Bayern Munich’s Chris Richards and Borussia Dortmund’s Gio Reyna are among the most well-known members of an ever-increasing pool of up-and-coming American youngsters looking to make their breakthrough in the professional game in Germany, but who are the others?
USA internationals Weston McKennie, Josh Sargent and Tyler Adams all followed in Christian Pulisic’s footsteps and are now established members of their respective first teams despite still being eligible for the U21s. We shine the spotlight on the next generation looking to take the Bundesliga by storm.
Club: Bayern Munich
Country: USA U20 (10 caps, 1 goal)
The first beneficiary of a partnership between Bayern and Texan club Dallas FC, Richards initially joined the Bavarians’ U19s on loan in July 2018. It did not take long for the defender to impress the Bayern youth coaches, and the club made his move a permanent one at the start of 2019, handing him a four-year deal.
Richards, who has toured with the first team on pre-season trips to the States and regularly trains with the senior pros, was promoted from the U19s to Bayern’s reserve team in summer this year. He has been a mainstay of the side in the third division, albeit at right-back, playing 10 matches from start to finish.
Watch: Richards inked a fresh Bayern contract in January 2019
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Position: Attacking midfield
Country: USA U17 (8 caps, 1 goal)
Although having just turned 17 in November 2019, Reyna is 6'0" and already looks very much at home in the men’s game. The son of former Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and USA midfielder Claudio Reyna, he arrived at Dortmund in summer 2019 thanks to a Portuguese passport secured through Claudio's mother Maria.
Gio toured the USA with the Dortmund first team shortly after his arrival and was even included in the official UEFA Champions League group stage squad, even though he has initially been earmarked for the U19s. He captained the USA at the FIFA U17 World Cup in Brazil – as the youngest member of the roster – and chalked up two goals and six assists in his first eight games for BVB in the U19 Bundesliga West.
“Pretty much every big club in Europe was after him,” said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc. “But he was interested in us very early on. He’s a hugely talented player. We only sign foreign youth players when we’re 100 per cent convinced that they have the potential to play for our first team one day.”
Watch: Reyna's assist for Paco Alcacer in a summer friendly against Liverpool
Country: USA U20 (10 caps, 6 goals)
Born and raised in Carlsbad, California, Soto joined Hannover in summer 2018 from the Real Salt Lake academy. The forward hit 17 goals in 24 outings for Hannover’s U19s and was duly called up to the first team, making the first of three Bundesliga appearances on Matchday 28 in 2018/19.
The forward's career trajectory continued to chart upwards in summer 2019 when he was his country's top scorer at the FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland, scoring four goals in five outings as the Stars and Stripes reached the quarter-finals. Soto remained with Hannover after their relegation and has made one brief outing in Bundesliga 2 this term, and another two in the reserves.
Country: USA U20 (13 caps)
Another Californian in Germany, Scott joined the Billy Goats back in 2017. Officially listed as part of the Cologne first team now, the goalkeeper has fierce competition for places in the likes of Timo Horn, Thomas Kessler and Julian Krahl, so is yet to make a Bundesliga appearance.
He is, however, an integral figure in the second team, which plays in the Regionalliga West in Germany’s fourth tier. As of Matchday 15 in 2019/20, he was made two shutouts in nine matches to help Cologne sit fifth in the table. Scott also helped the USA U20 side win the CONCACAF U20 Championship in 2018, where he earned the Golden Glove as the tournament's best goalkeeper, conceding just twice in seven games at the competition.
Position: Winger, attacking midfielder
Country: USA U20s (11 caps, 7 goals)/Mexico
California native (yes, another one!) Llanez is considered one of his country’s most exciting attacking talents. He signed on with the Wolves from the LA Galaxy academy upon turning 18 in April 2019 and is already making waves in Wolfsburg.
After finding the net in a couple of friendlies after arrving, Llanez formed part of the USA’s roster at the FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland, where he helped the Stars and Stripes reach the quarter-finals. He went on to strike a brace on his competitive debut for Wolfsburg in the U19 Bundesliga, and scored doubles in his next two league outings as well.
