World Cup: Jurgen Klinsmann credits growth of soccer in US, MLS in Julian Green's USMNT choice
US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said the trend of dual-citizenship soccer players in foreign leagues choosing the Red, White and Blue – which may have yielded its highest-profile recruit Tuesday with the announcement that Bayern Munich product Julian Green has picked the USMNT – is thanks to, among other things, the growth of MLS.
And he said it’s a trend that other soccer-powerful nations – such as his native Germany – have previously experienced and exploited to the tune of World Cup success.
“Now it’s happening more and more with the United States, and it gives us a new dimension because those players now choose the American side because also now they see what happens with soccer in our country,” Klinsmann said in a U.S. Soccer video following the news that Green has chosen the US.
“They see MLS getting bigger and bigger. They see the national team is doing a better and better job, hopefully, and being more successful going down the road. And they see many other opportunities coming up, and they see their part of the American life in their future. It’s huge, it’s huge, and we are thrilled.”
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In the mold of German internationals Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, who were both born in Poland, Green was born in Tampa, Fla., to an American father and German mother and moved with his family to Germany at the age of 2.
The 18-year-old will join the at least five other USMNT players who have dual citizenship, but it’s clear that Green’s choice is an especially momentous occasion for Klinsmann and the Yanks, and the USMNT boss said as much.
“It means a lot to us because this is one of the biggest talents coming through European football right now,” Klinsmann said. “We were in touch with him over a long stretch of time. We invited him to the game against the Ukraine to train with us and get to know the staff and his teammates, hopefully his future teammates, and I think he saw that the work we are doing with the national team is outstanding work.”
Green’s inclusion in camp ahead of the US' friendly earlier this month against Ukraine started the buzz around his decision-making process, especially considering he had previously represented Germany at the U-16, U-17 and U-19 levels. It was also announced earlier Tuesday that Green would join the US once again ahead of their friendly next month against Mexico.
“He felt part of it from the first second on,” Klinsman said of the Ukraine camp, which was held in Germany. “He felt comfortable. He really has the feeling that there is something really special waiting for him.
"We’re not only looking at Julian for this summer’s World Cup, we’re looking obviously into the future with the Gold Cups, with the Olympics coming up in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro and with the next World Cup on the line. So having his commitment to the US is a huge step.”
The 1990 World Cup winner also credited Bayern Munich and head coach Pep Guardiola, who he said “actually supported the move.” Klinsmann, who played for Bayern from 1995-97 and coached them in the 2008-09 season, said the process allowed him to get involved once again with his old club.
“We are thrilled we have a player of his magnitude,” Klinsmann said. “We have a player form one of the top teams in the world on the men’s national team, and it’s very important that both sides are on the same page.”