Justin Butler, Chris Richards, and the nascent US stars earning their stripes at Bayern Munich
Fifty-two Americans have played in the Bundesliga since the league’s inception in 1963, but only three of them have turned out for record champions Bayern Munich: Wolfgang Sühnholz, Landon Donovan and Julian Green.
That looks set to change in the coming seasons if performances in the youth academy are anything to go by.
You haven’t yet heard of Justin Butler, Chris Richards, Taylor Booth or Malik Tillman? Then allow bundesliga.com to help…
Position: Attacking midfielder
Born in Germany but eligible to play for the Stars and Stripes thanks to his family ancestry, Butler took part in a USA U18 training camp at the start of 2018. He cut his teeth in the game at Augsburg's youth academy before moving down the road to Bayern in July 2016.
Standing at 6'1" and weighing 182 pounds, he already has the muscular physique required to play at the highest level and has been a regular in the Bavarians' U19 team this season, making 12 outings to help the side into third place in the Bundesliga South table. A further indication of the regard he is held in at Bayern came last October, when Butler was called up to the reserves for their 2-1 win over Wacker Burghausen.
Richards initially arrived at Bayern in 2018 on a one-year loan deal having impressed during a 10-day trial from partner club FC Dallas. The Birmingham, Alabama native was part of the first team's tour to the USA last summer - impressing against Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Manchester City - and his composure, positioning and reading of the game persuaded Bayern to sign him to a four-and-a-half year contract in January 2019.
"Chris has given a good account of himself here over the last half year, and we're confident he'll continue to develop very well at FC Bayern," said the club's campus director Jochen Sauer at the time. "We see a lot of potential in him." Richards has wasted little time justifying such praise and has started 17 of the U19s' 22 games this term, chipping in with a goal and two assists.
Position: Central midfield
Booth is the most recent American addition to the Bayern roster, having completed his move to Munich from MLS side Real Salt Lake in January, agreeing a deal through to June 2021. Although not yet legally an adult, the fact the Utah-born attacking midfielder also holds an Italian passport means he was eligible to join Bayern before his 18th birthday.
Already a long-standing member of the US national team youth set-up, Booth has made two appearances for his country's U19s, scoring in a 2-2 friendly draw with Venezuela last September. Described by Sauer as a player with "excellent abilities", Booth is in the U19s at Bayern too – an impressive achievement considering his age – and has made two substitute appearances for the team so far as he settles into his new surroundings.
Position: Attacking midfield
If the name Tillman sounds familiar it's probably because Malik's older brother, Timothy, made his Bundesliga debut on Matchday 26 for Nuremberg, where he is on loan from Bayern. Four years his junior, Malik was born and raised in Nuremberg but has been on Bayern's books since 2015, arriving, alongside his elder sibling, from Greuther Fürth.
He has been in dazzling form this season, registering 10 goals and six assists in 14 outings for the U17s, prompting Bayern to promote him to the U19s to further his development. Tillman has certainly risen to the challenge, making seven outings to date – including starting the team's three most recent games. Although he appeared for Germany's U17s against Slovenia last month, he is eligible for the US thanks to his American father and was even on the US U15 roster a couple of years ago.
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