The U.S. has become a fertile hunting ground for Europe’s elite soccer clubs and a steady stream of high-quality American exports have crossed the Atlantic Ocean over the past decade.
The number of U.S. soccer stars competing in the Champions League reached double figures during the 2020/21 season in Europe and a significant number of Americans have taken starting roles with some of the continent’s giants.
Ahead of a fresh campaign, we’ve taken a closer look at the top 10 American soccer players ready to do the stars and stripes proud in Europe again this year.
Club: Juventus (Serie A)
Caps: 24 (7 goals)
Dynamic and versatile midfielder Weston McKennie was schooled on the training fields in Texas before he moved to Schalke 04 in Germany in 2016. After establishing himself as a force in the Bundesliga, McKennie was snapped up by Italian behemoths Juventus in 2020, who acquired the talented youngster in a loan-plus-obligation to buy deal.
McKennie played over 30 times for the Old Lady during his maiden campaign in Italy and the 22-year-old earned four Champions League starts for Juve during the club’s run to the Last 16. The industrious engine-room operator is expected to nail down his place in the team’s midfield this term under returning boss Max Allegri.
Club: RB Leipzig (Bundesliga)
Caps: 14 (1 goal)
A graduate of New York Red Bulls’ famed academy, Tyler Adams made waves in the MLS following his debut in 2015, and the explosive defender was moved on to NYRB’s sister club RB Leipzig in Germany four years later.
Since swapping the MLS for the Bundesliga, Adams has gradually made the transition from peripheral figure to an integral first team member with Die Roten Bullen and the Wappinger-born right-back made an impressive 37 appearances in all competitions for Leipzig in 2020/21.
Club: Barcelona (La Liga)
Caps: 11 (1 goal)
Trailblazer Sergiño Dest became the first American player ever to represent world-renowned club Barcelona in a competitive fixture when he came off the bench for Los Cules in their La Liga clash with Sevilla in October 2020.
Just two weeks later, Dest made history again when he became the first U.S soccer star to represent Barca in the Champions League, completing a whirlwind year for the defender. A long-term member of the Ajax academy in the Netherlands, Dest had only just cracked the first team in Amsterdam before Barcelona made their move to secure his signature for €20m on October 1 last year.
Dest quickly established himself as a first-choice pick for Barca during his first campaign in Spain and at just 20 years of age, the wonderkid is considered among the best young players in the world in his position.
Club: Borussia Dortmund (Bundesliga)
Caps: 8 (4 goals)
Already branded a generational talent, Giovanni Reyna is expected to make further strides in a Borussia Dortmund team packed to bursting with world-beating potential this season. The 18-year-old – who is the son of former U.S. national team stalwart Claudio – is cut from the same cloth as ex-BVB schemer Christian Pulisic, who is busy terrorizing defenders in the Premier League.
Blessed with dazzling close control and a real eye for goal, the teenaged superstar looks ready to fill the creative void left by departing Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho this summer, and Reyna – who was schooled in the New York FC academy – should become a household name before he turns 20 in November 2022.
Club: Chelsea (Premier League)
Caps: 38 (16 goals)
The current flag-bearer and biggest star of U.S. soccer, Christian Pulisic was a Champions League winner with English club Chelsea last season and the 22-year-old is certain to play a prominent role for the Blues again in 2021/22.
Pulisic has long been chasing his dream of becoming an established figure in Europe having moved to Borussia Dortmund at the tender age of 16, though it was his $80m move from Germany to Chelsea that shot the creative midfielder to superstardom.
The Pennsylvania-born starlet had plenty of fitness issues to contend with over the last 12-months, though Pulisic will be determined to leave his injury worries behind him ahead of the new Premier League season.
Club: Werder Bremen (Bundesliga)
Caps: 16 (5 goals)
Josh Sargent looks set to become the latest American to fly the flag in England’s Premier League with a switch from Werder Bremen to newly-promoted Norwich City reportedly on the verge of completion.
The 21-year-old from Missouri was relegated with Werder to Germany’s second-tier last season, though it looks like Sargent will sign off in style after hitting two goals in his first 2. Bundesliga appearances.
While Sargent’s modest goal-scoring record with Bremen means he could never be described as prolific, his hard-working and committed style of play should make him a real hit with Canaries supporters in 2021/22.
Club: Lille (Ligue 1)
Caps: 13 (1 goal)
As the son of former Ballon d’Or winner George Weah, Timothy has certainly had big boots to fill and massive expectations to meet during his fledgling soccer career, though the gifted attacker is quickly clearing his own path to the top.
Born in Brooklyn, Weah spent time in the New York Red Bulls youth setup before he was spotted and snatched up by Paris St. Germain in 2014. Weah made his debut for the star-studded Parisians in 2018 before he opted to move to Lille in search of greater first-team opportunities a year later.
An injury-ravaged first season with Les Dogues saw his involvement limited in 2019/20, though Weah returned to make 37 appearances for Lille in 2020/21, where he played a part in the club’s unexpected run to the French title.
Konrad de la Fuente
Club: Marseille (Ligue 1)
Caps: 1 (0 goals)
While his senior club appearances have so far been limited, big things are expected of hot prospect Konrad de la Fuente in 2021/22. The exciting winger, who was born in Miami, left his homeland to take up a position in Barcelona’s academy in Catalonia in 2013, and de la Fuente threatened to break into Los Cules’ first XI after some Champions League appearances off the bench last term.
In the summer however, Barca decided to get de la Fuente off their payroll due to financial constraints and the wide attacker moved to the south of France and Marseille, with Barcelona retaining a 50% sell-on clause in the deal.
De la Fuente kicked off his career with OM in fine style last weekend with a dynamic display and an assist in Marseille’s 3-2 triumph at Montpellier. The 20-year-old showcased his skills by completing more dribbles than any other player involved at the Stade de la Mosson.
Club: Wolfsburg (Bundesliga)
Caps: 43 (3 goals)
John Brooks – or the “Wall of Brooks” – as he likes to be known, has been a rock-solid performer for Wolfsburg in recent seasons and the 28-year-old has been the driving force behind Die Wolfe’s transformation from perennial underperformers to continental qualification regulars.
Born in Berlin, Brooks is the son of a U.S. serviceman from Chicago and he declared for the United States in 2013 having represented both Germany and his father’s homeland at underage level.
Standing at a towering 6’4”, Brooks cuts an imposing figure, though he combines technique, brains and brawn to great effect in the Bundesliga.
Club: Valencia (La Liga)
Caps: 6 (0 goals)
Tunus Musah was the subject of an intense battle between England and the United States over the past year, as both nations attempted to seek his international declaration. However, in March earlier this year, the precociously talented teenager nailed his colors firmly to the American mast.
Born in New York City, Musah moved to Italy at a young age before he eventually settled with Arsenal in London, joining the academy aged nine. After seven years with the Gunners, Musah was on the move again – this time to Valencia in Spain, where his rise to prominence was rapid.
Musah’s thrilling displays on either flank for Los Che earned him rave reviews in La Liga during the 2020/21 campaign and the 18-year-old is expected to develop even further over the next 12 months.