Never before have we seen such a deep pool of American soccer talent plying their trade across the pond. Many of the world’s biggest clubs have American players on their books — whether it be in the first team, the reserves, or in an academy setting.
While this piece won’t necessarily rank the players based upon their current standing, it will offer a glimpse into both the present and future. Weekly starters will be mixed with some of the United States’ brightest prospects.
Notable omissions: Tim Ream, Fabian Johnson, Tim Chandler, Bobby Wood, Kenny Saief, Zyen Jones, Haji Wright, Josh Pynadath, Danny Williams, Alfredo Morales, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Eric Palmer-Brown, Emmanuel Sabbi, Jonathan Klinsmann, Jordan Siebatcheu, Shaq Moore, Lynden Gooch, Michael Edwards, Mason Judge, Taylor Booth, Peter Stroud, Indiana Vassilev
*Uly Llanez will make the list once his club intentions become public. Zack Steffen has signed with Manchester City, though won’t be on the books with the club until July.
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25. Nick Taitague — Schalke 04 (Germany)
Position: Central attacking midfielder (with ability to also play on the wing)
Over the last year, Taitague has been beset with a number of injuries. As such, it’s stunted his growth a bit when it comes to aspiring for first team football. With that said, there’s no denying his immense skill level. Taitague is as technical as virtually any player within the pool. Assuming he can stay healthy and continue to perform well for Schalke’s U23 team, a first team appearance may not be far off.
Image Source: ASN
24. Folarin Balogun — Arsenal (England)
Position: Center Forward
This one is an interesting case. Balogun is a dual-national — meaning that he’s eligible to represent both England or the United States in official FIFA recognized competitions. At first glance, one may believe England has the leg-up here. Balogun was raised in England, plays in England, and is currently cap-tied to England (as well as the fact that England > United States at this point). However, it’s going to be relatively difficult for Balogun to break into England’s senior national team. The competition he’s going against is far better when compared to the U.S.
Duly, Balogun represented the United States in a tournament last year. He’s scored 13 goals for Arsenal’s U18 team. He’s one to watch for going forward — particularly since he must file a one-time switch to play for the United States in official matches.
Image Source: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
23. Brendan Hines-Ike — KV Kortrijk (Belgium)
Position: Center Back (with ability to also play right back)
Hines-Ike is a relative unknown for the casual fans of the USMNT. The Denver native played in Sweden for two seasons before making the jump up to Belgium. Featuring for midtable club Kortrijk, Hines-Ike functions both as a right back and (predominantly) as a center back. Assuming he continues to play regularly, there’s no reason why he can’t get a look from new manager Gregg Berhalter. Hines-Ike’s positional versatility should be particularly attractive.
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22. Duane Holmes — Derby County (England)
Position: Both wing spots/attacking central midfield
Holmes has quietly had a rather nice year in the English Championship for side Derby County. The dual England-United States national shows a real willingness to take players on when isolated with the ball on the wings. Holmes is full of pace and quickness — traits that aren’t always emblematic of U.S. wingers. Manager Frank Lampard has gushed over Holmes throughout the season. While the battle for promotion to the Premier League is in question, Holmes’ respective development as a player is not.
Image Source: ASN
21. Chris Gloster — Hannover 96 (Germany)
Since making the move to Germany early last year, Gloster has completely flourished. The New Jersey native first started on Hannover’s U19 team — and has since been promoted to the U23 side. It’s only a matter of time before the clever outside back makes his debut with the first team. His value to the USMNT is quite crucial. Not only is he a regular with the youth national teams, but Gloster also plays at a huge position of need. Quality left backs are quite rare within the federation. Gloster looks to be one of the most promising in that capacity for the foreseeable future.
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20. Sebastian Soto — Hannover 96 (Germany)
While all DJ Khaled does is win, all Soto does is bag goals. The California native joined Hannover in 2018. Since then, Soto has 12 goals and five assists in only 16 matches for the U19 team. Soto is a true No. 9. His hold up play has improved — as has his movement off the ball. Hannover thinks highly of him to the point that he trained with the first team over the winter. While Hannover is currently in the relegation zone, it may behoove Soto in his search for first-team minutes. The club likely will allow him some opportunities should it become relegated.
mage Source: Twitter
19. Antonee Robinson — Everton (On loan at Wigan Athletic)
For roughly a year, supporters of the USMNT were ready to proclaim Robinson as the program’s left-back for the next decade. The 21-year-old displayed a propensity to overlap with considerable bite during his six appearances with the national team. Many were even hopeful that Robinson would nab a spot on Everton’s roster for this current campaign.
