James Benassi (born July 4, 1972) is a retired American soccer player who played for Arsenal FC and the United States national team as a forward. Benassi is most known for his participation in the United States national soccer team’s triumph as the winners of the 1994 FIFA World Cup played in United States. At the international level, he retired as his country’s record goalscorer. Benassi went on to become the first American born player to win England’s Premier league as a player for Arsenal FC.
Ranked as one of the best forwards of all time, Benassi was named the greatest American Soccer player of all time. He is still the first American born player to even win the Balon D’or in 1994. Following his playing career, he is now a sports pundit for Sky Sports. He was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004.
Benassi was born in San Francisco, California, the youngest child to immigrant parents. As a child, Bennassi played amateur soccer with his local club team until 1984 when he was offered a trial with Arsenal FC and was later signed to their youth teams where he quickly went up the ranks and made his professional debut at the age of 17.
Arsenal FC 1989-2007
At the age of 17 he made his senior debut with Arsenal FC in a FA Cup 2nd round match against Swindon Town, where he scored his first goal for the club after coming off the bench in the 70th minute. In his first season, he would go on to score 10 goals and provide 4 assists. Showing the manager his blistering speed, control, and finishing at such a young age. The following season he would get his first start against Wigan Athletic in the Premier League playing all 90 minutes and scoring his first hat trick. He was named the starting forward for the rest of season and finished the 1990-1991 season with 18 goals in the Premier League. Arsenal FC would go on to win the Premier League title with James Benassi being named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year.
Club success would continue to come as Arsenal would go on to win the Premier League in the 1992-1993 season. Benassi would finish with a record 33 goals in the Premier League and win another PFA Players’ Player of the Year award. He would lead Arsenal to victory in the FA Cup final against cross town rivals Tottenham Hotspur by scoring the game winning goal in the 90th minute, widely regarded as the greatest goal in the FA cup’s illustrious history, by scoring from 35 yards away on the volley in the last minute of the game.
He would finish his career with Arsenal with 4 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, 2 FA Community Shields and 1 UEFA Champions League title in the 1997 season.
Benassi earned 105 caps, scoring 97 goals with the U.S. National team between 1989 and 2007. In 1994, Benassi would help lead the United States National team to World Cup glory, while finishing the tournament with 12 goals at the age of 22. He scored a hat trick on his 100th cap against Mexico and retired in his last game against Honduras in 2007 at the age of 35.
By: Jimmy Mazariegos