Football in the United States has risen rapidly over the last decade. There are currently 24 clubs that compete in Major League Soccer (MLS) from both the U.S.A. and Canada, with more clubs planning to join, including David Beckham’s ‘Inter Miami’. 73,019 turned out to watch December’s MLS Cup final at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, compared to the 70,081 that watched last month’s Super Bowl at the same venue. That stat speaks for itself in terms of the sport’s recent rise in popularity.
The U.S. Men’s National Team’s (USMNT) failure to reach the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals was a huge disappointment for America, but a new era is set to dawn. The USMNT recently recruited Gregg Berhalter to take charge of the team. 20-year-old new Chelsea signing Christian Pulisic has been made captain and the under-17s side have acquired former Basel manager Raphael Wicky to lead an ambitious youth setup.
More and more American wonder kids are arriving on the scene. Some making a name for themselves in Europe, others still on learning their trade on U.S. soil. LWOS’ Seb Cooper has identified five upcoming youngsters that you should keep an eye out for in the future.
Five American Young Players to Watch
20-year-old Weston McKennie has been very impressive for Schalke’s first-team this season. The central midfielder has registered 18 Bundesliga and six Champions League appearances this season for the side based in Gelsenkirchen.
It was a rough first season when the Texan first arrived in Germany. He played 25 times in total, failing to impress. However, this season has been a completely different tale. McKennie has registered the most assists for his club this season (six), as well as scoring twice. Whilst Schalke have struggled this season, the strong midfielder has shined and looks to become a big part of the future of U.S. football.
An academy graduate of the New York Red Bulls, Tyler Adams has swapped one football club owned by the energy drinks franchise, to another. Adams, who plays as a defensive midfielder, became a regular part of the NYRB first-team, impressing enough for fellow Red Bull-owned RB Leipzig to snap him up in January.
In all seven of Adam’s appearances for Leipzig, the East German outfit have remained unbeaten. Adams already seems to have settled in well and looks to have a bright future in European football. As for his international career, Adams became the first 1999-born player to play for the U.S. senior team. He has since gone on to make a further eight appearances for the ‘Stars and Stripes’.
Born to a Serbian father and a Macedonian mother, Djordje Mihailovic’s footballing career currently lies in Illinois, turning out for Chicago Fire. Aged 20, Djordje Mihailovic scored on his USMNT debut in a 3-0 win over Panama in January. His goal was the first of the Gregg Berhalter era.
Mihailovic, an attacking midfielder, has established himself as an MLS regular, a tough task to complete at such a young age. He continues to mature into a top player, highly rated by Fire fans. If this keeps up, Berhalter could have a real player on his hands.
We return to Germany, this time to champions Bayern Munich. Whilst Bayern have dominated German football for years and challenged on the continental stage too, they have an ageing squad. Bayern have a brilliant academy setup of young Europeans but have begun to turn their attention to youngsters from across the Atlantic.
The best-known example of this was when the Bavaria side signed Canadian winger Alphonso Davies from Vancouver Whitecaps, for an MLS record sale fee. One lesser known, at the moment, is 18-year-old Chris Richards.
Richards spent the first half of this season on loan with Bayern Munich from FC Dallas. The centre-back impressed with the under-19s. In January, Richards agreed to join Bayern on a permanent basis, penning a four-and-a-half year deal.
The Alabaman is yet to make a first-team appearance for Bayern but continues to work hard at youth level. Richards revealed that he looks up to fellow Bayern defender Jérôme Boateng, so being able to learn from him could be key in the way he turns out as a professional.
2002-born Gianluca Busio made his MLS debut for Sporting Kansas City at the age 15. An attacking midfielder, Busio is quick and has brilliant vision, providing the winning assist in his first MLS start.
With the now 16-year-old showing such class on the pitch at such a young age, he clearly has the talent to go far in the game. He only has a handful of appearances to his name, so there is still much more to see from the prospect. Definitely one to watch!
So the future of football in the States is without a doubt looking bright. It will be exciting to see how much of a success this upcoming golden era turns out to be. The USMNT has the potential to become a strong force on the international stage, and these young players will have the pressure of delivering.
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