No country has attracted more American players moving abroad in recent
years than Germany.
Since Christian Pulisic broke in at Borussia Dortmund at the age of 17 in 2016, German clubs have recruited many of the top players in the U.S. youth ranks.
Six members of the 2019 U.S. U-20 World Cup team were attached to German clubs, though two players have since been transferred to top Dutch clubs: Alex Mendez (Ajax) and Chris Gloster (PSV). Of the other four, only Sebastian Soto has made his first-team debut, though he has only made one brief appearance since Hannover 96 was relegated to the second division. That may change under a new coach in the second half of the season for Soto, who will be a free agent in June.
For now, most of the Americans playing in the top-flight Bundesliga were born and raised there or were established MLS pros when they moved, and only a half dozen or so could be considered first-team regulars.
The first half of the season that ended on Sunday was filled with ups and downs.
Zack Steffen immediately broke into the starting lineup at Fortuna Duesseldorf, on loan from Manchester City, and earned three Team of the Week citations from kicker but Fortuna has languished in the relegation zone. A 2-1 win over Union Berlin on Sunday moved Fortuna out of the bottom two into 16th place. (In the Bundesliga, the bottom two teams go down, while the 16th-place team faces the third-place team from the second division in a playoff.)
Weston McKennie (Schalke 04) and Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen) were both playing regularly until injuries left them on the sidelines. McKennie dislocated his shoulder, which will keep him out of action until February, while Sargent missed the last four games with relegation-threatened Werder Bremen with a hamstring injury first picked up playing for the USA in November.
On the other hand, Tyler Adams was sidelined until the last game of the fall campaign when he started for RB Leipzig in a 3-1 win over Augsburg that clinched the "Herbstmeister" title. The second half of the season shapes up to be a big test for one of the Bundesliga's top young midfielders as Leipzig will be chasing its first Bundesliga title and competing in the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League.
Other Bundesliga players who played for the USA under new head coach Gregg Berhalter were Berliners John Brooks and Alfredo Morales. Brooks was in and out of the Wolfsburg lineup again with a groin injury while Morales parlayed a strong start to the Bundesliga season at Duesseldorf into a recall to the national team. Another German-American, Tim Chandler, saw increasing playing time in the late fall for Eintracht Frankfurt and will be playing in the Europa League with Brooks in February.
But no player had a better fall than Terrence Boyd, who is tied for fourth in the third division in goal production for Hallescher, which he joined after a half a season with Toronto FC in MLS.
The player to watch this winter is Gio Reyna. He already made the Borussia Dortmund gameday squad once and he looks set to join Pulisic in making his BVB debut before he turns 18. For U-20s like Chris Richards (Bayern Munich II) and Uly Llanez (Wolfsburg U19), call-ups for winter training in January would signal they are being considered for the fast-track to the first team.
Zack Steffen (24), Fortuna Duesseldorf (17 games/17 starts)
Weston McKennie (21), Schalke 04 (13 games/10 starts)
Alfredo Morales (29), Fortuna Duesseldorf (12 games/10 starts, 1 goal, 1 assist)
John Brooks (26), Wolfsburg (11 games/11 starts, 1 assist)
Josh Sargent (19), Werder Bremen (11 games/6 starts, 2 goals, 2 assists)
Tim Chandler (29), Eintracht Frankfurt (8 games/4 starts)
Fabian Johnson (32), Borussia M'gladbach (4 games/2 starts)
Khiry Shelton (26), Paderborn (2 games/0 starts)
Tyler Adams (20), RB Leipzig (1 game/1 start)
Gio Reyna (17), Borussia Dortmund (0 games)
Julian Green (24), Greuther Fuerth (13 games/13 starts, 4 goals)
Bobby Wood (27), Hamburg (6 games/2 starts)
Sebastian Soto (19), Hannover 96 (1 game/0 starts)
Terrence Boyd (28), Hallescher (17 games/14 starts, 10 goals, 6 assists)
Chris Richards (19), Bayern Munich II (15 games/14 starts, 1 goal)
McKinze Gaines (21), Sonnenhof Grossaspach (11 games/8 starts)
Photo: RHR-Foto/Imago/Icon Sportswire, Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire.