By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Aug 6, 2018) US Soccer Players – The summer touring season is coming to an end for European clubs with league games that count on the horizon. One of the bright spots from the summer friendlies was how well American players did, a possible precursor for things to come this season.
Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah are just two of the many young Americans expected to play major roles with the USMNT in the next World Cup cycle. Both play in Europe, which has been a great place for Americans to gain both experience and exposure. While it has not been uncommon for players to return to MLS, there are plenty of USMNT players in Germany, England, and beyond.
In an interview posted on Nike’s website last month, Weah said he aspires to be the best American soccer player in history. That starts at the club level for Weah.
“There are people that said I will not be as good as my father," Weah said, referring to his father George. "That I am trash and asked why I am playing for the US. You know, that is just pushing me to be the star that my country has been looking for. My dream is eventually becoming the greatest talent to come out of the United States and New York, being a starter and playing for my country.”
Europe’s major domestic competitions are upon us. France’s Ligue 1 starts this coming Friday, with the English Premier League kicking off the following day on August 11. Spain’s La Liga starts on August 17, while Serie A begins earlier than usual with matches the following day. Germany's Bundesliga opens on August 24. With a new season upon us, here are five Americans to keep an eye on this season:
Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
He's become the poster boy for the future of the USMNT and American soccer. While the 19-year-old Pulisic has been the subject of transfer rumors all summer, the Pennsylvania native may very well stay at Dortmund another season. ESPN.com reported last month that Pulisic received no formal bids and will likely remain where he is. The Bundesliga has allowed Pulisic to grow immensely over the past few years, so expect him to have a strong season.
Whether Borussia Dortmund as a team can break Bayern Munich's lock on the title seems to always bet the question. Pulisic is a bonafide star. At Dortmund, playing competitive league matches each week on top of the Champions League, has allowed him to grow. There is plenty of time for more individual growth this season for both club and country. Should Dortmund put together a title run or reach the knockout stages of the Champions League, it could very well be the most successful season to date for the budding striker.
Tim Weah (PSG)
Like Pulisic, Weah plays in a competitive league. France’s Ligue 1 may not be the preferred weekend viewing in the USA, but it does offer a player like Weah plenty of chances to grow his game. Better yet, Weah plays for Paris Saint-Germain, a club with plenty of talent and resources. In many ways, there isn’t another club in the country that can compete with it.
For the 18-year-old, the ability to train with superstars like Neymar is invaluable. Whether he gets any meaningful playing time up front for PSG remains a question mark. He spent preseason impressing incoming manager Thomas Tuchel. Getting into the starting lineup is the next thing Weah needs to do. If he continues to impress, Weah could very well follow in his father George’s footsteps and go on to a wonderful European club career.
Weston McKennie (Schalke 04)
Like Pulisic, McKennie plays in the Bundesliga. The 19-year-old central midfielder moved into the first team in 2017. This will be a season where McKennie needs to prove he belongs at a big club in a major league. The Texas native is committed to Schalke. This will be his second full season with the club, part of a five-year contract he signed in September 2017. Expectations are high on McKennie going into this season. Earlier this month, the Bundesliga’s official English-language website ran a feature on McKennie with the headline: “Schalke's tough and tireless American wonder kid.” The piece even likens him to German star Sami Khedira, who plays with Juventus. Those are big expectations to live up to.
Tim Ream (Fulham)
Ever since his New York Red Bulls days, Ream has been a special player. A natural leader and talented reader of the game, Ream went across the pond to try his luck in England. The hard work of the past few years led to a wonderful campaign last season that resulted in promotion to the Premier League. That has Ream in the only topflight that matters to many American viewers.
The 30-year-old Ream has been one of Fulham’s defensive linchpins. He will certainly get the chance to face some of the world’s best strikers this season. Should Ream be successful, he could be the first American defender since Jay DeMerit to parlay his club success into a starting job for the US. He is also at Fulham, a club with a long record of Americans succeeding there. He’s already a fan favorite. For Ream, this season is about growing that love.
Kevin Silva (Hearts)
No list of Americans playing abroad would be complete without a goalkeeper on it. American ‘keepers have been some of the most successful players in Europe over the past few decades. Silva may very well enter that pantheon should he be successful in Scotland.
Following a successful trial, Silva, who like Pulisic is from Pennsylvania, signed with the team earlier this summer. The 20-year-old goalkeeper, who holds both an American and Brazilian passport, played at the NCAA level with UCLA and later Rutgers University in New Jersey. He has played for the US Under-17 and 19 teams but has yet to earn a senior team call-up. It’s unlikely that Silva will start, but his time at Hearts should serve him well this early in his pro career.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of A History of the World Cup: 1930-2014. Find him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/ClementeLisi.
More from Clemente Lisi:
- Soccer History: Bethlehem Steel
- Liverpool and the summer soccer tour
- 5 World Cup players for MLS
- Q&A with Sean Johnson: "We live to play games"
Photo by Steven Limentani - ISIPhotos.com