American contingent in Germany awaits green light on Bundesliga relaunch

Thursday will be a big day for the large American contingent in the Bundesliga.

The 10 U.S. players on German first division teams will be awaiting news from the Deutsche Fussball Liga (DFL) video conference on which the 36 clubs in the top two divisions will discuss their plan for matches to resume (without fans).

The Bundesliga has allowed teams to resume light training -- using social distancing -- placing it in the spotlight. Sports leagues around the country are watching to see the DFL formulate the steps necessary to teams to play amid the coronavirus -- and execute them. But returning to full training with contact and then actually playing games is still a ways away.

The plan for games will have to include who will be allowed at the matches -- players, coaches, trainers and medical staff, plus refereeing crews and TV production staff and stadium officials -- and who would oversee the hygiene protocols, testing everyone and monitoring everyone's activity on-site and off. About 300 essential people is the estimate necessary to pull off a game behind closed doors, given the circumstances.

DFL chief executive Christian Seifert previously mentioned early May as the target for the 2019-20 season to resume play. But the earliest the Bundesliga could get approval from the Germany government is April 30.

Germany is one of the first nations in Europe cautiously taking steps to ease the restrictions on movement during the pandemic. On Monday, small shops, car dealerships, bike shops and book stores were allowed to reopen, joining grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and gas stations as being open for business. Some schools will reopen on May 4 and others will follow gradually if all goes well. But Germany has extended its ban on large public events until Aug. 31, however.

Many German fan groups are opposed to the idea of playing games behind closed doors -- "geisterspiele" or "ghost game" they call the concept -- but Bundesliga officials have warned that it will likely be the only option for games being played until 2021.

Seifert has warned the future of small 2. Bundesliga clubs will depend on the payment of the fourth and final installment -- more than $300 million -- of the agreement the DFL has with Sky Deutschland, the primary media-rights holder to the Bundesliga and the exclusive carrier of 2. Bundesliga games. Kicker has put the number of first and second division clubs in financial peril at 13.

The Bundesliga's return would be welcomed by the American contingent, which includes German-American veterans like Timothy Chandler, who was on fire during the winter for Eintracht Frankfurt, and John Brooks, back in the lineup at Wolfsburg, but also youngsters like Tyler Adams, who missed more than six months with injuries last year but has returned to the lineup at RB Leipzig, and 17-year-old Gio Reyna, the latest young star Borussia Dortmund has fast-tracked into the first team.



Five of the top seven teams in the Bundesliga have Americans on their first teams, including Reyna at second-place Borussia Dortmund, four points behind leader Bayern Munich, and Adams at RB Leipzig, third with a five-point gap to make up on Bayern. (Another American, 20-year-old Chris Richards, plays for Bayern Munich II in the 3. Liga but regularly trains with the first team.)

Reyna made his UEFA Champions League debut in the series Dortmund lost to Paris St. Germain, but Adams finally was able to make his Champions League debut in the second leg of the RB Leipzig series against Tottenham, a 3-0 win that sent it through to the quarterfinals with a 4-0 aggregate win.

“One day we're playing our Champions League game against Tottenham,” Adams said on a recent video conference with reporters. “And the next day, all of a sudden, our games are canceled for the weekend. So things happened and progressed rather quickly.”

Things have also progressed quickly for Uly Llanez, who recently turned 19. He began his first season in Germany on Wolfsburg's U-19s but was excused from winter training to join the USA at its January camp in Florida. Llanez scored the winning goal for the USA from the penalty spot in a 1-0 win over Costa Rica before returning to Wolfsburg, where he resumed play with the U-19s. During the shutdown, though, Wolfsburg promoted Llanez to the first team.

"Ulysses is clear in his actions, strong in one-on-one situations and finishes very well,” Wolfsburg sporting director Marcel Schaefer told Kicker.

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