United States nationals plying their trade across the pond is not a new development. From Steve Cherundolo, DaMarcus Beasley to Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, the list of US soccer players abroad is endless. But a new generation of Americans are being lured abroad in the dozens. American soccer players are in vogue right now. But why?
New Wave Of US Soccer Players Abroad
Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie spearheaded the latest crop of US soccer players moving abroad to Europe. Both broke through either side of the Revierderby in the Bundesliga. Pulisic made his Borussia Dortmund debut in 2016, aged 17, and McKennie first appeared 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 a natural talent to be unearthed in the United States. Their emergence also proved that you can perform at the national team level despite limited experience. As a result, more and more young players are getting regularly called up to the USMNT now.
There are currently 332 US Soccer Players Abroad (June 2022) Europe – 250, South America – 30, Asia – 6, Oceania – 6, Canada – 30, Eastern Europe – 9, Middle East – 2.
With Weston McKennie’s loan to Juventus, he finds himself at one 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 massive 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. Weston McKennie is a product of Dallas’s youth system, and Christian 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 Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.
Gio Reyna, the latest American standout at Borussia Dortmund, is a product of New York City FC. At the same time, 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 2026 World Cup
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 many others continue to improve steadily, it could be the perfect storm for the USMNT. This experience will do the US soccer players abroad and will only improve the game at home.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!