New generation of young Americans make quick inroads in Champions League

The UEFA Champions League should be the measuring stick by which Americans in Europe are judged.

Christian Pulisic's four years at Chelsea are now widely judged to have been a failure, but that is a harsh assessment of what he accomplished.

Pulisic became the first USMNT player to play in and win the Champions League when he came on as a sub in Chelsea's 1-0 win over Manchester City in the 2021 final.

That was after he was Chelsea's best player in its semifinal series against Real Madrid, opening the scoring in the first leg and setting up Mason Mount's goal to clinch the 3-1 aggregate win.

That series summed up Pulisic's career at Chelsea. Even after starting and scoring in the first leg, he found himself on the bench for the start of the second leg. He did not hide his feelings about not starting.

"I was very frustrated," Pulisic said after the match in an interview with CBS Sports. "There's not much else to say. I wanted to play from the beginning, as I always do. I've had to continue to prove myself, over and over again.

Pulisic has made a U.S. record 48 appearances in the Champions League -- 22 with Borussia Dortmund, for which he debuted four days before his 18th birthday, and 26 for Chelsea -- and he will be playing in American record eighth straight season in the Champions League. AC Milan hosts Newcastle United on Tuesday though he was expected to start the game on the bench in favor of Samuel Chukwueze after a poor outing in Saturday's Milan derby.

Gio Reyna is still only 20, but he has already played in three UEFA Champions League seasons and would have played in a fourth but for being injured in September 2021 and missing all of Borussia Dortmund's 2021-22 Champions League campaign.

He has not played for Dortmund since the final day of the 2022-23 Bundesliga season, suffering a broken tibia in the USA's 2-0 win over Canada in the Concacaf Nations League final in June.

Reyna did not dress for BVB's 4-2 win at Freiburg on Saturday, but he is in Paris for Tuesday's Champions League opener against Paris St. Germain.

PSG was the opponent for Reyna's debut at the age of 17 in February 2020 when he came off the bench at the Signal Iduna Park to set up fellow teen Erling Haaland for the winning goal in a 2-1 win.

Sergino Dest
, 22, should begin his fifth straight season in the Champions League on Wednesday when PSV plays at Arsenal. PSV will be Dest's fourth different Champions League team after Ajax, Barcelona and AC Milan, all former champions.

PSV, which won the 1988 European Cup, will have three Americans in its team, having also acquired Ricardo Pepi, 20, and Malik Tillman, 21, this summer. Pepi has never played in the Champions League, but Tillman has previous experience at Bayern Munich (which still owns his contract) and Rangers.

At least nine Americans have played in the group stage of the last three Champions League seasons.

That number would have likely been met this fall, but Belgian champion Royal Antwerp failed to register left back Sam Vines due to what it acknowledged was an "administrative error."

Of the four other Americans registered for the group stage, Yunus Musah (AC Milan), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic) and Brenden Aaronson (Union Berlin) all played for the USA at the 2022 World Cup.

Carter-Vickers (who is expected to return to action in early October) and Aaronson have both played one season in the Champions League -- Aaronson's 714 minutes with Salzburg in 2021-22 are the second most by an American in a single season -- but Musah will be making his European debut.

The fourth player is 17-year-old goalkeeper Diego Kochen, who is expected to start for the USA at the 2023 Under-17 World Cup -- if he is released by Barcelona. He has made the Barca first team as its No. 3 keeper.

5 comments about "New generation of young Americans make quick inroads in Champions League".
  1. frank schoon, September 19, 2023 at 9:38 a.m.

    I have no idea the reason for this article. What is that suppose to prove, if anything.  So, we have some Americans on teams that play Championship league soccer, which really depends upon the team whose eligible to play CL competition this particular year, next year it might not be the case.
    Pulisic has played a bunch of years CL but has that improved his quality of play?????.... I don't think so, although I hope so even though he's bench splinters. As the article stated many think he's been a failure so if the implication is that playing CL helps our player is than brought into question...

    So, again what is this article suppose to infer, imply, or something else, other that we have some American in CL competition, big deal!!! 

    What is really important is the overal improvement of our boys, a rising graph leading to better and better quality of player that culminates into our national team becoming better, which has not proven to be the case so far. That some of them play CL competition, fine, but so what..Playing CL should not be a type of measuring stick to judge our American players, it's what they do as individual players on the field and how they help their team. That's what it is all about...

  2. R2 Dad replied, September 19, 2023 at 11:36 a.m.

    Frank, it's just indicating more Americans are playing at clubs involved in the highest competition in UEFA. There is a nearby article showing the numbers from 1990 to 2023. More players, indicating our Nats guys are improving as a whole. C'mon, they've got a quota of articles to fill--this is just a positive data point.

  3. frank schoon replied, September 19, 2023 at 11:45 a.m.

    R2, I understand and I've read the article showing the numbers between '90-'23, which I thought was more interesting. And ofcourse we have more guys playing Europe today because our country's growth in soccer has taken effect, but whether the quality of players today are better than the ones of yesteryear playing is questionable.... 

  4. humble 1 replied, September 19, 2023 at 2:06 p.m.

    Thank you for the write-up.  Frank, you know it never matters whether say Kochen is / will be better than Miola - they are different generations.  What does matter is exactly what you write, that Kochen and others progress in playing time, and impact on games. In Europe - part of - but not all - of progression is playing in continental competitions - be it Champions, Europa, Conference - with Champions being the top.  It will get you noticed when you impact these games.  It is true what is written about Pulisic - he impacted the game with the German coach - but the German coach kept benching him in favor of - shocker - German players.  For me it was clear case of Tuchel does not like Americans.  Now Pulisic, young player still, has chance to re-write the story.  Make it happen.  For all the others - same thing - opportunity knocks - get in the game and make an impact!  C'mon boys!  

  5. Grant Goodwin, September 21, 2023 at 4 p.m.

    I find it interesting of what appears to be (in England especially) the disdain for Americans.  Leeds pretty much blamed everything on Marsch and the Americans he brought in to play...even though they went through three more coaches after firing him and still got relegated.
    -When the EPL resumed play after Covid, Pulisic was quite often the best player on the field for Chelsea, but that is forgotten.  It did not matter what he did...he still kept having to prove himself.  
    -Frank....pretty critical of Pulisic even though he has started out rather well at AC Milan.  By no means is he turbo as he is pretty darn good technically...isn't that what you constantly criticize plalyers for not having.  Maybe because he was not big and physical at Chelsea could be the reason he wasn't viewed more positively.  But in the technical focuses Serie A...we will get to see what he can really do.  

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications