From the glorious, flowing mullet hairstyle of Tony Meola back in the 90s to the spider-like snatches of current Everton No1 Tim Howard, with Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller and Marcus Hahnemann in between, US goalkeepers have earned a reputation for keeping clean sheets and frustrating attackers. As American outfield players are still treated with some degree of trepidation by the bigger European clubs, the country's net minders are a hot commodity with the national team's top three keepers holding down starting spots in the English Premiership.

"We get using our hands in sport really early in the US with baseball, (American) football and basketball the most popular sports," said Blackburn Rovers' keeper Friedel who, before retiring from international duty, led the USA to the last eight of the FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan in 2002. "It's a natural transition from that to goalkeeper."

Former USA head coach Bruce Arena, himself a once-capped international goalie, tends to agree: "Here in the US young kids might actually want to be a goalkeeper. It's a status position and one they can relate to."

Whatever the exact reasons behind the large number of quality goalkeepers in the USA, they are much in demand of late. Join for a look at three of the stars and stripes' shining lights between the posts.

Goal -killer Keller
Any conversation about American goalkeeper and their appeal overseas must inevitably begin with one Kasey Keller. Now 37, his international career spans 17 years, four FIFA World Cups, over 100 caps and his club life has seen him line up in four countries on two continents with eight different clubs.

Now one of the notable 'US colony' at Craven Cottage (Clint Dempsey, Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra are all in the Fulham side too), Keller is still the USA's No1 and believes he's not lost a step.

"Over time you gain experience," the keeper told during the US' qualifying campaign for last year's FIFA World Cup in Germany. "Five hundred games later as a goalkeeper and you don't make the same mistakes you used to. I may not be able to move as fast, but I make better decisions."

Keller has indeed come a long way since earning the silver ball as second-best player at the FIFA U-20 World Championship n Saudi Arabia in 1989. He received the biggest compliment of all in the form of a much-publicised quotation from Romario, the Brazilian goalscoring legend.

In 1998 when the Seleção lost to Keller and the USA 1-0 in a famous upset at the Rose Bowl, the diminutive Brazilian remarked: "That was, quite simply, the best performance I have ever seen by a goalkeeper in my life."

The obvious heir to Keller's jersey is Everton's Tim Howard. Whereas Kasey is aging like a fine wine, Howard - 28 and once the starter at Manchester United before being transferred to the blue half of Merseyside - has athleticism, acrobatic tendencies and the sheer audacity of a rising star.

Although he could stand to learn a bit about positioning and percentages from Keller, Howard, who was plucked from virtual obscurity at hometown MLS outfit New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now Red Bull New York), has the ability to make seemingly impossible saves look easy with his huge wingspan and outrageous diving ability.

"Howard is on a path to lead him to big things," says former goalkeeper and current Manchester United keeper coach Tony Coton. "He could be the very best in the world."

Third still number-one
Slightly farther down the pecking order in the Prem is Marcus Hahnemann. Playing for once unfashionable Reading, outside of London, the brave and muscular goalkeeper was one of the primary reasons the blue-and-white hooped Royals achieved promotion to the top flight last season, and a big factor in their staying there.

Hailing from the Pacific Northwest and very near to the family egg farm where Kasey Keller grew up, Hahnemann has some keen insight into why the USA manages to produce such consistently good goalkeepers.

"We (in the US) grow up playing so many different sports, particularly baseball, football and basketball, we develop good hand-to-eye coordination" said the man, who, was an unused sub for the USA at Germany 2006, holds a German passport and professes to love guns, motorcycles and heavy metal music. "Also, in the States lots of kids actually want to be goalies, whereas over here it's like whoever is too rubbish to play outfield has to go in goal."

In all, four of the Premiership's 20 clubs are backstopped by starting Americans. The trend also looks likely keeping up with a gang of talented up-and-comers like Chris Seitz and Brad Guzan ready to make the jump overseas.