With every passing year, a proliferation of Americans make further inroads in European soccer. As such, and the nature of transfer fees climbing anyway, the price continues to go up for US national team players.
Transfer fees aren’t always reported correctly elsewhere, so MLSsoccer.com dove into as accurate a list as we could deduce via trustworthy reports of others and MLSsoccer.com’s own reporting.
Here are the current top 15 most expensive American men’s soccer players in terms of transfer fees.
To: Seattle Sounders (USA)
From: Tottenham (England)
Fee: $9 million
At the end of Clint Dempsey’s prime, after just a year with Tottenham, the USMNT legend decided to head back home. Tottenham were content to let him go, provided the money was right.
In the end, Spurs received $9 million from Seattle Sounders FC/MLS in a deal for Dempsey to return to the United States. After six years with Seattle until retirement, Dempsey was a star. He is currently the club’s third all-time leading scorer and led the club to resounding success year in and year out.
Dempsey had 47 goals and 28 assists across six seasons.
To: West Brom (England)
From: Orlando City SC (USA)
Fee: $9.5 million
The first of a pair of rising American strikers to move for big fees this winter, Daryl Dike was acquired by West Brom in England’s Championship for an initial fee of $9.5 million.
Dike, 21, lit up the Championship in a half-season loan a year prior with Barnsley and returned to England with West Brom. It hasn’t quite gone to plan just yet, with Dike making just two appearances before suffering a season-ending injury. He’ll be a crucial part of the team next season.
The deal includes a 20% sell-on clause as well, meaning Orlando City stand to receive another bump from this transfer at some point in the future.
To: Tottenham (England)
From: Fulham (England)
Fee: $9.6 million
After Dempsey excelled with Fulham for years in both the Premier League and Europa League, the American delivered his best-ever domestic campaign in 2011-12 with 17 goals and seven assists.
It paved the way for a $9.6 move to Tottenham in 2012, who beat out Liverpool to sign him.
Dempsey spent just a year at Spurs, and while he didn’t live up to expectations, he was decently productive. He had 7g/4a in 29 appearances (22 starts) in the Premier League as well as 5g/3a in cup competitions.
To: Villarreal (Spain)
From: New York Red Bulls (USA)
Fee: $10 million
The first of two times Jozy Altidore will be on this list, Altidore was the first eight-digit transfer out of MLS to Europe back in 2008.
Altidore broke through with the New York Red Bulls as a teenager and had 12 goals and four assists in 29 appearances (18 starts) before heading to Europe. He would make just 22 appearances for Villarreal, though.
To: Toronto FC (Canada)
From: AS Roma (Italy)
Fee: $10 million
Michael Bradley’s blockbuster transfer back to MLS from Europe in 2014 remains the most expensive American player bought by an MLS club, with a fee of $10 million.
Bradley originally broke through with the MetroStars (when his father Bob Bradley was the coach) before heading to Europe, first with SC Heerenveen in the Netherlands before moving up the ladder.
In Toronto, Bradley helped usher in an era of huge success alongside Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. They won the treble in 2017 (MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield, Canadian Championship) and were routinely among the top contenders in the league for half a decade. Bradley remains at TFC in the twilight of his career now.
The other significant transfer fee in Bradley’s career came when he moved to Roma from Chievo for a reported fee just under $5 million.
To: Norwich City (England)
From: Werder Bremen (Germany)
Fee: $11 million
Josh Sargent was a regular for Werder Bremen for a few seasons in the Bundesliga before the club got relegated and a number of European sides circled to sign him. He landed with Norwich City for a fee of $11 million in August of 2021.
While Sargent was a regular starter, he was often sent out to right wing and for the bottom side in the Premier League, that functioned more as a wingback than a winger. The club were relegated in his debut season.
Sargent and Norwich will be well positioned to bounce back to the top flight next year, where he should get plenty more attacking opportunities than the last few years with Bremen and Norwich.
To: LOSC Lille (France)
From: PSG (France)
Fee: $11 million
Just wrapping his third season with Lille, Tim Weah made an $11 million transfer from superclub PSG in the summer of 2019.
Weah’s first season was injury-riddled, but he was a regular from the bench in their shock Ligue 1 winning season in 2020-21 and started around half of Lille’s games this year, with his best-ever production of 3g/5a.
To: Sunderland (England)
From: AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands)
Fee: $13 million
After initially stalling in Spain, Altidore made a move to AZ Alkmaar that jump started his European career, scoring 39 goals in 67 league appearances across two seasons. That put him back on the Premier League radar, where he was acquired by Sunderland for $13 million.
Unfortunately, it didn’t go to plan. Altidore scored just one goal in 42 Premier League appearances (21 starts) with Sunderland. After a year and a half, Altidore returned to MLS, joining Toronto FC in exchange for Jermaine Defoe.
