With the emergence of Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, the Bundesliga is becoming a breeding ground for talented American soccer players keen on catapulting their careers, with many leaving the land of the free for the land of footballing prosper.
While in the past many USA stars plying their trade in the Bundesliga already had German links, often through parentage such as John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones and Julian Green, nowadays the hop across the Atlantic is being taken by USMNT wannabes who have successfully showcased their talents in the Bundesliga and earned their stars and stripes through their performances.
bundesliga.com takes a look at why the Bundesliga is becoming the destination of choice for up-and-coming soccer stars.
Watch: The Bundesliga celebrates its American stars
McKennie netted his first goal as a Schalke player in their UEFA Champions League victory over Lokomotiv Moscow, repaying the faith being placed in him by the Royal Blues' coach Domenico Tedesco. His was the latest Made in America goal in what is steadily becoming a star-spangled Bundesliga; a place hot US prospects are finding increasingly accommodating for the furthering and fulfilment of their aspirations.
"I rarely single a player out, and I don’t like to either, but Weston was outstanding today," said Schalke's sporting director Christian Heidel after McKennie gave his club's Champions League campaign lift-off. "I'm extremely pleased for him that he scored the winner and gave the team their reward as well."
Watch: Introducing Weston McKennie
Heidel was only leading the praise for a player embodying the art of seeking and taking the sort of opportunity the Bundesliga provides. "Weston works hard to improve every single day," said Schalke vice-captain Naldo. "You can see in his performances that he's made a lot of progress, and now he's rewarded himself with a goal. He's an important part of this team."
McKennie arrived in Germany in August 2016, turning his back on a Major League Soccer Homegrown Player contract offered to him by FC Dallas to tread a similar path to Pulisic, a close friend and former teammate in US youth teams, and a significant source of inspiration. "I made the right decision and I don't regret it at all," he said. "It wasn't easy for me to let go of FC Dallas. But you've got to think 'will I look back in 10 years and wish I could’ve gone over to Europe?'"
Pulisic certainly put in a good word having become something of a trend-setter by uprooting his own family to Germany in July 2014, aged just 15. His first-team debut for Borussia Dortmund followed a mere 18 months later, but not after having proven himself in the club's youth academy, putting in the hours with the expert, professional training on offer in the youth system of a leading Bundesliga club.
The rest, as they say, is history with Pulisic blazing a trail on his way to 100 appearances for the Black and Yellows, reaching that milestone on his 20th birthday. By then, he had already become the USMNT's youngest goalscorer, and the youngest American to play in a European club competition and subsequently the youngest to score in the Champions League. He capped a sensational 2017 by becoming the youngest player ever to be named the USA Soccer's Male Player of the Year.
With such stats, it is easy to see why more and more U.S. soccer prodigies are considering Germany as a key career step. Josh Sargent had a similar moment of inspiration when he moved to Werder Bremen in January, penning his first professional contract on his 18th birthday a month later and starting to train on a regular basis with the first team in the summer. His reward for that choice? You guessed it, a place in the latest USMNT squad.
In May 2018, Chris Richards boarded a flight from Dallas to Munich for a trial which led to a one-year loan deal, and a first-team debut against Paris Saint-Germain in a pre-season friendly. Aged just 18, he could already boast to the folks back home about having played against European giants Juventus and Manchester City, with that ticket looking increasingly like it will be just one-way.
The buck does not end there, though. The youth academies of Bundesliga clubs are simply swelling with US-born players bidding for similar fame and fortune. Sacramento, California, native Shaft Brewer is on the books at RB Leipzig, Nick Taitague and Haji Wright are getting to know Gelsenkirchen, Cologne have duo Scott Brady and Nebiyou Perry, while Isaiah Young is coming through the ranks in Bremen.
And who better than Young to illustrate the shift in the Bundesliga ground with regards to U.S. soccer stars. He was born in Berlin, but it's not what you are thinking. He is not the child brought up in a U.S. military base, fed on the footballing fads of all his friends. No, he was actually born in Berlin, New Jersey and, like Pulisic, McKennie and Co., he has chosen Germany not through family ties, but through a desire to benefit from the Bundesliga school offering top grades to more and more scholars from stateside.