Young Americans in Europe: England

by Travis Clark
August 28, 2020
Young Americans in Europe: England

Ahead of the 2020-21 club season in Europe, TDS will be previewing some of the top, youth national-team eligible U.S. players on the books in European clubs. The established first-team players that are regulars for the USMNT, won’t be covered.

The English Premier League season stars the weekend of September 12, after successfully restarting over the summer months. Success for Americans there wasn't been rare, and with Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) leading the way, a handful of high-profile U.S. players are set to kick off the 2020-21 season on their respective first teams. Tim Ream and Fulham FC are back, joined by Antonee Robinson, in terms of potential U.S. men's national team players set to play. Zack Steffen is expected to start the season as the backup at Manchester City. Erik Palmer-Brown is still under contract with the club as well, although another loan seems all but certain. DeAndre Yedlin faces an uncertain future, but has been in England since 2015.

MORE: Previewing young Americans in France, Italy + Scotland 

Can anyone breakthrough in the upcoming season and join them?

Breaking through from the academy to a first team for most Premier League sides is a tall task for players, Homegrown or players from abroad. That made the progress of Indiana Vassilev all the more impressive for Aston Villa – even though injuries certainly aided his chances. Expect to see him begin the season with the Under-23s, as Villa looks to stay in the EPL for at least another season. In some ways, his team’s survival in the Premier League, while obviously huge for the club’s finances, is a blow to a youngster like Vassilev trying to work his way onto the field.

Tall, lanky and able to cover long swathes of ground from his center back spot, Owen Otasowie remains one of the top central defenders in the U.S. youth national team player pool. He renewed his contract at Wolverhampton during the 2019-20 season, and like Vassilev, faces the uphill climb for playing time. Starting with the Under-23 side seems the likely outcome. There's a very intriguing player here in Otasowie, who can also compete as a central midfielder. Keeping fit and in action is a big key for him in the upcoming season, and a loan move to a Championship side could provide a nice boost for his development.

Other young Americans on the books at Premier League clubs include Matteo Ritaccio (Liverpool), looking to bounce back from an injury plague campaign, and U17 goalkeepers Chituru Odunze (Leicester City) and Damian Las (Fulham). The latter two remain eligible – barring a rule change – to play for their side’s respective Under-18 Premier League team, assuming that games are safe to play in the pandemic. Joining Las and Odunze among the ranks of American goalkeepers born in 2002 is Ethan Wady, who has been at Chelsea since 2017-18. Earlier this summer, he signed his first pro contract with the London club. Former U.S. Under-20 defender Marlon Fossey remains on the books at Fulham as well, seeking to recover after injuries have hobbled his development towards the first team. He's been sent on loan to League One side Shrewsbury Town FC.

Outside of the Premier League features youngsters looking to work their way into the mix for their respective Championship sides. Former New York City FC Academy player Augustus McGiff signed with Reading FC after playing last season in their academy. Central defender Jonathan Tomkinson remains in place at Norwich City, which were just relegated to the Championship. He’s joined by Sebastian Soto. The forward’s wandering year at Hannover ended, and he moved to Norwich on a free transfer. Unfortunately, he doesn’t qualify for a work permit, and his current loan destination is unknown for the upcoming season.

A prolific goal-scorer at youth levels for Southend United, Charlie Kelman will look to better his five-goal tally he achieved during the 2019-20 season, where his side was relegated to League Two in the EFL. A move to a club up in the Championship has been rumored, with Swansea City the most recent club linked. The hard-working forward doesn’t possess the cleanest of touches, but he closes down passing lanes and often does the thankless task of chasing down loose balls dumped into the channels.

Currently in League One heading into the new season, Giles Phillips remains eligible for the U.S. Olympic team, as he was born in 1997. He's an under-the-radar player that spent two years playing college soccer in Wisconsin at Carthage, a Division III program. He joined Queens Park Rangers in 1997, although never made an appearance for the Championship side. After a loan to Wycombe Wanderers, last season, he recently joined the League One side on a permanent deal.

Anyone we missed? Please email editor@topdrawersoccer.com.

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