As is the case with many young players, Robinson is currently experiencing some adversity. Everton opted to loan Robinson to Championship side Wigan. He’s been hurt for large chunks of this season. When not hurt, Robinson’s shakiness in one-on-one defending leaves a lot to be desired. While a fantastic athlete, Robinson must continue to improve in terms of his defensive awareness. He’s certainly a gifted player — though clearly (at this time) isn’t a first-choice option for the U.S. under Berhalter.
Image Source: Wigan
18. Romain Gall — Malmö FF (Sweden)
Position: Right wing
Gall has enjoyed somewhat of a nomadic career. A former big-time prospect, Gall featured in MLS before eventually being jettisoned to USL and then the third tier of Swedish football. Floundering in obscurity, Gall eventually made his way to the top division in Sweden. Swedish giant Malmö took notice — eventually signing Gall. Gall has fluctuated back and forth between being a starter and a reserve. He plays with an undeniable flair on the pitch.
Gall is daring and inventive in attack. His dedication to defending as a two-way wing may be something to question — though Gall certainly appears to be a nice option going forward for the USMNT. There aren’t many wingers within the American pool that can claim playing time versus Chelsea in a major European competition.
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17. Matt Miazga — Chelsea (On loan at Reading)
After playing quite well in the Eredivisie for Vitesse, Miazga made the jump up to Ligue 1 for French side Nantes. ‘Disastrous’ would be an apt way to describe this loan. There are elements of ‘he said-he said’ as it pertains to Miazga and the club. The promising center back left mid-season in rather strange circumstances. Since then, he’s made the move to English Championship side Reading (where he’s started every match since moving to England).
It will be interesting to see how Miazga’s career develops. It’s unlikely that he’ll ever play for Chelsea. One would hope he’d be playing in a higher level than the Championship going forward. With Aaron Long’s emergence, Miazga doesn’t necessarily appear to be a penciled in first-team choice for the national team anymore.
Image Source: Reading
16. Ethan Horvath — Club Brugge (Belgium)
Horvath is easily a top-two keeper for the USMNT at this point. He’s a weekly starter for Belgian side Club Brugge. This includes involvement in Brugge’s Europa League matches (where Horvath has been excellent at times). His reemergence is a positive for Berhalter and the national team. Competition often brings out the best in players. As such, Horvath will be going toe-to-toe with Zack Steffen for the starting gig.
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15. Andrija Novakovich — Reading (On loan at Fortuna Sittard)
For whatever reason, Novakovich wasn’t able to get a fair shake with the national team over the last year. He’d make small cameos. However, there was never a time in which he got extended run. Novakovich is easily the tallest and most physically imposing (6-foot-4) of the forward options within the pool. Playing on loan in Holland’s top division, Novakovich has scored some pretty impressive goals as a weekly starter. At the very worst, he should get called in during the March camp.
I’d personally like to see him log more than only a handful of minutes on the pitch. Many may peg him as a physical, brutish player. However, Novakovich is very light on his feet — and offers some of the best technical quality of any attacking player available to the USMNT.
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14. DeAndre Yedlin — Newcastle United (England)
Yedlin is a very polarizing player within USMNT circles. There are those who likely will be appalled at the fact he features within this piece. However, there isn’t another American currently functioning as a week in, week out starter in the EPL (outside of maybe Tim Ream). Yedlin’s warts often come in terms of positioning himself. He’s also a bit rudimentary as it pertains to technical ability. With that said, much of his value comes from his world-class pace. Yedlin recovers as well as anyone, and most certainly has been above-average at times for Newcastle.
It remains to be seen as to whether he’ll be an automatic starter for Berhalter. The inverted right back position doesn’t really cater to Yedlin’s strengths as a player.
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13. Konrad de la Fuente — FC Barcelona (Spain)
Position: Both winger spots
Rarely do you see an American plying their trade at famed club Barcelona. That aspect immediate draws the attention of the most casual fans. When analyzing de la Fuente as a player, there’s even more reason to get excited. The Miami native first made the move to Spain at age 10. Since then, de la Fuente has steadily risen up the ranks. Stylistically, de la Fuente is fast and explosive. He shows a real willingness to attack opposing outside backs. Equipped with brilliant skill, de la Fuente has a real shot at making the U-20 World Cup roster as a 17-year-old.
Simply put, de la Fuente is a special talent. Even if he doesn’t break through with Barcelona’s first team, he’ll get opportunities somewhere to fully showcase his ability. Currently, he fluctuates between Barca’s highest youth team (Juvenil A) and the reserves side (FC Barcelona B).
