In 1999 Landon Donovan picked up the Golden Ball as the best player at the FIFA U-17 World Championship in New Zealand and soon afterwards earned his first call-up to a United States national team training camp. The skilful attacking midfielder has since earned over 100 caps and become USA's top all-time scorer.
He made his senior international debut in 2001, and the precocious player, blessed with an ability to press forward and get goals by the bag-load, soon established himself as the most talented and technically gifted American player of his generation. With close control, explosive pace and superior vision, he earned himself a place in coach Bruce Arena's squad for the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan™ where, at barely 20 years of age, he played a significant role in USA's run to the quarter-finals. Roaming between the midfield and attack, he scored twice in a successful campaign, against Poland in the first round and Mexico in their memorable Round of 16 triumph.
While Donovan enjoyed a meteoric rise with the national team, he has experienced mixed fortunes in his club career. He became one of the youngest American players in history to sign a professional contract with an overseas club when agreeing to join German outfit Bayer Leverkusen in 1999. However, it proved too much pressure too soon for the youngster. After a season with Leverkusen's second team, Donovan was sent back across the Atlantic to San Jose Earthquakes in a loan deal to allow him to gain more experience in the familiar surroundings of his home state of California.
In his first season back he led the previously flagging Earthquakes to their first MLS championship in 2001. He then inspired San Jose to a second MLS title in 2003, when he was voted the league's best player, and his success prompted Leverkusen to call him back in 2004 for one more try at the European big time. But vocal about his desire to play in the States and his unhappiness in Germany, his stay lasted only three months before he returned home to sign for Los Angeles Galaxy on a new contract that made him the highest-paid player in the American league. Donovan did not disappoint the fans in the City of Angels as he led the side to an MLS crown in 2005 and a runner-up finish in 2009.
Donovan was criticised for his play at 2006 Germany, where the United States went out after the group stage without winning a single game. Since then, though, he has re-found his form and confidence, becoming USA’s all-time top scorer, occasional captain, reaching his century of caps and having a marginally successful loan spell with Bayern Munich in 2009 and a star turn with English Premier League side Everton in 2010. Although criticised for going missing in the big games, Donovan – six-time winner of the US player of the year gong - is widely considered to be one of the best American players of all time.