As a 20-year-old American, I can't ever think of a time when Landon Donovan and U.S. soccer were not synonymous. Donovan has no shortage of accolades in his 16-year long career. He leads the United States in both all-time goals and assists, and is second in appearances. He scored perhaps the biggest goal in U.S. history against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup, a game-winner in stoppage time of the final game of group play that saved the Yanks from elimination and propelled them into the Round of 16.
But despite all his accomplishments in international play, perhaps even greater is what he's done for Major League Soccer. A player of Donovan's caliber could easily have had a successful career overseas, and for the early part of his career it seemed that he was going to. He spent his first two professional seasons on the reserve squad of German Bundesliga team Bayer Leverkusen. He was then loaned to the San Jose Earthquakes of MLS for four seasons, scoring 30 league goals in 87 appearances, and American soccer was changed forever.
Donovan returned to Bayer Leverkusen, but played only nine games before informing the team that he wanted to return home to the States. MLS is still a relatively new soccer league, and at the time was less than 10 years old. By returning and playing the remainder of his club career in MLS (despite a few offseason loans to Everton and Bayern Munich), he became an ambassador for both the league and American soccer as a whole. He could have had a great career overseas as a pretty good player for nearly any team, but instead decided to return to the U.S. and be a star, inspiring a generation of American athletes.
As much as it hurts that we'll no longer get to watch him play, in a way it's a fitting time for Donovan to go out. The announcement that he'll retire after the end of the season comes a day after he led the MLS All-Stars to a 2-1 victory over German powerhouse Bayern Munich. A game in which, only naturally, Donovan netted the game-winner past World Cup Golden Glove winning goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Following the United States World Cup run, interest in the MLS and soccer in general in America has seemingly been at an all-time high. The beautiful game is booming in the States, and while we may be losing Donovan his impact will surely be felt for generations.