The very definition of ‘one to watch’, he is blessed with close control, pace and, crucially, excellent decision making for such a young player. He registered 10 goals and two assists in his first eight games of the 2019/20 season to fire Wolfsburg top of the table.
Club: Union Berlin
Country: USA U20 (2 caps)/Germany U19 (1 cap)
Born to an American Air Force veteran father and German mother in Berlin, Maloney joined the Union academy at the age of 13 in 2012. He swiftly progressed up through the age categories and became a pillar of the U19 side in 2017/18, making 23 appearances. The teenager evidently made an impression then first-team head coach Andre Hofschneider, who handed him his senior debut in Bundesliga 2 on Matchday 28 that season – at the tender age of 18.
Maloney barely featured for his club at any level in 2018/19 as he divided his time between training and studying for his Abitur, the equivalent of A-Levels or a High School leaving certificate, but now that he's passed his exams, he's eager to focus on his playing career. He has yet to be included in a matchday squad for Union this season, though. Although he has previously donned Germany's colours at youth level, Maloney has also featured for the US U20s.
Position: Central midfield
Country: USA U19 (3 caps, 1 goal)
Booth, a native of Eden, Utah, arrived at Bayern at the age of 17 in January 2019 on a two-and-a-half year contract after levering Italian heritage on his father's side to be able to join a European team while still a minor.
"We see a lot of potential in Taylor," said Bayern Campus Manager Jochen Sauer at the time. "He's a talented young player, and we look forward to working with him to develop his talent further."
The attacking midfielder wasted little time in doing just that, scoring on just his third outing for the U19s and he remains a regular in the squad in the U19 Bundesliga.
Position: Attacking midfield
Country: USA U15 (2 caps) / Germany U17 (11 caps)
Football is in the blood in the Tillman household, with Malik's older brother Timothy also on Bayern's books in the reserve side, having made six Bundesliga appearances on loan at Nuremberg in 2018/19. The duo were born and raised in Nuremberg, but are eligible to represent the USA at international level through their American father.
Despite being the younger of the two siblings, Malik has been touted has the more gifted of the pair and his form in 2019/20 has only added weight to his growing reputation. The 17-year-old has 12 goals and two assists in 15 competitive games this term and is understandably one of the first names on the teamsheet. The US have a battle on their hands if they are to convince Tillmann his international future belong in red, white and blue, as he has recently represented Germany at youth level.
Country: USA (uncapped)
Edwards was born and raised in Virginia and after progressing through the DC United academy, he joined Wolfsburg at the start of 2019, shortly after his 18th birthday. Initially earmarked for the club's U19 side, the defender made 14 appearances in the second half of 2018/19 and his pace, positioning and strength in the tackle convinced new first team head coach Oliver Glasner to take a closer look at him during pre-season, inviting Edwards to train with the senior pros for the duration of their preparations.
While he was not deemed ready to challenge compatriot and fellow centre-back John Brooks for a spot in the team just yet, Edwards was promoted from the U19s to the reserves over the summer. Since then he has played 10 matches from start to finish in the Regionalliga Nord, where Wolfsburg are four points clear at the top at the halfway stage of the season.
Country: USA (uncapped) / Germany U19 (2 caps)
Born 17 August 2000, Malone is a natural goalscorer. Standing at 6'1" and able to play up front or in wide attacking position on the left, he has an innate knack of finding the net: he scored 24 goals in 31 games for the Augsburg U17s, 24 in 47 for the U19s (plus 10 assists), and hit eight in his first 14 games for the Augsburg reserves in 2019/20.
So impressive has he been for the Függerstädter that he was called into Augsburg's Bundesliga matchday squad towards the end of 2018/19, but was an unused substitute against RB Leipzig on Matchday 25. Malone is eligible to play for the US as he holds dual American-German citizenship, but so far he has only represented the latter at international youth level .