber played 44 times for the USMNT from 2007 to 2017. Raised in the U.S. but born in Brazil, Feilhaber was able to play for both his native South American nation and Austria, which his paternal grandfather had fled to escape the Nazis.
After starting his career at Hamburg in the Bundesliga, the midfielder was part of Derby County’s 2007-08 infamous Premier League campaign, when the team accumulated the fewest points in a single Premier League season.
After a stint in Denmark, Feilhaber made more than 250 MLS appearances for four different clubs. The pinnacle of his MLS career was winning the 2013 MLS Cup with Sporting Kansas City. He also took part in the 2010 World Cup.
- Jonathan Bornstein
Position: Left back
Years Active: 2006 to present
Teams: Chivas USA, Tigres UANL, Atlante, Queretaro, Queretaro, Maccabi Netanya, Chicago Fire, CDS Vida
Awards: MLS Best XI (2007), MLS Rookie of the Year (2006), CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship (2007), Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (2008)
A fourth-round pick in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft, Bornstein exceeded expectations and won MLS Rookie of the Year honors under future USMNT coach Bob Bradley.
Bornstein was born in Torrance, Calif., to an Orthodox Jewish father and a Mexican mother, and he has since found passion in both Judaism and Christianity. Like other players on this list, he played in the Maccabiah Games. The left back played 38 times for the USMNT and started the famous “go-go USA” game against Algeria at the 2010 World Cup.
- Kyle Beckerman
Years Active: 2000 to 2020
Teams: Miami Fusion, Colorado Rapids, Real Salt Lake
Awards: MLS All-Time Top 25 (2020), MLS All-Star (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016), MLS Cup Championship (2009)
A native of Bowie, Md., Beckerman has the second-most MLS appearances of all time. He appeared in 155 games for the Colorado Rapids before a 2007 trade saw the midfielder land with Real Salt Lake. As part of the league’s 25th anniversary, Beckerman was named one the 25 Greatest MLS players of all time.
Capped 58 times by the USMNT, Beckhaman notably started America’s first three games of the 2014 World Cup. The Stars and Stripes advanced through a fearsome group that included eventual champion Germany, a Portugal side featuring Cristiano Ronaldo in his prime, and a Ghana side that had knocked out the U.S. in 2010. He was dropped for the Round of 16 against Belgium, where the U.S. bowed out.
- Jonathan Spector
Years Active: 2003 to 2019
Teams: Manchester United, Charlton Athletic (loan), West Ham, Birmingham City, Orlando City, Hibernian
Awards: CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship (2007), Manchester United Young Player of the Year (2003-04)
After growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Spector joined the Manchester United Academy program at age 17 in 2003. By the end of 2011, he had 101 Premier League appearances to his name -- the most of any player on this list. He helped guide West Ham to safety for four seasons from 2006 to 2010 before the team fell victim to the drop in 2011.
After a successful Premier League stint, Spector played for EFL Championship Birmingham squad for six seasons before returning to America to enter MLS with Orlando City.
Capped 36 times by the USMNT, Spector made the 2010 World Cup squad but never played. He appeared twice for Manchester United during the 2004-05 Champions League season.
- DeAndre Yedlin
Years Active: (2012-Present)
Teams: Seattle Sounders, Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland, Newcastle, Galatasaray, Inter Miami
Awards: MLS All-Star (2013, 2014, 2022), MLS Supporters’ Shield (2014), U.S. Soccer Young Athlete (2014), EFL Championship (2017), CONCACAF Nations League Championship (2020)
Yedlin has played with generations of stars on the USMNT. Once a young rising bolt of energy on an aging 2014 World Cup squad, the former Seattle Sounder was a tactical substitute at the 2022 edition. Notably, Yedlin was the only player on both the 2014 and 2022 World Cup teams.
Born in Seattle to a Jewish mother, Yedlin played on a talented Akron Zips college team alongside future USMNT teammate Wil Trapp. After he starred briefly for the local MLS Seattle Sounders, Yedlin’s impressive 2014 World Cup performance led to a move to Tottenham.
He controversially played for both teams in the Tyneside derby, Sunderland and Newcastle. The bombing fullback even scored for the latter against Manchester City.
- Matt Turner
Years Active: 2014 to present
Teams: Jersey Express, New England Revolution, Richmond Kickers, Arsenal
Awards: CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship (2021), MLS Goalkeeper of the Year (2021), MLS Best XI (2021)
Matt Turner’s father’s side of the family are Jews with roots in Lithuania, and the goalkeeper even has a Lithuanian passport, although his family changed its name from Turnovski to Turner upon coming to America.
A bit of a late-bloomer, the New Jersey native blossomed at age 27 with the New England Revolution, earning a move to Arsenal for a salary that could rise all the way up to $10 million if incentives are met.
Turner has played seven times for Arsenal this season and did enough to seize the starting USMNT gig for the 2022 World Cup. Expect Turner to be in goal for the U.S. for the foreseeable future.
- Eric Wynalda
Years Active: 1988 to 2008
Teams: San Diego Nomads, SF Bay Blackhawks, FC Saarbrucken. VfL Bochum, San Jose Clash, Leon, Miami Fusion, New England Revolution, Chicago Fire, Bakersfield Brigade
Awards: U.S. Player of the Decade (1990s), CONCACAF All-Decade Team, National Soccer Hall of Fame (2004)
Eric Wynalda has over 100 caps for the USMNT and played in the 1990, 1994, and 1998 World Cups -- scoring the equalizer against Switzerland in what ended as a 1-1 draw in 1994. His 34 goals for the team rank fourth-most all time.
Born and raised in Westlake Village, Calif., Wynalda attended high school with future USA teammate Cobi Jones. A journeyman for most of his career, the former forward has also had a career in coaching and broadcasting since retiring as a player.
- Jeff Agoos
Years Active: 1990 to 2005
Teams: FC Dallas, Maryland Bays, Dallas Sidekicks, SV Wehen, DC United, San Jose Earthquakes, MetroStars
Awards: MLS Cup Championship (1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003), MLS Best XI (1997, 1999, 2001), MLS All-Time Best XI (2005), CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship (2002)
It’s plain and simple -- Agoos is an MLS and USMNT institution. Winning the MLS a shocking five times from 1996 to 2003, he was ultimately named a starting defender as part of the league’s 10-year anniversary all-time starting XI.
Like Wynalda, Agoos has over 100 caps for the USMNT. He played in both the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, starting three games at the latter before an injury held him out of a famous 2-0 U.S. victory over Mexico in the Round of 16.
Born in Switzerland to Jewish parents, Agoos played for the U.S. at the 1985 Maccabiah Games when he was only 17.
Parameters of Rankings
These rankings were determined based on four main factors for each player -- the number of USMNT appearances/caps, the quality of clubs the player represented, the player’s outstanding achievements at the club level, and other notable moments from the player’s career.
Bet on Soccer odds at Betway
Find Soccer odds on the Betway sportsbook. You;ll find all the latest moneylines, over/under, 1 st half results, same-game parlays, soccer live betting, and many more! All your Soccer betting needs will be covered in our online sportsbook.
Visit Betway’s Soccer betting picks page for picks and predictions throughout the tournament.