ASN feature

The ASN Americans Abroad season preview. What to expect in 2019/20

Some of the fall-spring leagues recently got underway while many of the top leagues are set to kickoff in the coming weeks. ASN's Brian Sciaretta is here with his preview for Americans abroad in the 2019/20 season.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
August 06, 2019
12:00 AM

FOR MANY EUROPEAN leagues, the season is already underway. For others, the first game is rapidly approaching. The upcoming year is going to be a very interesting time for Americans abroad as many players are attempting to make a breakthrough while others are adjusting to a new club.

As it is on the domestic front in MLS, the abroad scene has a lot of key veterans either approaching 30 or beyond it. Few of the most important Americans these days seem to be in their prime and right now most interest seems to hover around players like Sergino Dest or Timothy Weah who are entering their first season of first-team soccer, or it hovers around players like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Tyler Adams who have made strong first impressions but are now trying to prove themselves as important impact players.

It is safe to say, that this upcoming season will be revealing. Sure, some players like Gio Reyna and Ulysses Llanez are still quite young and not making it to the first team this season is still not a sign of a setback. But tracking their progress at the youth levels is key. For others like Richard Ledezma, Chris Gloster, Christian Cappis and others, it becomes more important to make first team inroads this season.

So ahead of the upcoming season or, at least, at the beginning stages of it, here is the 2019/20 season preview in terms of the top leagues that feature American players. We look at the status of the relevant players in terms of what to expect from those already on first teams and those who are trying to make breakthroughs.


The Bundesliga


  • First team players: Weston McKennie, John Brooks, Tyler Adams, Alfredo Morales, Zack Steffen, Fabian Johnson, Timothy Chandler, Josh Sargent
  • Aiming for a Breakthrough: Khiry Shelton, Michael Edwards, Ulysses Llanez, Chris Richards, Gio Reyna, Brady Scott



Due to its lack of restrictions on non-EU players, Germany is typically the European country where Americans have the most opportunity. While Christian Pulisic is now off to Europe, and others like Bobby Wood were relegated last season, it should still be a fun year for Americans in Germany’s top flight.

Weston McKennie will return to Schalke after the club had a poor season. The club tumbled from finishing second the year before to finding itself constantly hovering just above the relegation line. The problem with Mckennie last year is that he was often asked to play numerous positions throughout the season. His versatility was impressive but it prevented him from developing in a specific role.


This year McKennie will get a chance to play under new manger and former U.S. national team forward David Wagner. Wagner is an exciting addition to Schalke and what will be important to watch is whether or not McKennie can settle into one specific role and develop. Can he avoid being in situations where he serves as a "plug" for a wide variety of positions?

Tyler Adams will also return to RB Leipzig for his first full season with the club. The former New York Red Bull impressed when he joined the club in January but missed time down the stretch with an adductor injury. He would later suffer a setback which cost him a chance to play in the Gold Cup. He is still not quite in full training and is yet to play in a preseason game.


It has been awhile since he played regularly so he is behind as the season gets set to begin. I will be important to see how quickly Adams can get back into top form once he returns because he needs to reestablish himself and earn a starting spot ahead of the Champions League.


There is every reason to think Josh Sargent will earn a lot of minutes to start the season for Werder Bremen. As it turns out, not playing in the Gold Cup or the U-20 World Cup was a blessing in disguise for the St. Louis native because he has simply had a very impressive preseason. He certainly has earned an opportunity but now it will be up to him to put up numbers early in the season in order to remain in the lineup. As he learned last season, the leash can be short at the highest levels. If manages to be a consistent producer for Werder, it will be one of the big stories of the year. With his movement with and without the ball, he has the talent to thrive in this league

Like Sargent, Zack Steffen will also have a lot of pressure to start the season. After earning a loan to Fortuna Dusseldorf from Manchester City (after being sold from the Columbus Crew), Steffen has kind of walked into the starting lineup after a shoulder injury to Fortuna's most recent number one Michael Rensing. If he impresses, Steffen has a chance to take major strides in Europe.

John Brooks is the most established American in the Bundesliga where is has been a regular starter throughout his career. He tends to get injured at tough times for the U.S. national team but he is coming off a big year where he was at the heart of Wolfsburg’s turnaround. In 2017/18, the club had to avoid relegation via a playoff. In 2018/19, it finished in 6th place to qualify for the Europa League.

Alfredo Morales, Timothy Chandler and Fabian Johnson are three Americans who have had nice careers in the Bundesliga but who have probably played their last national team game. Morales is a versatile role player for Fortuna Dusseldorf who Jurgen Klinsmann was never able to find a role. But Morales has been fairly consistent in his career and has managed to avoid falling out of favor for extended periods of time. Fabian Johnson fell out of favor last season for Borussia Monchengladbach but his ability to play either wing or either fullback position always make him useful. With Monchengladbach in the Europa League, the need for squad turnover could give Johnson a bigger role this season. Timothy Chanlder, meanwhile, will attempt to recover from a season where injuries limited to just 16 Bundesliga minutes in 2018/19.

Among those players aiming for a breakthrough, Gio Reyna is the most intriguing. The current U.S. U-17 attacking midfielder and son of the former U.S. captain recently finalized his move to Borussia Dortmund and showed well for the first team on the club’s summer U.S. tour. Dortmund knows what it is doing with a young player like Reyna and expectations should be tempered for at least the first half of the season. He will play for the club’s youth teams and then also the U-17 World Cup.


But keep an eye on Reyna during the Bundesliga winter break. He will probably train with the club’s first team and that period has historically been the stepping stone for young American players to impress ahead of first-team debuts.

