Julian Gressel thumbs up - Atlanta United

“Wouldn’t it be great if Julian Gressel played for the US men’s national team?” 

That’s a sentiment you hear often in soccer circles around Atlanta United. When Gressel was posed the question earlier in March, the German midfielder quipped back: “Wouldn’t it be?”

Gressel was even more pointed in a recent statement on Twitter while participating in a question-and-answer session for fans under his personal branded account.

Gressel, a 25-year old German, could be on his way to becoming eligible to play for the USMNT. He married an American citizen last December, starting the clock on his path towards acquiring American citizenship. 

However, in order to fulfill requirements to apply for citizenship, Gressel must maintain continuous residence within the United States for three years past his marriage.

Fortunately for both parties, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is pushed back to begin in November instead of the customary timetable of June. With Gressel's three-year residency requirement due for completion in December 2021, it leaves more time for documents to be processed and for the 2017 Rookie of the Year to integrate into the national team. 

However, the residency stipulation is one that will be a delicate topic for Gressel to manage over the coming years, primarily because it limits the market for his services. Considering Gressel's production over his two-and-a-half MLS seasons thus far, he’s routinely considered one of the most underpaid players in the league. He’s set to earn a guaranteed compensation in 2019 of only $133,000, according to the MLS Players Association. 

If playing for the US is a publicly-stated goal of his, it limits his negotiating position when it comes to sorting out a new contract that will take him through the three-year window.

In fact, it was earlier this season that Gressel told reporters that he was tabling discussions with Atlanta United regarding a contract extension until the end of the season, information that was originally reported in March by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Doug Roberson.

As recently as Monday, Gressel emphasized to reporters just how much he enjoys playing in Atlanta.

“I'd love to stay here,” the Providence College product said. “We love the city, my wife and I. We can see this as a permanent home."

If Gressel can work out a new contract with Atlanta United — or anyone else in MLS until he gains American citizenship — he will almost certainly be a player USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter would be interested in taking a look at. 

Gressel has already made himself indispensable for two coaches with experience at the highest levels in Tata Martino and Frank de Boer. Every indication shows that he will continue to do so, either from a central or wide position.