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12. Giovanni Reyna — Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Gio is the son of former USMNT stalwart Claudio Reyna. Though Reyna enjoyed a terrific career both domestically and abroad, his son appears to be a far superior prospect at the same age. Though Portuguese ancestry, Reyna recently made the jump to Borussia Dortmund’s famed developmental academy.
The captain of the U.S. U-17 team bypassed Dortmund’s U-17 team — instead starting with the U-19s. This gives you an indication as to how highly they rate Reyna. Reyna isn’t a true CAM. He’s bigger and more physical than most of his diminutive counterparts. If one were to peg him with somewhat of a (pie-in-the-sky) comparison, it’d be Kevin de Bruyne. Fans of the national team should be excited about Reyna — particularly since Dortmund has a willingness to showcase younger players (such as Christian Pulisic).
Image Source: Goal.com
11. Jonathan Amon — FC Nordsjælland (Denmark)
Position: Left wing
Amon is a bit of a unicorn in U.S. circles. Matches in the Danish Superliga aren’t readily available to those in the States. As such, ardent supporters are glued to their laptops, tablets, and phones when gifted with grainy footage from one of Amon’s matches. The South Carolina native is not only exceptionally fast, but also skilled on the ball. The USMNT doesn’t normally have players out on the wing boasting both traits. Amon is excellent at the stretching the field. With his heels clipping the end line, he relishes the opportunity to attack when given space.
Unfortunately, both injury and inconsistency has prevented him from fully breaking out. The ‘legend’ of Amon still runs strongly within the supporters — though he’ll have to show a bit more before we anoint him as the ‘next best thing’ to come out of the United States. The talent is there for Amon to make the leap to a better league (sooner rather than later). The U-20’s can only hope that Nordsjælland will release him for the World Cup in May.
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10. Richie Ledezma — PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands)
Position: Central attacking midfielder/central midfielder
A year-and-a-half ago, no one knew who Ledezma was. Now, he’s one of the United States most precious prospects. Ledezma has the potential to play at both the No. 8 and the No. 10 spot. In terms of the senior team, it’s absolutely screaming for a No. 10 to help link the midfield with the target striker. Ledezma is immensely silky with the ball at his feet. His passing ability enables him to exploit small pockets of space (for which wingers can run onto his deliveries).
Ledezma is eligible to play for Mexico. Though the FMF hasn’t made any contact (yet) with Ledezma, it still remains a looming threat. As for now, Ledezma — who’s coming back from a leg injury — will begin his time with the PSV U-19 team (a club known for player development).
Image Source: Twitter/@richydezma
9. Chris Richards — Bayern Munich (Germany)
Richards is one of the few center back prospects with real big-time upside. Bayern Munich had him on loan from FC Dallas for a spell during the summer. Richards impressed the team so much that he actually played in some of the friendlies with the first team during a trip in the United States. From there, Bayern opted to buy Richards from FC Dallas — thus making him a member of its team.
Richards is an above-average athlete for the position. He’s excellent in the air, and also has the pace to track most strikers. Additionally, Richards is quite comfortable with the ball at his feet. It’s a perfectly ideal situation for Richards to work alongside/mirror Jerome Boateng (as Richards is often compared to a young Boateng). Should Richards continue on this trajectory, he appears to be destined to one day be a starting center back in one of the major European leagues.
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8. Timo Weah — Paris Saint-Germain (On loan at Celtic)
Position: Winger, Center-forward
In search of more playing time, Weah was loaned from French giant PSG to Scottish leaders Celtic. The move made sense for Weah — as playing time became scarce in Paris when competing with the likes of Cavani, Neymar, and Mbappe (among others).
Now in Glasgow, Weah has gotten his feet wet both in domestic play as well as in Europa League action. Weah’s primary strength as a player includes his movement off the ball. A player often categorized by his athleticism and energy, Weah has notched three goals and an assist thus far in only a handful of matches. At the very least, Weah will act as a super-sub for Celtic. This move appears to be paying off quite nicely. As it pertains to the national team, don’t be surprised if Weah commands one of the starting spots out side.
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7. John Brooks — VfL Wolfsburg (Germany)
Brooks is one of the few holdovers from the previous regime with real value. He previously had commanded the highest transfer fee for an American (a mark which recently was shattered by Christian Pulisic). Brooks is quite good on set pieces from an aerial standpoint. While not fleet of foot, he can spray the ball to all parts of the park. Brooks’ ability to split the lines with his passing — and thus connect with the midfield — is a trait much aligned with Berhalter’s preferred style of play.
He offered this quote on Brooks after watching him in person this past weekend:
“I met John in December. He’s got a good profile, when I think of his towering frame and how he passes the ball. We’ll be coming over to watch him again because we think he has huge potential.”