Defoe was acquired by TFC for $10 million. Back in MLS, Altidore was in part responsible for Toronto's best-ever period, including the treble-winning 2017. He had 62 goals and 20 assists in 139 regular-season appearances with TFC.
To: RB Salzburg (Austria)
From: Philadelphia Union (USA)
Fee: $14 million (including incentives and sell-on clause)
Brenden Aaronson’s initial transfer out of Philadelphia is now among the most expensive outbound transfers from MLS. It was already a decent-sized investment with an initial fee of $6.5 million from RB Salzburg.
After all incentives hit (combination of Aaronson’s appearances and Salzburg’s team success triggering easily), the original fee landed at $9 million. Now, with Aaronson having moved from Salzburg to Leeds, the sell-on clause has been cashed. Philly are set to receive around $5 million, the final package arrives at $14 million.
This is now among the benchmark deals for selling MLS clubs, up there with Alphonso Davies to Bayern Munich. Aaronson went to a club that was a strong fit for him; he played and developed a ton, then was sold on in 18 months when a strong bid came in from Leeds.
To: FC Augsburg (Germany)
From: FC Dallas (USA)
Fee: $20 million
The transfer saga that gripped MLS last winter, FC Dallas wonderkid Ricardo Pepi made a huge move worth $20 million to FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga.
Pepi joined the German side in January and debuted just before his 19th birthday, with the club locked amidst a relegation battle.
The good news? Augsburg avoided relegation. The bad? Pepi didn’t score in 11 appearances, mostly all from the bench.
Pepi will get a break for the first time in 18 months this summer and aims to return to Germany for preseason rejuvenated and ready to go.
To: Wolfsburg (Germany)
From: Hertha Berlin (Germany)
Fee: $22.5 million
A product of Hertha Berlin’s academy, John Brooks made 131 appearances with his first professional club before joining Wolfsburg in a lucrative transfer in 2017. He remains the most expensive center back in USMNT history.
Brooks has made 146 appearances with Wolfsburg, including experience in the Champions League and Europa League.
Now 29, Brooks has played his final game for Wolfsburg, who announced the defender will leave the club on a free transfer this summer when his contract expires.
To: FC Barcelona (Spain)
From: Ajax (Netherlands)
Fee: $25 million
Sergino Dest broke through the famed Ajax academy as a dual-national eligible for both the Netherlands and USMNT. He chose the United States after spending most of his youth international career with the US. His club career advanced very quickly.
Dest made 37 appearances with Ajax before Barcelona beat out Bayern Munich to sign him for a fee of $25 million in 2020. The fullback has made 72 appearances with Barcelona, part of the team during Lionel Messi’s final season at the club and now part of the transition under Xavi as manager.
The 21-year-old has 17 caps and counting with the USMNT.
To: Juventus (Italy)
From: Schalke 04 (Germany)
Fee: Around $27.5 million (including ~$5 million loan fee)
After beginning his professional career at Schalke, where he broke through as a regular across a number of positions, Juventus acquired the USMNT midfielder on in initial loan in 2020, then made permanent in 2021.
The loan fee (around $5 million) is part of the package here because it was all tied to the same transfer, with the purchase option ($22.5 million) being set in the deal with the loan fee. There are also reportedly a further $7.5 million in incentives, though there has been no reporting on what those incentives are and if they’ve been hit.
McKennie has played a lot and Juventus have won the Italian Cup, but not the league. Incentives are typically a mix of personal and team metrics.
To: Leeds United (England)
From: RB Salzburg (Austria)
Fee: $30 million
The first big deal involving a USMNT player this summer, Brenden Aaronson makes an opulent $30 million (28 million Euros) transfer to Leeds United and the Premier League. He reunites with his former RB Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch.
Leeds tried to sign Aaronson in the winter, long before Marsch was hired, but Salzburg got their wish of keeping Aaronson (and other core members) until the summer. A deal was agreed in principle for a while, pending Leeds’ relegation battle. It came down to the final day and Leeds stayed up, paving the way for the deal to go ahead.
Aaronson had 13g/15a in 65 Salzburg appearances, winning the league both years and helping the club advance to the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League this year.
To: Chelsea (England)
From: Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
Fee: $73 million
Still the far-and-away most expensive American soccer transfer ever, Christian Pulisic.
The USMNT star was an established regular at Borussia Dortmund from his teenage years preluding his move to Chelsea, making 127 first-team appearances in Germany before officially heading to England. With Chelsea and other huge clubs trying to sign him, it’s no surprise the fee got all the way to $70 million for the then-20-year-old.
Pulisic, now 23, has won a Champions League title with Chelsea and has recorded 25 goals and 19 assists across 115 appearances, though he hasn’t started more than 19 Premier League games in any of his three seasons in England.
With his Chelsea future uncertain this summer, Pulisic might challenge his own record of the most expensive American of all time.