The Columbus Crew announced today that it has signed Jeff Cunningham to a multi-year contract, returning one of the most prolific scorers in league history to the club where he spent his first seven professional seasons. Per club and league policy, no further terms of the deal were disclosed. Cunningham was selected in Stage Two of the MLS Re-Entry Process on Dec. 15, 2010.
Cunningham, 34, is just two goals shy of becoming Major League Soccer’s all-time goal-scoring king. He enters 2011 with 132 career goals, one behind all-time leader Jaime Moreno’s 133. He also remains tied with Brian McBride atop the Crew’s all-time goal-scoring list, having tallied 62 times in Black & Gold between 1998 and 2004.
“I’m really excited to return to the club where I started my professional career,” Cunningham said. “I scored the first goal of my career in a Crew jersey and my 100th at Crew Stadium (with FC Dallas), and it is a place that has always been special to me. It’s only fitting that I break the all-time scoring record in Black & Gold.”
The Montego Bay, Jamaica, native and product of the University of South Florida was selected by the Crew in the first round (No. 9 overall) of the 1998 MLS College Draft and appeared in 182 games (112 starts) with the club. Among his 62 goals in Black & Gold was one of the most significant in club history – the first-ever at Crew Stadium on May 15, 1999.
Cunningham went on to play for Colorado, Real Salt Lake, Toronto FC and FC Dallas, where he spent the last three seasons. He was a MLS Best XI selection with the Crew in 2002 and again in 2006 (RSL) and 2009 (FCD), when he was the MLS Golden Boot winner (17 goals).
While at USF, he earned first-team All-Conference USA honors as a sophomore and junior, and was named the Conference USA Player of the Year as a senior. He finished his career at USF with 41 goals and 36 assists. Cunningham became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2001 and has since earned 12 caps with the U.S. National Team, scoring his first international goal in a friendly against Denmark on Nov. 18, 2009.