Image Source: Bundesliga
6. Alex Mendez — Freiburg (Germany)
Position: Central Midfield/Central Defensive Midfielder/Attacking Midfielder
Remember the name Alex Mendez.
The Los Angeles native was recently named as the U.S. Soccer Young Player of the Year. Multiple youth coaches have described him as “world class”. U-20 manager Tab Ramos likens Mendez to former Argentina star Riquelme — and even believes Mendez would be worth $15 million had he been born in Buenos Aires rather than the United States.
Regardless, Mendez is a special player. He’s proficient in all aspects of the game — including technical capabilities, an advanced understanding of the game, a willingness to defend, and also a nose for the goal. Should his development continue on schedule, Mendez appears to be destined for an integral role on the senior national team.
Image Source: Goal.com
5. Sergino Dest — Ajax (Netherlands)
Position: Outside midfielder, right-back, left-back
It’s difficult to temper our expectations for Dest. Despite the fact he plays for Ajax’s reserve side, many are calling for Dest to become the senior national team’s starting right back. As currently constituted, Dest is more advanced on a technical level than Yedlin is. He appears to be a PERFECT fit for Berhalter’s inverted right-back spot.
It doesn’t appear long until Dest breaks through for the Ajax first team. Duly, Dest figures to be a huge member of the U-20 World Cup roster in May. There’s even a chance Dest is called in for the camp in March. He’s truly that talented.
Image Source: Ajax
4. Weston McKennie — FC Schalke 04 (Germany)
Position: Every single position on the pitch minus keeper
McKennie has established himself as Schalke’s most indispensable player. Manager Domenico Tedesco has featured McKennie all over the pitch — including as a second striker, an outside midfielder, an attacking midfielder, a defensive midfield, an outside back, and even at times as a center back. The lack of playing at one position may bother some — though McKennie’s positional versatility, as well as his ability to adapt in all situations, makes him a very valuable player going forward.
Berhalter plans for McKennie to play in a more advanced role as a central midfielder. McKennie will be a No. 10 offensively, and a No. 8 defensively. This allows him to push into the attack, but also utilize his strong defensive principles when flying box-to-box. Going forward, McKennie will be a massive part of the USMNT picture.
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3. Josh Sargent — Werder Bremen (Germany)
Sargent has long been a crown jewel within the U.S. system. Dating back to his days as a youth player, Sargent has been consistent in bagging goals at a high clip. After many big-time clubs pursued his services, Sargent signed with Werder Bremen. The move paid off — as he’s already getting first-team minutes.
Sargent is mostly known for his movement off the ball — though his headiness as a player, coupled with his technical ability, should also be applauded. The same can be said for Sargent’s burgeoning skills as a No. 9 when holding the ball up with his back to goal. At the very worst, he’s a second-choice striker for the senior national team. When looking at his future, Sargent has a chance to be a superior player to that of Clint Dempsey or Brian McBride (arguably the two most successful American strikers who’ve played abroad for lengthy chunks of time).
Image Source: Bundesliga
2. Christian Pulisic — Chelsea (England)
Position: Right wing, left wing, central attacking midfielder
The golden child has lost a bit of luster over the last six months. Pulisic had his spot usurped by Jadon Sancho (though that’s nothing to be ashamed about). Duly, injuries have had him in and out of the lineup. Pulisic is set to make a massive move to Chelsea this summer. While the high-profile nature of the transaction drew headlines, the situation itself might not be all that great. It isn’t a given that Pulisic will be a weekly starter for a club notorious for not playing its young players.
As we switch over to the ‘half-glass full’ mindset, Pulisic is only 20 years of age. With Chelsea’s transfer ban, Pulisic should be able to get some semblance of consistent playing time (though it may not be under Maurizio Sarri). As for his role with the national team, it will be very fascinating to see whether he is employed outside as a winger, or centrally as an attacking player (we’d bet on the former).
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1. Tyler Adams — RB Leipzig (Germany)
Position: Central midfielder, Defensive central midfielder, Right-back
Adams has exploded into becoming the most exciting American player currently performing across the pond in Europe. Since making the move to RB Leipzig in January, Adams has started three matches. The team is 3-0 in these matches, with a goal to conceded goal ratio of 11:1. Adams already looks like an elite defensive midfielder in the Bundesliga. He covers a ton of ground, is thoughtful with his passing up-field, and seemingly never tires.
His future with the national team holds plenty of intrigue at this current time. Adams easily could slot in at the No. 6 spot. He also could feature next to McKennie in an elevated role — or even at the inverted right-back spot. Regardless, Adams appears well on his way to becoming a cemented fixture both for the club and country.
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