Ahead of the 2020-21 European season, TDS will be previewing some of the top, youth national-team eligible U.S. players at clubs on the continent. The established first-team players that are regulars for the USMNT, won’t be covered.
No country around the continent has embraced American talent quite like Germany.
It’s no too difficult, with the success of Christian Pulisic, Alphonso Davies and Weston McKennie spurring clubs in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga to look at North American talent. Giovanni Reyna eyes up an even bigger role with Borussia Dortmund this season, and with McKennie on his way out of Schalke, goes toe-to-toe with Josh Sargent for the title of highest impact on Bundesliga squad.
But which players could join that pair and emerge as first-team regulars in 2020-21? There are many candidates as the season begins on September 18.
The Wolfsburg contingent features four players at various levels of the team’s setup heading into the new year. A trio of Americans are set to regularly see minutes for the Under-23/reserve team at the start of the season: center back Michael Edwards, winger Ulysses Llanez and one of the most recent additions, midfielder Bryang Kayo. Also joining the club this summer is defender Kobe Hernandez-Foster, who is expected to begin the season with the A-Junioren side (Under-19s).
Do any of the aforementioned trio make a Bundesliga debut in 2020-21? Llanez seems the most likely, even though he’s yet to appear that close during preseason. Part of that is down to his position – it’s easier to make an attacking sub from the bench than to put on Edwards as a center back. Don’t sleep on Kayo, however, if he can adjust quickly, he is certainly physically able to compete with grown men.
The immediate future of Christopher Richards is yet to be resolved, although at this point he’s expected to start the season playing for Bayern Munich II in the German third division. It’s not the worst level for someone at his age (still only 20) and after helping his team win the fourth division last season, has provided a worthwhile level for someone in his position. Pushing towards a first team spot is no small task, but has to be on his target – that, or a loan to a first division side where he can play as much as possible. Compatriot Taylor Booth is no longer eligible for the Under-19 team, so he'll need to get his minutes with the second team as well.
There’s not a lot of optimism for Schalke heading into the new season. The club has set an extremely low bar for head coach David Wagner, with some reports suggesting that they simply want to avoid relegation. That could open up doors for the pair of older Americans still at the club: Nick Taitague and Matthew Hoppe. The former’s battled injury issues throughout his career, although he did see first team action in the preseason (albeit briefly). If he stays healthy, Taitague could push for minutes – but even getting consistent games for Schalke U23s would be a proper start. Hoppe, a forward from Southern California, has a shot at becoming the next American to make his Bundesliga debut in the upcoming season.
A newcomer at both Schalke and in the professional ranks, Evan Rotundo joined the German club over the summer. Born in 2004, he’s eligible and will start with the B-Junioren side (Under-17s) with hopes of advancing quickly through the ranks.
Former Sacramento Republic Academy players joined German clubs over the past year, and will look to press on at their respective teams. Quincy Butler is another sleeper candidate to potentially push his way towards first team action. Born in 2001, he’s a candidate for next year’s Under-20 MNT World Cup cycle should it take place. Having aged out of the Under-19 team, he’ll have to prove himself with Hoffenheim II. A successful year there could boost his prospects for a Bundesliga appearance.
Down in the 2.Bundesliga, Travian Sousa is the other former Sac Republic youth player that moved to Germany. On the books at Hamburg, the 18-year-old also begins the season with his club’s reserve team. The longtime Bundesliga outfit may not lean towards youth as they look to push towards the first division.
Holdovers from previous years include defenders like Mason Judge (Eintracht Franktfurt) and Niklas Dossman (Mainz). Isaiah Young (Werder Bremen) and McKinze Gaines (Hannover) are both 98s on the second teams at their respective clubs.
Then there are the dual internationals that came through the ranks in Germany, such as Maxi Dietz (SC Freiburg), Lennard Maloney (Borussia Dortmund II), Leon Flach (FC St. Pauli), Pablo Soares (Borussia Monchengladbach), Malick Sanogo (Union Berlin), Malik Tillman (Bayern Munich) and Jalen Hawkins (FC Ingolstadt).
Other players that recently joined youth setups in Germany include defender Nicolas Carrera (Holsten Kiel), goalkeeper Carver Miller (DSC Arminia Bielefeld), Adam Armour (1. FC Nurnberg) and Luca Fava (VfL Bochum).