National Writer: Charles Boehm

US player transfers abroad have reached “critical mass,” says Gregg Berhalter

Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson, Mark McKenzie and Bryan Reynolds have already made their moves, and on Thursday morning Tanner Tessmann officially followed suit as newly-promoted Serie A club Venezia announced his transfer – reportedly worth $4 million-plus – from FC Dallas. Myriad media reports suggest that the likes of Gianluca Busio, Daryl Dike and Sam Vines may soon be added to the list as well.

MLS-reared players are attracting more attention from European clubs than ever, and the US men’s national team stands to gain from this steadily-growing trans-Atlantic traffic.

“It seems like, from my experience in Europe, my experience in MLS,” said USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter in a Wednesday night media availability, “we've gotten to a point where there is critical mass. And what I mean by that is, we’ve had enough American players that have been successful overseas in Europe that now clubs are looking at the United States as a market.

“Now they’re focusing on us for our young players, to bring them in and develop them, or continue their development, and then potentially resell them. And I think it’s a good point that we’re at.”

US and Canadian players have been crossing the pond to try their hand in the Old World since the late 1980s, or even further back, depending on your criteria. Berhalter himself joined that legacy when he left the University of North Carolina early to sign with Dutch club Zwolle in 1994, the first step in a 15-year European adventure that also took him to England and Germany.

The process has shifted into overdrive over the past few years, though. Berhalter – who has also experienced the system as a parent, with his son Sebastian, currently on loan at Austin FC, having risen through the Columbus Crew academy – credits the commitment made by MLS, the U.S. federation and other stakeholders for investing millions in the youth space since the launch of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in 2007 — and subsequently MLS NEXT in 2020 — and the introduction of the MLS Homegrown Player rule in 2008.

“Credit Major League Soccer, and U.S. Soccer, for the Development Academy that started years ago, and now we’re seeing the fruits of that,” he said.

Berhalter noted how other countries and leagues have carved out similar gains, and reap a virtuous circle as a reputation for efficient production of talented prospects becomes established.

“It's common you see that,” said the former Crew and Hammarby boss. “In Major League Soccer, for example, a few Venezuelans came over and have been successful, and then you see an influx of Venezuelans. That's completely normal, and I’m glad we are at a point now in the United States that Europe’s really shining a light on us.”