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Professional soccer player Landon Donovan led the U.S. national team to the quarterfinals in the 2002 World Cup.
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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. In all, his MLS success is virtually unmatched.
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.
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.
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.
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To Americans, it is soccer. Elsewhere, it is called football, calcio or nogomet. Whatever your preference, with estimates of more than 250 million participants across 200-plus countries, it is a game of unmatched global reach and popularity. It's been noted that one doesn't need special size or skills to play, but of course the game's all-time greats displayed dazzling combinations of speed, smarts and athletic ability throughout their careers. Look through our roster of soccer legends, including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Maradona, and you'll understand why this sport of many names is also known as "the beautiful game."
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