Bryan Reynolds from FC Dallas to AS Roma in Italy. Kevin Paredes from D.C. United to Wolfsburg in Germany. Sam Vines from Colorado Rapids to Royal Antwerp in Belgium.
That’s a sampling of young MLS-developed fullbacks who have, in recent years, earned transfers overseas to some of Europe’s top leagues.
Julian Araujo, now in his fourth season with the LA Galaxy, hopes to soon join them. While he’s not technically homegrown like the aforementioned trio, the 21-year-old Mexican international is a clear product of the league’s development pipeline.
“My head and my vision is to go to Europe,” Araujo told Extratime’s Andrew Wiebe at MLS All-Star Week presented by Target. “I've set my head on Europe. I know that to reach my highest potential is to go to Europe.
“I want to play at the top teams, the top leagues, and I'm someone that wants to learn every day and I want to continue to grow and take advice from the best players possible, from the best teams, from the best coaching staff. In order for me to reach my highest potential, I definitely think I need to go to Europe.”
Araujo has been linked to Serie A and Liga MX clubs over the years, a byproduct of him carrying nearly 100 first-team appearances for LA across all competitions. In MLS play alone, Araujo has one goal and 15 assists from his right-back spot.
His role and impact grew significantly under former Galaxy manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto from 2019-20, and now he’s earned back-to-back MLS All-Star nods under Greg Vanney since the ex-Toronto FC coach joined last year.
“It's been crazy but everything has happened in a good way,” Araujo said. “Everything has gone the way it's supposed to be and I'm thankful for it. I'm very happy to be at the Galaxy. I'm glad that my career started here because it's shown me a lot of good things that are going to help me grow as an individual.”
A southern California native of Mexican descent who represented US youth national teams, he played in a December 2020 friendly against El Salvador at the US senior level. There was interest around Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying rosters under Gregg Berhalter, but he didn’t commit to the Yanks.
Then in October 2021, Araujo announced he’d opted for Mexico’s program – a dual-national going south of the border. He’s since earned three caps for El Tri, playing in a World Cup qualifier and Concacaf Nations League game within the past year.
“I feel very happy, very at peace with myself, with the decision that I made,” Araujo said. “It was a decision that was going to play a huge role in my career. I think it's the most important decision that I've had to make until now. But I'm very happy. My heart is with Mexico and I know I made the right decision.”
Perhaps a Qatar 2022 World Cup spot now awaits Araujo as Tata Martino finetunes his 26-man roster? He’s keeping his head down, hoping a Middle East trip awaits this November.
“I can't predict what's going to happen. I don't want to make any decisions; that's out of my control,” Araujo said. “I want to focus on what I can, staying true to myself, practicing every day, improving every day, taking in whatever I can, staying consistent with my game, minimizing the mistakes that I've made. Most importantly, I want to stay injury-free. I want to stay healthy and provide whatever I can.”
For more from Extratime, check out their latest episode here.