The German connection, college edition

By Paul Kennedy

Just as the U.S. national team has taken on a German influence with a German, Jurgen Klinsmann, as head coach and five German-born and -bred players on its 2014 World Cup team, so has the men's college game been impacted by an influx of Germans.

Two teams in the round of 16 of the NCAA Division I Men's Tournament that takes place on Sunday owe their spots to winning goals by Germans: UCLA (Leo Stolz) and Louisville (Tim Kubel). A German in the round of 16, Daniel Neustadter, brother of German international Roman Neustadter, had the winning goal as Providence won the Big East Tournament for the first time ever. Germans Fabian Herbers and Timo Pitter were named Big East Offensive Player of the Year and Midfielder of the Year for Creighton. They were among 10 Germans who started last weekend in winning efforts in the NCAA Tournament's second round. (An 11th German, Larry Ndjock, who spent time in the Hertha Berlin youth system and at St. Pauli II, is a key reserve for No. 2 seed UCLA after starring at Loyola, Md., the last two years.)

While Division I programs have recruited from England and Scandinavia for many years, the pipeline of German talent to U.S. colleges is a recent phenomenon. But as top programs are losing players to MLS clubs, they are looking to Germany as a new source of talent. Programs like UCLA, Louisville and Creighton until recently relied almost exclusively on American players. None had Germans as recently as three years ago.

Most of the German imports have spent time in the youth or amateur systems at top German pro clubs -- no longer a problem with the NCAA for the same reason players can play for MLS academies -- and they are usually a year or two older than their American classmates, typically entering college at 20 or 21. Many of the players are top students as English is generally not a problem.

Joachim Ball (Louisville). Was backup to German international keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, now at Barcelona, for Borussia Moenchengladbach II before coming to Louisville. Started in goal for the last two seasons. Completing his third and final year of eligibility at age of 24.

Julian Buescher (Syracuse). Lone German in the Orange starting lineup that also includes four Canadians, one Finn and one Norwegian. Started 19 of 20 games and was third on team with four assists. Reached as high as third division 3. Liga with Preussen Muenster before moving down to Sportfreunde Lotte prior to move to Syracuse.

Julian Gressel (Providence). Named to the All-Big East second team and All-Big East Tournament team as a sophomore. Has scored four goals and four assists in his last 10 games. Starter at Eintracht Bamberg in fourth division Regionalliga Bayern before playing briefly for TSV Neustadt/Aisch prior to enrolling at Providence. Spent his early years at Greuther Fuerth, which spent last season in the Bundesliga.

Fabian Herbers (Creighton). The youngest of three Germans starting for Creighton at the age of 21. Named the 2014 Big East Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore. Leads the conference with 26 points (9 goals, 8 assists). Spent time in the youth system at Dutch club FC Twente before moving on to Rehede in the fifth division Oberliga Niederrhein.

Vincent Keller (Creighton). Played at Bundesliga club Freiburg in its youth system and spent one season at fifth division Bahlinger before joining Creighton. Started on NCAA Division I runner-up team as a freshman in 2012. Co-captain as a junior this season.

Tim Kubel (Louisville). The 2014 ACC Freshman of the Year carried the Cardinals past Saint Louis, setting up the tying goal and scoring the winner himself in a 2-1 comeback win. The 5-foot-9 Kubel leads Louisville with seven goals and five assists from his right-back position. Played for Borussia Dortmund II and Schalke 04 II, getting as high as the third division with Dortmund in 2012-13

Daniel Neustadter (Providence). Scored the winning goal as the Friars beat Xavier, 2-1, to win the Big East championship for the first time ever. Played seven games for fourth division Koblenz in 2013-14. Younger brother of German international Roman Neustadter. Their father, Peter, was also a longtime professional player and Kazakhstan international.

Timo Pitter (Creighton). Named the Missouri Valley Freshman of the Year in 2012 when Creighton went all the way to the NCAA Division I final, where it fell to Indiana, 1-0. Was named Big East Midfielder of the Year this season. His six goals and eight assists give 23 goals and 16 assists in three years. Played three seasons at Schweifurt in the fifth division Bayernliga Nord before joining Bluejays.

Leo Stolz (UCLA). Considered one of the five best college players in the country and would have likely gone in the top five of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft if he had come out as a junior when he was the Pac-12 Player of the Year. Scored on a 30-yard free kick to tie the score and had the golden goal to lead the Bruins to 2-1 win over San Diego in second round. Began college career at George Mason. Grew up in youth system at 1860 Munich, which offered him a pro contract when he was 18, but was urged to attend college in the United States by his father, who spent a year at UC San Diego.

Felix Vobejda (UCLA).The sophomore midfielder is one of only four players to play every game the last two seasons for the Bruins. His coach at VfL Osnabrueck in the fifth division Oberliga Niedersachsen was American Joe Enochs.
3 comments about "The German connection, college edition".
  1. Allan Lindh, November 29, 2014 at 1:56 p.m.

    Not a word about why so many Germans, and other Europeans, would come to US to attend college, when they could be slaving away in the much vaunted club system in Europe? Because they are smart, and realize that a US college education is worth far more in terms of quality of life, and life-time earnings. A point that is forever lost on the SA crowd, who bemoan our lack of a strong club system, and whine about all the kids that go to college instead. They go to college because it gives them a better life, and that's why foreign kids come here also. College soccer is NOT why we have a relatively weak USMNT. The reason that we have a weak USMNT is because 5 year olds are not out in the street, or in the back yard, kicking, juggling, playing with a soccer ball. You want to change that, but a #3 ball and go teach a little kid to juggle.

  2. Lou vulovich, November 29, 2014 at 4:03 p.m.

    We have always had foreign student athletes in multiple sports as well as soccer. The fact that we have 10 or 12 Germans is not so unusual they speak English, they usually like American culture and they adapt well in a college setting, also the U17 and U 19 Bundesliga are very intense and very physical allowing German players to adapt to the style of soccer in college.
    I think college soccer has been fantastic for the growth of the game in this country and I think it is very unique and will only grow in popularity and quality it certainly in my opinion has done nothing but improve soccer in every aspect.
    Allan is correct we do need more kids playing with a ball, but I feel the US youth program is a great failure from identifying talent in a big country to nurturing that talent.
    There is nothing wrong with club soccer and there is certainly nothing wrong with college soccer it is improving daily.
    The problem is the headless system called US development program going on aimlessly hoping
    Something great happens in spite of no proper plan no proper action just the same failure over and over.

  3. FAHRO MUNINOVIC, September 8, 2015 at 12:21 p.m.


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