The European Dream: Americans Abroad
United States nationals plying their trade across the pond is not a new development. From Steve Cherundolo and DaMarcus Beasley to Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, the list is endless, but a new generation of Americans is being lured abroad in the dozens. Simply put: Americans are in vogue right now. But why?
The latest crop of US players moving to Europe was spearheaded by Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie. Both broke through either side of the Revierderby in the Bundesliga, with Pulisic making his Dortmund debut in 2016 aged 17 and McKennie first appearing for rivals Schalke the following year as an 18-year-old.
They had such a profound impact at their respective clubs that it opened the floodgates. European sporting directors realized that there is real talent to be unearthed in the States. Their emergence also proved that you can perform at national-team level despite limited experience. As a result, more and more young players are getting regularly called up to the USMNT now.
With McKennie’s loan to Juventus, the duo finds itself at two of the biggest clubs in the world. Following his record-breaking move to Chelsea, Pulisic has shown his class at Stamford Bridge. Whether McKennie can do the same in Italy remains to be seen, but it is a huge transfer for American soccer nonetheless.
The Role of MLS
Major League Soccer has played a big part in this positive development. For all its flaws—and there are plenty; some academies are still pay-to-play—it has been crucial. McKennie is a product of Dallas’s youth system, and Pulisic could have represented Philadelphia. They never played a single senior minute, but top European clubs were willing to take a chance on them because they had been nurtured in a professional environment and not the college system—something that didn’t exist during the days of Dempsey and Landon Donovan.
Gio Reyna, the latest American standout at Dortmund, is a product of New York City FC, while RB Leipzig’s Tyler Adams graduated from the Red Bulls academy on the other side of the Hudson River.
MLS sides have also realized how much value is blossoming in their midsts. Young players are getting more minutes than ever before, and the likes of Brenden Aaronson, Paxton Pomykal, and Reggie Cannon will be heading to Europe soon, if recent reports are to be believed.
Looking Ahead to the Future
With the USA co-hosting the 2026 World Cup, this new wave of talent flocking across the pond comes at an ideal time. When the showpiece event kicks off, most of these skilled but still raw young players will be established first-teamers in their prime years.
If everything goes to plan and players like Sergiño Dest, Josh Sargent, Chris Richards, and the many, many others continue to steadily improve, it could be the perfect storm for the USMNT.
Illustration by @marinoff_.
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