Since making his first appearance in 2000, the forward/midfielder had already become the team's all-time leader in assists, passing Cobi Jones for that honor in 2006. By January 2008, he had scored a total of 34 goals, including key strikes in the 2002 World Cup and several Gold Cup competitions, to match the record set by Eric Wynalda from 1990 to 2000.
Playing a friendly against Sweden at the Home Depot Center in California, the US went up 1-0 with a 15th-minute goal from debutant Eddie Robinson. Then, just after the break, Swedish center back Mattias Bjärsmyr committed a foul in the box against US forward Jozy Altidore. Donovan stepped up and converted the ensuing penalty kick to claim sole possession of the goalscoring record. The US went on to win the match 2-0.
Before his retirement in 2014, Donovan extended the record to 57. It remains well behind the record for the women's team, however, set at 184 by Abby Wambach (2001-2015).