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Analysis

For Now, Julian Green Chooses Germany Over U.S.

Julian Green, a highly rated Bayern Munich youth player, is eligible to play his international soccer for both the U.S. and Germany. At some point, he will have to pick one country. But today is not that day.

BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 05, 2013
3:19 PM
IT HAS BEEN A WHIRLWIND month or so for Tampa, Florida, native Julian Green.

A short while back the 18-year-old striker was invited to attend the United States national team's training camp as it prepares for friendlies against Scotland and Austria, and he accepted. On Monday, however, Green announced that he would not be joining Jurgen Klinsmann and his squad, choosing instead to represent Germany in a U-19 match against France.

Is he? Isn't he? Will he? Won't he? Let’s look at the situation.

Green pulled out of the U.S. national team camp because he thought he could play in the upcoming friendlies against Scotland and Austria. When he found out he couldn’t play, and would only be able to train, he declined the callup. Since Green played for Germany’s U-19 team in an October European qualifier, he would need to file a one-time switch with FIFA to play for the U.S national team—even in a friendly. Filing the switch would permanently tie him to the United States and prevent him from playing for Germany.

From Green’s perspective it makes sense to keep all of his options on the table. Yes, the path to getting to Germany’s first team is ridiculously hard since it is one of the best national teams in the world. But why shut that door this early in his career? The facts are that Green has developed his game entirely in Germany and he was raised there since the age of two. Why wouldn’t he want to keep that option available?

I’ve interviewed Julian Green on multiple occasions and I sincerely believe he is interested in both Germany and the United States. He’s smart and realizes this is a big decision that could have a tremendous impact on his career. Playing for the German U-19 team has zero consequences, but filing a one-time switch to play for the United States does. Yes, Green could have an outside chance at making the 2014 World Cup if he played for the United States now and impressed Jurgen Klinsmann in friendlies, but bear in mind that the teenager will be 22 years old in 2018, 26 in 2022, and 30 in 2026. Time is on his side.

Green's potential, by the way, is enormous. Bayern Munich’s U-23 team now plays in the German Regionalliga, which is made up of 93 teams and features more than 2,000 players. Green’s 15 goals in 16 games ties him for the second-best total in the entire Regionalliga. At just 18 years of age, he is significantly younger than other Regionalliga top scorers Vitalij Lux (24) or Sliškovi? (22).

In addition, he has progressed steadily through Bayern Munich’s system. He was a solid player for its U-17 team, its U-19 team, and now its U-23 team. This is perhaps the most impressive indicator of his potential. He has not stagnated once as he has moved up in age levels.

The U.S. Soccer Federation is right to pursue Green, but convincing him to switch was always going to be a long process. It took nearly a year to convince Aron Johannsson to switch from Iceland, and the John Brooks saga is still not resolved with a cap-tying U.S. appearance (although Klinsmann has said he is confident that Brooks is committed to playing for America).

If I were to guess, I would think Julian Green eventually plays for the United States. I’m not sure when, but the U.S. seems to win most dual nationals these days, and it speaks volumes that Green is interested in playing for the United States despite playing and living most of his life in Germany.

As exciting as it would be for the U.S. and its fans to secure the services of Green, the most important test for U.S. Soccer is to develop players of Julian Green’s caliber within its own borders and using its own resources. The German program obviously wants Green, but if Green decides to play for the United States, Germany will simply develop another great player. That’s why the Germans are consistently among the best teams in the world.

The more the U.S. relies on other countries to develop its talent, the more vulnerable it is. A country’s true strength in soccer is built around what it can produce, not what it can recruit. Fielding a team consisting of Brooks, Terrence Boyd, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones, Johannsson, Green, and Mix Diskerud is fair play. Those players are all legally American and represent the United States with pride. But if the U.S. relies on recruiting players who develop entirely in other countries, is it really progressing as a soccer country?

Yes, other countries do it too, but smart federations must always examine what they are doing for themselves and ensure they can produce quality players using its own resources. It is a sign of health and it’s a far more important issue than waiting to see which country Green or any other dual national chooses.

That being said, I am looking forward to following Julian Green and seeing the ultimate decision he makes regarding his international future. If Green, like John Brooks, decides to play for the United States while still having a legitimate opportunity with the German national team, it will show remarkable commitment to the American cause. U.S. Soccer should and will welcome him with open arms. But when America can produce a Green and Brooks for itself, then it won’t have to worry so much about recruiting or winning over allegiance.

That should be the ultimate goal.

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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