Christian Pulisic is one of over 50 U.S. soccer talents to have picked up the trail of the late Andy Mate in the Bundesliga. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA
Christian Pulisic is one of over 50 U.S. soccer talents to have picked up the trail of the late Andy Mate in the Bundesliga. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA
Bundesliga

From Andy Mate to Christian Pulisic: American players in the Bundesliga

It's a fitting coincidence that Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Mate Pulisic - the most exciting American soccer player to make landfall in Germany - shares a name with the first Stateside export to dip his toes in the Bundesliga.

Not only that, but their ancestral roots and pathways to the German top tier are not all that different, either.

The trailblazer in question is the late Andy Mate. Born in Hungary, Mate represented Budapest outfit Upjest Dozsa, before moving to the USA following the Hungarian revolution in 1956. He joined New York Hungaria in the German-American Soccer League, winning the league title and the U.S. National Challenge Cup in 1962

Mate scored all three goals as Hungaria beat Mexican champions CD Oro to claim the CONCACAF Champions Cup a year later, but it was his strike in an All-Star game against Bundesliga founding members Hamburg that took him back across the pond to Europe for the start of the 1964/65 Bundesliga campaign.

Watch: Top 10 Bundesliga goals by Americans

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"It was natural for me to score," Mate once said of his playing days. "My success on the field was due to my quickness and ability to battle for every ball and shoot from different angles.  Our coach [Geza] Henni always told the team 'give the ball to Andy, he'll score, and we'll win'."

With prolific HSV hero Uwe Seeler for company, Mate was restricted to just six Bundesliga appearances, scoring two goals - against Borussia Neunkirchen and Meidericher SV. He returned to the States after just one year, going on to represent the Philadelphia Spartans, the New York Generals and joining the New York Cosmos in time for the inaugural North American Soccer League (NASL) season in 1971. His one and only international appearance came in the USA's chastening 10-0 defeat to England in May 1964.

- © imago

Although born in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Pulisic carried a Croatian passport at the time of his move to the Dortmund youth academy in 2015, an entitlement born of his paternal grandfather's lineage. His European background facilitated the red tape that can stall or hinder a non-EU youth player's transfer overseas and, in turn, has enabled the star-spangled sensation - much like Mate before him - to live his transatlantic dream in the Bundesliga.

Chris Mayer-Lodge

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