It's Thanksgiving in the USA, and to celebrate this year's holiday, we've come up with 10 reasons why the Bundesliga should be thankful for the gifts generously bestowed by Uncle Sam over the years…
1) Mate the trailblazer
It's fitting that two of the biggest American pioneers in Germany, Andy Mate and Christian Mate Pulisic, should share a name. While the former Borussia Dortmund man owes his middle name to his Croatian grandfather – which allowed him to join the club at 16 – Andy Mate was of Hungarian origin. Born in Budapest in 1940, he moved with his family to New York in 1956, curiously also at the age of 16.
After a successful stint with New York Hungaria, Mate joined Hamburg for the start of the second Bundesliga campaign in 1964/65, although with the prolific Uwe Seeler for company, he didn't get too much of a look-in. After notching just two goals in six games, he returned to the States after one season, as the first American to have played in the Bundesliga.
2) Sühnholz's Bayern stint
Wolfgang Sühnholz was the second, having moved to Bayern Munich in 1971 following spells with Hertha Zehlendorf and Rot-Weiß Oberhausen. The striker would spend two years with the club and enjoyed a fine debut campaign in 1971/72 as Bayern were crowned Bundesliga champions.
Sühnholz, who held dual nationality thanks to his American ancestry, scored six goals in all competitions that year in a side that included Bayern legends Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer, Paul Breitner, Uli Hoeneß and Rudi Voller.
3) Dooley's stunning title win
Since they days of Mate and Sühnholz, over 60 American players have had a run-out in the Bundesliga, but only one of them has ever lifted the Meisterschale: step forward Tom Dooley. Born to a German mother and an American father, the future USA captain got a first taste of the German top flight with Homburg, but it was at Kaiserslautern that he would really make a name for himself.
Dooley made a total of 131 appearances for Die Lauterer, helping the club win the DFB Cup in 1990 and their first-ever Bundesliga title in 1991. He also lifted the UEFA Cup with Schalke in 1997. Despite being a defender, he still has the best scoring record of any American in the Bundesliga, with 20 goals for Homburg, Kaiserslautern, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke.
4) Cherundolo's longevity
Some players become synonymous with their club, and that is certainly the case for Steve Cherundolo – or "The Mayor of Hannover", for fans of a 96ers persuasion. The former USA right-back spent his entire senior playing career in Lower Saxony, making a club-record 302 Bundesliga appearances between 1999 and 2014.
"He's practically an emblem of Hannover," former club president Martin Kind once said. Cherundolo had some big moments with the 96ers, including promotion from Bundesliga 2 in 2001/02 and a run to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals in 2011/12. He remains the American with the most Bundesliga appearances, and clearly enjoyed life at Hannover so much that he remained there as a coach for another four years.
Now a member of the Bundesliga Legends Network, we like to think Steve has snuck some Sauerkraut and Pils onto the dinner table today. Prost, Mr Hannover!
5) Pulisic's breakthrough
Still only 23, Christian Pulisic is well on his way to becoming the biggest star of his generation, and – dare we say it – potentially the best American player of all time. His arrival at Dortmund in early 2015 was a landmark moment for both the Bundesliga and US soccer, paving the way for a host of young talents to hop over the pond and cut their teeth in Germany, arguably the best place in the world for budding hopefuls to flourish.
Over the course of four-and-a-half memorable years, Pulisic broke record after record with BVB, winning a host of accolades for his remarkable performances. By the time he left for Chelsea, he had racked up 19 goals and 26 assists in 127 games for Die Schwarzgelben.
Watch: Christian Pulisic, Made in the Bundesliga
"I wouldn't be where I am today without the club and their belief in giving young players a chance," Pulisic wrote to fans upon his departure, adding that it was an "honour and a dream" to play in front of the famous Yellow Wall. It was an honour having you here, Christian!
6) THAT Sargent goal
Josh Sargent certainly made his mark in 70 top-flight appearances with Werder Bremen, showcasing his tremendous potential as he established himself as a crucial member of the starting line-up. His strike against Augsburg on Matchday 3 of the 2019/20 campaign was a thing of beauty: the US international expertly cushioned a high ball over the top from Nuri Sahin, took it over the head of Tomas Koubek, and stroked in one of the goals of the season. Dennis Bergkamp would have been proud.
Sargent, who moved to Norwich City in summer 2021, is one of the generation of players who have benefitted from Pulisic's example, along with Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams. If the USMNT has the Bundesliga to thank for helping to train up some of its future on-field leaders, the Bundesliga is also delighted to be providing a playground for these star-spangled starlets.
Watch: Sargent's Goal of the Season contender
7) Hip-hip Hoppe-ay!
Matthew Hoppe went from unknown American youth player to a goal-scoring US international in the space of six months at Schalke. On Matchday 15 of 2020/21, he single-handedly dismantled Hoffenheim with a superbly taken hat-trick - becoming the first and only American to do so in the Bundesliga.
Almost overnight, the unknown American had become Schalke's last hope for survival, but even Hoppe could not save the Ruhr outfit from relegation. He signed off with a team-leading six goals for the season, before joining Real Mallorca, via a triumphant CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign with the USMNT.
"I came here two years ago as an 18-year-old from America, and I have been able to grow into the person I am today through what I learned during my time here," Hoppe wrote in a statement on social media. "To the best fans in the world and great people of Gelsenkirchen, I say thank you for your constant support and for putting your faith in a young man from California. You will forever be in my heart."
Watch: Hoppe's historic hat-trick for Schalke
8) The minds of Marsch & Matarazzo
When Jesse Marsch's RB Leipzig played host to Pellegrino Matarazzo's VfB Stuttgart on Matchday 2 of the 2021/22 season, it marked the first time that two American head coaches had gone head-to-head in the Bundesliga.
"I hope that back home in the US it will also be a special day where two quality coaches have the chance to play against each other on a first league level," Marsch told bundesliga.com prior to the contest, which ended 4-0 in his side's favour.
Matarazzo added: "It's a special moment for American soccer."
Speaking of special moments... Aged just 17 years and 66 days, Gio Reyna became became the youngest American to play in the Bundesliga, beating the record previously held by former Dortmund man Pulisic, upon his BVB debut in January 2020. He then made history as the greenest American to play and record an assist - his first for Dortmund's senior team - in a UEFA Champions League match, again at the expense of Pulisic.
There were further firsts for club and country, including maiden goals and trophies for both, before Reyna dislodged former Leverkusen midfielder Kai Havertz from his place as the youngest player to reach 50 Bundesliga appearances, on 27 August 2021. The UK-born US international brought up the half-century landmark at the age of 18 years and 287 days, and marked the occasion with his sixth Bundesliga goal.
Watch: The best of Gio Reyna
10) Scally's breakout
Picking up the trail, Joe Scally enjoyed a quiet existence at the start of 2021/22, relatively unheard of as he attempted to break into the Borussia Mönchengladbach first team. Fast forward a few months, and the 18-year-old American had started every competitive game for the Foals and earned a maiden USMNT call-up.
A rampaging full-back in the Philipp Lahm mould, Scally ranks as one of the most trigger-happy defenders in the Bundesliga. One of those saw efforts saw him become the 33rd different American to claim a Bundesliga goal, when he won a header on the halfway line before running clear and slotting home against Wolfsburg on Matchday 7. The former New York City FC talent chipped in with his first Bundesliga assist just a couple of weeks later. No doubt the first of many.
Watch: Scally, the USMNT's latest Bundesliga recruit
On this day of celebration, we'd like to give thanks to the German top flight's star-spangled imports!
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