Landon Donovan Biography

Soccer Player(1982–)
Professional soccer player Landon Donovan led the U.S. national team to the quarterfinals in the 2002 World Cup.

Synopsis

Landon Donovan helped lead the Americans out of the first round at the Summer Olympics. From there, he began his Major League Soccer (MLS) career, joining the San Jose Earthquakes. He led national team to the quarterfinals in the 2002 World Cup. Just as he had done with the Earthquakes, he led the Galaxy on a title run in 2005. Donovan retired from professional soccer in 2014.

Early Life

Landon Timothy Donovan was born on March 4, 1982 in Ontario, California. Donovan and his siblings, twin sister Tristan and older brother Josh, were raised primarily by their mother, Donna. Their father, Tim, played semi-pro hockey.

Donovan was a natural athlete. At the age of 5, he began playing soccer competitively. By the time he entered Redlands East Valley High School he was also an accomplished gymnast, but soccer was where he truly excelled. As a sophomore he collected 17 goals, paving the way for league MVP honors. The next year, he scored 16 times. His scoring prowess caught the attention of a larger audience and, in his senior year of high school, Donovan joined the U.S. national soccer program.

Early Career

With a new set of coaches and teammates, Donovan made his international debut with the Under-17 squad. If there was an adjustment period for the young player, it was brief. He tallied 12 goals that first year, and led the club to a fourth-place finish at the 1999 FIFA U-17 Youth World Championship in New Zealand. During the course of his career, Donovan collected 35 goals and recorded 16 assists for the U-17 team.

Donovan's success with that team soon earned him promotion to the U-23 squad, prompting not just excited talk about his future in the States, but also garnering the attention of European powerhouse clubs such as Manchester United and Arsenal. In 1999, Donovan, for a contest against Argentina, became the third youngest player ever called up for the U.S. Men's National Team training camp.

Eventually, Donovan made the decision to cross the Atlantic, signing a deal with the German team, Bayer Leverkusen. But his experience in a new country, in a different culture he knew so little about, caused hardship for the first time in his young career. He played little and, as much as he could, Donovan was back in the States playing for his old U-17 team.

In 2000, Donovan came up big on the international stage when he helped lead the Americans out of the first round at the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. It was the deepest the U.S. squad had ever advanced in the tournament, and Donovan's play was a crucial reason why.

Major League Soccer

From there, Donovan began his Major League Soccer career, joining the San Jose Earthquakes as a loaner player from his German club. Again Donovan, in his first season, was an instant success. He led San Jose, which had turned in an abysmal record in 2000, to the MLS title the following season.

The buzz around Donovan only amplified the following year when he led the U.S. national team to the quarterfinals in the 2002 World Cup, which had last been accomplished in 1930. Back on MLS turf, Donovan continued his remarkable run. He led San Jose to a second title in 2003, and clocked in an MVP-caliber season.

Still contractually obligated to Bayer, his old German club, Donovan returned briefly to Europe in 2005 before negotiating a deal to extract himself from the team. His MLS comeback, however, came with the L.A. Galaxy, which had traded for his rights after Donovan had resumed playing in Germany.

Just as he had done with the Earthquakes, Donovan led the Galaxy on a title run in 2005. Along the way, Donovan popped in 12 goals and notched 10 assists, as well as tallying another four post-season scores.

Landon Donovan celebrates victory that sends the USA through to the second round in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group C match between USA and Algeria. (Photo: Martin Rose / Getty Images)

Landon Donovan celebrates victory that sends the USA through to the second round in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group C match between USA and Algeria. (Photo: Martin Rose / Getty Images)

American Soccer Star

In all, Donovan's MLS success is virtually unmatched. In addition to the three titles, Donovan is one of only a handful of players with 60 goals and 60 assists. He's a perennial All-Star, and in 2009 was named the league's MVP. He finished the 2009 campaign, which saw him team up with fellow superstar David Beckham, with 96 career goals. Internationally, Donovan has experienced similar success. His pair of scores in the 2002 World Cup tournament generated plenty of buzz and, while the team's 2006 World Cup run fell flat, Donovan has still kept American soccer fans excited about the national team's prospects. In 2009 he helped the U.S. defeat Spain to advance to the finals of the Confederations Cup, then helped the team qualify for the 2010 World Cup. That same year he was handed a record-setting sixth Honda Player of the Year award, an honor given out to the U.S. national team's top player.

In early 2010, Donovan also redeemed himself in front of European fans, when he signed on for a two-month stay with the English club, Everton. Despite the early skepticism about his ability to compete at the same level with the Premiere League's better players, Donovan more than held his own, earning praise from Everton fans and helping the club better position itself for a title. The following year, he helped the Los Angeles Galaxy achieve their second MLS Cup win.

Donovan ended his professional soccer career in 2014, officially retiring from the sport that August. According to the Major League Soccer website, he was one of the best players in the history of the Los Angeles Galaxy and the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. National Team. Since his retirement, Donovan has traveled extensively, visiting such countries as India and Peru. He told the Los Angeles Times that "I'm getting all these cool opportunities to do different things. Things I never would have had the opportunity to do."

Donovan married his second wife, Hannah Bartell, in 2015. The couple welcomed their first child, son Talon, the following year. He was previously married to actress Bianca Kajlich.

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