USA 3-2 Mexico: a CONCACAF Nations League win made in the Bundesliga
Gregg Berhalter, Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna, John Brooks, Tyler Adams, Josh Sargent and Zack Steffen have more than US passports and a CONCACAF Nations League winner's medal in common. Every single one of them has been schooled - one way or another - the Bundesliga way.
USMNT head coach Berhalter called on seven players with Bundesliga experience for the Nations League final with Mexico on 6 June.
Pulisic, McKennie and Reyna scored the goals, while Brooks, Adams, Sargent and Steffen worked their collective socks off to help get the USA over the line as 3-2 winners after extra-time.
"I think for this group, it's really important," Berhalter said afterwards. "These games are difficult, but give the guys a ton of credit for the way they hung in there and really showed you know the heart of champions."
Berhalter has made no secret of his admiration for all things bright and Bundesliga since taking on the national team job in December 2018.
The 47-year-old has assembled a Bundesliga-made core comprising Wolfsburg defender Brooks, former Borussia Dortmund playmaker Pulisic, ex-Schalke battle-axe McKennie and RB Leipzig's play-doh pliable Adams.
Goalkeeper Steffen enjoyed a formative stint at Fortuna Düsseldorf in 2019/20, whilst teenaged attacker Reyna has earned his maiden Stars and Stripes on the back of a breakout pro campaign at BVB.
Even industrious forward Sargent has been simply too good to ignore, despite experiencing relegation from the Bundesliga with Werder Bremen at the end of 2020/21.
Three-time international defender Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), young striker Matthew Hoppe (Schalke) and up-and-coming teen Justin Che (Bayern) missed the cut, but are already on the former Energie Cottbus and 1860 Munich captain's radar.
"It's great [having so many Americans in the Bundesliga]," Berhalter told Fox Sports. "It's a very athletic league, it's a very high tempo league so the players are forced to make decisions very quickly. And these guys are getting their breakthroughs at 17, 18, 19. How many players can you say that about? It's been great to watch."
Watch: US Bundesliga stars - a Golden Generation
Pulisic was the first to ride the new wave of Americans in the Bundesliga.
Unlike Berlin-born Deutschamerikaner (German-American) Brooks, the Hershey native arrived in Germany at 16, having been granted an EU passport on account of his paternal grandfather's Croatian lineage. After 12 months of being put through his paces at Dortmund's highly rated Hohenbuschei academy, he struck first-team gold.
Between making his Bundesliga debut in January 2017 and leaving for Chelsea in summer 2019, Pulisic featured in 127 competitive fixtures, producing 19 goals and 26 assists. He broke all manner of records for club and country, whilst becoming the youngest American to lift a major European trophy - the 2016/17 DFB Cup.
"I would not be where I am today without the club and their belief in giving young players a chance," Pulisic wrote in an open letter to Dortmund once his move to Chelsea had been confirmed. "It’s been an honour to play here. I owe Dortmund and the Bundesliga everything."
Watch: Christian Pulisic - made in the Bundesliga
McKennie shares his US teammate's debt of gratitude to the German top flight. The Texan was 18 when he joined Schalke from FC Dallas in August 2016. When he switched to Italian giants Juventus in summer 2020, the all-action midfielder was some 91 competitive games better off.
"The reason the Bundesliga is one of the top leagues in the world and one of the leagues many of us are coming to is that they give opportunity," McKennie said. "For improving your craft there's no better place for young players to be than Germany. Over here you learn discipline, professionalism and work rate really quick."
Sargent caught the wave at a similarly precocious age, officially becoming a Bremen player upon turning 18 in February 2018. He's since scored 11 goals in 70 Bundesliga appearances, including a personal-best tally of five in 2020/21.
For his part, New York Red Bulls academy graduate Adams has been flying the flag at Leipzig since January 2019, experiencing the thrills and spills of the Bundesliga title race and a run to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.
Between them, the quartet have collected 87 USMNT caps.
Brooks - the 28-year-old colossus who has played his club football exclusively in Germany - and Manchester City's Steffen are on 42 and 22 respectively.
Reyna is the baby of the bunch. Not that there's anything remotely infantile about his abilities as a footballer.
Dortmund's twinkle-toed sensation cancelled out an early Jesus Corona goal in the Nations League final, before setting up McKennie for 2-1. He was making just his seventh USMNT appearance, having only debuted in November 2020 - a day after his 18th birthday.
"Gio's going to grow into a fantastic player. Our job is to help with that growth," said Berhalter.
"Dortmund did a great job of integrating him into the group in a calculated way to help him perform at high levels. How do we challenge him? How do we put him in a difficult environment to help him grow as a player? He's one of those players who will keep rising to the challenge."
Watch: Gio Reyna's learning curve
Just look at the statistics behind Reyna's first full season on the pro circuit.
The England-born teen produced seven goals and as many assists across 46 appearances in all competitions as BVB emulated Pulisic and the class of 2016/17 by winning the 2020/21 DFB Cup. The Black-Yellows also secured another season in the Champions League, where Reyna already ranks as the tournament's youngest American debutant and assister, having usurped Pulisic in both categories in the 2019/20 round of 16.
Internationally, meanwhile, the son of Claudio Reyna - a former US international and midfielder for the likes of Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg - is averaging a goal or assist almost every other game.
"There are a lot of well-known American players nowadays" said Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke after jumping at the chance to sign Reyna from the New York City FC academy in 2019.
"Christian is the captain of the national team, but we have a very interesting young player in Giovanni Reyna. He's a big, big talent. I think he will do a lot for American soccer in the next five or 10 years."
Watch: Gio Reyna - like father, and mother, like son
Reyna is arguably ahead of the curve, which can only bode well for the USA's upcoming pursuit of a seventh Gold Cup and their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. When the US come to co-host the 2026 edition, he won't even be 25.
Pulisic, McKennie, Adams, Sargent and Steffen are long-term cornerstones. As for 'the Wall of Brooks', 32-year-old Mats Hummels's Germany recall for the UEFA 2020 Euros suggests he has plenty of top-level life left in him yet. The Wolfsburg sentry was fourth best league-wide for aerial challenges won in 2020/21, after all.
The future of Berhalter's USMNT is bright. The team's recent past, present and future are Bundesliga.
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