Just like that, it’s time for European domestic campaigns to start – that’s if they haven’t already. And we’re little more than three months ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup beginning in November.
What’s the outlook for US men’s national team pool players in Europe?
The groupings are sorted by the most recent USMNT World Cup roster projection by myself and Matt Doyle, starting with who we consider to be roster locks and then those on the bubble. We’ll be due for another projection after the September international break.
There are a lot of players to consider. I’ll go a bit longer on the locks and then group the bubble players by league/country for the sake of your eyeballs. It’s to help prevent staring at your device for too long and acknowledging attention spans for, well, wanting to do something else after a bit.
The most expensive American transfer of all time, Christian Pulisic remains with Chelsea despite varying rumors regarding his future for months. Chelsea have been active this summer, with Raheem Sterling arriving and Romelo Lukaku departing officially, plus reports that Timo Werner and/or Hakim Ziyech could follow.
Pulisic started only 13 Premier League games last season, but will hope to earn more minutes in the attacking shuffle. Chelsea expect to be within the top four in England and perhaps push title favorites Manchester City and Liverpool.
Prior to picking up a foot injury in the winter, Weston McKennie was in the form of his life for club and country. He was a consistent starter for Juventus and produced at a high level. He returned from that injury ahead of schedule to make an appearance off the bench on the final day of the Italian season.
Juventus reloaded once again this summer, adding Paul Pogba, Angel Di Maria and others. PSG midfielder Leandro Paredes will reportedly sign next. McKennie will have no shortage of competition for minutes as Juventus look to reclaim the Serie A title, though he’s starting the year with a shoulder injury that’ll keep him sidelined for a few weeks.
After a few years at RB Leipzig in the German Bundesliga, Tyler Adams never quite locked down a regular starting role. He was made available for a transfer this summer and signed for Leeds United, reuniting with former manager Jesse Marsch (New York Red Bulls, Leipzig). He should stand to play a key role in the midfield for Leeds.
Leeds narrowly avoided Premier League relegation last season, though they finished ninth the year prior. The squad has enough talent to avoid a relegation battle, but securing safety again will be the first priority.
Brenden Aaronson was Leeds’ first key signing of the season; his deal was previously agreed upon pending their Premier League survival. They stayed up, so Aaronson left RB Salzburg for Leeds in a deal totaling around $30 million.
Aaronson was a perfect fit at Salzburg, with his elite transitional play fitting directly into their tactics. He, like Adams, reunites with Marsch, after the pair spent half a season together in Austria.
Gio Reyna navigated a nightmare season in 2021-22, with injury after injury stalling his year before it really started. He played only 440 Bundesliga minutes for Borussia Dortmund as he seemed primed to level up after a breakout 2020-21 campaign.
If Reyna can stay fit, he’ll be a regular starter for Dortmund. They finished second in the Bundesliga last season and will try to keep pace with Bayern Munich once again.
One of the brightest rising talents in the national team pool, Yunus Musah has been a key squad player for two seasons already for Valencia in Spain’s LaLiga.
The best news this year? The 19-year-old is reportedly set to play central midfield, the position he plays with the USMNT and where he’s at his best. A versatile midfielder, Musah often played on the right flank, but new manager Gennaro Gattuso wants him in the middle.
Tim Weah quietly had his best club season as a professional last year, surpassing the 1,000-minute mark for the first time in his young career. He had career bests in goals (3) and assists (5) in Ligue 1 for Lille.
Weah will hope to surpass the 2,000-minute mark this season and up his goal involvements, as he prepares for the World Cup.
There have been months of contradictory reports of whether Sergino Dest will or will not leave FC Barcelona. But as the season is about to begin, Dest remains at the storied club.
Dest, 21, made 21 LaLiga appearances last year, his second in Spain after a marquee transfer from Ajax. Barcelona finished second as rivals Real Madrid lifted the title.
Zack Steffen changed clubs (temporarily) this summer in search of regular playing time. Steffen joined Middlesbrough on loan from Manchester City, where he’ll be the first-choice goalkeeper after backing up Ederson. The Championship season already kicked off and Steffen got the start in his new team’s 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion.
Steffen hasn’t been a first-choice regular since the 2019-20 season, when he was on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf in Germany’s top flight. He only made 17 appearances that season due to injury, anyway.
Another USMNT goalkeeper who’s changed clubs this summer, Matt Turner signed for Arsenal from the New England Revolution. He’s expected to be the team’s backup behind Aaron Ramsdale, playing domestic cup competitions and perhaps some Europa League matches.
Turner, 28, was one of the best goalkeepers in MLS over the last few seasons and heads to Europe for the first time this summer.
Chris Richards transferred from Bayern Munich to Crystal Palace this summer, landing in the Premier League with numerous other Americans. The 22-year-old should have the chance at regular playing time under Patrick Vieira, who’s formerly NYCFC’s manager.
