Spotlight shines brightly on young Americans in Europe

Never before has the spotlight shined brighter on Americans in Europe.

You can begin with these players expected to play key roles on teams vying for domestic titles and entered in the 2020-21 Champions League.

-- Christian Pulisic (21), given the No. 10 jersey for his second season at Chelsea.
-- Gio Reyna (17), in his first full season at Borussia Dortmund.
-- Tyler Adams (21), coming off RB Leipzig's run to the UEFA Champion League semifinals.
-- Weston McKennie (22), moving to nine-time Italian Serie A champion Juventus.
-- Sergino Dest (19), starting out at Ajax but not expected to stay for long.

Beyond that are other players who have had roles on the U.S. national team in the last two years but are facing key seasons  in their careers:

-- Reggie Cannon (22), signed by Portugal's Boavista from FC Dallas.
-- Josh Sargent (20), expected to start for Werder Bremen, which barely avoided relegated.
-- Zack Steffen (25), in his first season at Manchester City, starting out as Ederson's backup.
-- Tim Weah (20), coming off a lost season (hamstring injuries) at Lille.
-- DeAndre Yedlin (27), likely on the move after four seasons at Newcastle United.

Then there are members of the 2019 U-20 World Cup team still trying to break into first teams:

-- Konrad De la Fuente (19), called up to fill out Barcelona bench in Champions League.
-- Chris Gloster (20), back for second season at Jong PSV after moving from Hannover 96.
-- Richie Ledezma (20), injured in Jong PSV opener but ready for Friday's game against Jong AZ.
-- Uly Llanez (19), rumored to be headed on loan from Wolfsburg to Dutch club.
-- Alex Mendez (20), likely back at Jong Ajax after traveling to Austria with first team in preseason.
-- Chris Richards (20), debuted in Bayern Munich's title-clinching Bundesliga win.
-- Sebastian Soto (20), signed by Norwich City but loaned to Dutch second division club Telstar.

How many of these players can break into first teams in 2020-21 will be critical with the start of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup likely pushed back to next September because of the COVID-related interruptions to the Concacaf schedule.

Beyond that, what stands out is just how many players are embedded in Europe's elite. German clubs Wolfsburg and Schalke 04 are examples. 

Besides Llanez, who jumped from the U-19s to first team in his first season, Wolfsburg features central defender John Brooks (27), an automatic choice on the national team when healthy. Michael Edwards (19) begins his second season on Wolfsburg II, where he is joined by Bryang Kayo (18). Kobe Hernandez-Foster (18), Kayo's teammate on the 2019 U.S. U-17 World Cup team, starts out at Wolfsburg U19.

McKennie has departed Schalke 04, but buddy Nick Taitague (21) has been promoted to the first team after injuries stunted his development since his arrival in 2017. Matthew Hoppe (19) has moved up from Schalke U19 to Schalke II, and Evan Rotundo (16) will start out this fall at Schalke U17.

Germany has been the destination of choice for young Americans, but more and more players have joined English academy programs: goalkeepers Damian Las (18) and Alex Borto (16) at Fulham, Chituru Odunze (17) and Zach Booth (16) at Leicester City, midfielder Matteo Ritaccio (18) at Liverpool, goalkeeper Ethan Wady (18) at Chelsea and defender Jonathan Tomkinson (18) at Norwich City and forward Augustus McGiff (18) at Reading.

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