Richards hasn’t had a full, injury-free season as a regular starter since 2019-20 in the German third tier with Bayern’s second team. Perhaps that'll change for the FC Dallas homegrown product and highly-rated center back.
Fulham won the Championship last year, bouncing straight back into the Premier League after a season in the second tier. Robinson has been the club’s first-choice left back since joining two years ago and figures to do so again this season.
The last of our locks, Luca de la Torre broke into the national team with both hands when he got his chance. Now, he moves to Spain with Celta de Vigo from Heracles Almelo in the Eredivisie.
De la Torre’s game should fit perfectly in Spain. The ball-progressing, tidy central midfielder will aim to get regular playing time immediately with Celta de Vigo, who finished 11th in LaLiga last year.
With Gaga Slonina in MLS for (at least) the rest of the 2022 season and Sean Johnson too, the only other USMNT pool goalkeeper in Europe is Ethan Horvath. Horvath moved to Nottingham Forest last year, aiming for more playing time… then was the backup as the club won promotion to the Premier League. He was loaned this summer to Luton Town in the Championship, where he kept a clean sheet in his debut.
One of the most competitive positions in the pool, the USMNT Euro-based contingent on the bubble can be narrowed down to two. First is Reggie Cannon, who remains with Boavista in Portugal. The club avoided relegation last year and will be hoping to do so again, with Cannon a regular.
Borussia Monchengladbach’s Joe Scally is the other; the NYCFC youth product broke out at the beginning of last year and got his chance in the national team this year. The 19-year-old, who can play either right or left back, will look to build on a solid first year with the club, accruing 1,900 Bundesliga minutes. He started the club’s German Cup match last week.
With Miles Robinson’s injury, another spot on the World Cup roster at center back opened, as well as a likely starting spot. Four players seem to be on the bubble heading into the 2022-23 European season.
Cameron Carter-Vickers made his hugely successful loan from Tottenham to Celtic a permanent move. It was his seventh (!) different loan home. Now, he’s got his future sorted and some stability. He’s expected to be a key starter as Celtic try to defend their league title… with Rangers and James Sands acting as the biggest challengers. Sands didn’t win a regular starting role after joining in January, but will look for regular playing time this season. He’s on loan from NYCFC through next summer, with Rangers holding a purchase option.
Erik Palmer-Brown kicks off his second season with Troyes in France’s top flight. He won a starting role during the season last season and expects the same this year. Troyes will fight relegation or hope to finish comfortably midtable. In Belgium, Mark McKenzie and Genk will fight for the title. The Philadelphia Union product’s playing time varied last season.
Behind starter Antonee Robinson, the left back depth chart is wide open.
George Bello has been a regular behind Robinson in the national team. He’s with Arminia Bielefeld in the German second tier, as they hope to gain promotion back to the Bundesliga. The Atlanta United alum started the club’s first match of the season. Elsewhere in Germany, Kevin Paredes has a chance to play his way onto the depth chart. He’s still yet to make his senior USMNT debut, but is a big talent. The 19-year-old D.C. United homegrown is still with the Wolfsburg first team, not yet loaned out.
Sam Vines is starting his second season with Royal Antwerp in Belgium. They’ll be fighting for places in Europe next season, as they are in the UEFA Conference League this season.
With most other bubble center-mids in MLS, Gianluca Busio is the one to watch at this position in Europe. Busio opted to sign a new contract with Venezia to stick with the Italian club in Serie B after getting relegated last season. He was a regular starter in Serie A and will be a crucial piece to the promotion fight.
Backup left back and center forward are the two most wide-open spots on the USMNT’s World Cup roster with three months until the tournament. Doyle & I have just Jesus Ferreira as a lock. In a 26-man roster, how many will Gregg Berhalter and his staff bring to the World Cup?
Jordan Pefok made a big move from Young Boys to Union Berlin in Germany’s Bundesliga, after winning the Swiss league Golden Boot. He’ll have his chance to make noise in a top-five league. Berlin qualified for the Europa League as well. Ricardo Pepi is also in the Bundesliga with FC Augsburg, hoping to hit the ground running after his record-breaking January transfer from FC Dallas. He came off the bench in the club’s German Cup match.
In the Championship is where two other USMNT forwards reside. West Brom’s Daryl Dike has the chance to play himself back onto the roster. He joined West Brom in January from Orlando City SC but quickly picked up an injury that sidelined him through the season. He came off the bench in their opening match. Norwich City’s Josh Sargent will, for the first time in years, play in a team likely to be heavily attacking rather than heavily defending and trying to avoid relegation. He started their opening match.
Sticking in the United Kingdom, Malik Tillman joined Scottish giants Rangers on loan from Bayern Munich. Rangers have a purchase option. Tillman, 20, is expected to play a regular role.
Lastly, one-time USYNT star Haji Wright is in the picture, getting called up to the senior national team this summer. After a successful loan at Antalyaspor in Turkey, Wright joined the club on a permanent basis this summer. He should be a first-choice starter.