Wolfsburg’s Michael Edwards and Ulysses Llanez are players who probably will stay with their club’s youth teams for a while, although they could get promoted in case of an injury. Chris Richards was a standout at the recent U-20 World Cup but has a crowded roster in front of him which might put him in consideration for a loan. Finally, Khiry Shelton played for Paderborn’s first team in preseason although a 2.Bundesliga loan has also been rumored.


The 2.Bundesliga


  • First team players: Bobby Wood, Sebastian Soto, Julian Green, Kevin Lankford, Jann George
  • Aiming for a breakthrough: Roberto Hategan, Blaine Ferri




The second tier of Germany finds a lot of Americans on shaky ground.

Bobby Wood is in a very bad place with Hamburg. After two seasons playing for teams that were relegated out of the Bundesliga, Wood returned from an Hannover loan to Hamburg where he is out of favor. He is getting paid very well but getting him out of Hamburg will require Hamburg eating a lot of his salary, which isn’t easy.

Last season wasn’t a good one for Julian Green at Greuther Furth. He scored a nice goal over the weekend but he is a player who needs improvement or he could be at a crossroads come May as to where his next step will be.


While Chris Gloster has moved onto the Eredivisie with PSV, Sebastian Soto is with Hannover – for now. Rumors continue to circulate that Soto might also be on the move soon. Soto had a strong U-20 World Cup and is on a very small salary at Hannover. It makes sense that Soto would want to cash in but getting a better deal at Hannover shouldn’t be discounted either. His situation at Hannover is tough to predict. Will the club play him if they know he is going to bolt or will he get minutes to entice him to get back to the negotiating table for a better deal? If he stays, can he help the club stabilize and rebound after relegation. 

Elsewhere in the league, Jann George, 27, is an occasional starter for Jahn Regensburg who tends to have an impressive run every season. Kevin Lankford, 20, is actually U-23 eligible but did not impress in preseason for St. Pauli and will have to play well in training to get back int the picture.

Roberto Hategan at Nurnberg made the move to Nurnberg after playing for the youth teams at Sacramento. The U.S. U-18 midfielder has been very effective at the youth levels and it will be interesting to see if he can make the transition against adults.


The Premier League


  • First team players: DeAndre Yedlin, Christian Pulisic
  • Aiming for a breakthrough: Kyle Scott




The number of Americans in the Premier League has dwindled as obtaining a U.K work permit has generally become harder to get. But the Premier League’s loss has been the Bundesliga’s gain.

This year, all eyes will be on Christian Pulisic at Chelsea after he set an American transfer record of $73 million. His performances in preseason have been improving and he will get a fair chance under Frank Lampard. If he takes it, it will be one of the most exciting stories in the history of Americans abroad as Chelsea has a big footprint in the United States and always holds bold ambitions for silverware. Pulisic has clearly stepped into an unprecedented spotlight for an American player.

For DeAndre Yedlin, the situation is murky at Newcastle United. He had surgery at the end of last season, missed the Gold Cup, and only recently returned to first team training. During that span, Newcastle has changed managers as Rafa Benitez was replaced by Steve Bruce. It remains a toss-up with how Yedlin will fit into Bruce’s plans once he becomes match fit. Newcastle United also recently signed U.S. U-23 eligible Kyle Scott although first team minutes not be in the picture yet.

For Tottenham, Cameron Carter-Vickers is up for sale and is one to watch in the coming week to see if a move gets made. The most likely scenario is the Championship where Carter-Vickers has proven himself.


The Championship


  • First team players: Tim Ream, Eric Lichaj, Antonee Robinson, Duane Holmes, Matt Miazga, Geoff Cameron
  • Aiming for a breakthrough: Luca De la Torre, Andrija Novakovich, Gboly Ariyibi




The second tier of England has a wide range of ages and experiences for American players but it would hardly be surprising to see some of the players involved in the promotional race this season.

Tim Ream is back in the Championship after Fulham’s relegation but it is hard to see the club making a quick bounce back up to the top flight and it will be interesting to see if Ream entertains a return back to an MLS team or moves to a different club after an eventful run at Fulham.

There are not many American captains right now but Eric Lichaj was named Hull City’s captain just prior to the start of the season. Also among the veteran contingent in the league, Geoff Cameron is on Queens Park Rangers on a fulltime basis his team could be strong this year and in the mix for promotion.


U.S. U-23 left back Antonee Robinson has seven full national team caps to his name and will returns to Wigan on a fulltime basis after play with the club last season on loan from Everton. Robinson has been able to earn a lot of playing time in the Championship but at his age, his can should continue to improve. It will be important for him to improve his final ball to contribute more in creating chances for his team. As a very athletic player, Robinson is able to cover a lot of ground on his side of the field and has proven to be valuable in the Championship but he will be looking to avoid a relegation fight for the first time in his career.

Duane Holmes and Matt Miazga are two Championship-based players on the U.S. national team and both are in different situations. Holmes is only now starting to recover from an injury which ruled him out of the Gold Cup but Derby could find itself in another promotional push and Holmes should play a big role, as he did last season. It will be fun to watch Holmes work with Wayne Rooney starting in January. And for the U.S. national team, it will be nice for Berhalter to have him back in the middle of the field because Holmes does provide defensive bite in addition to his creativity. 


For Matt Miazga, Reading wants to return to its promotional contending ways as opposed to the relegation battles it has been stuck in recent years. The club pushed hard for Miazga’s return because the New Jersey native impressed when he joined on loan in January. If Miazga can have a positive 3000-minute season, he will be in a prime position for a big jump next summer.

Luca de la Torre and Andrija Novakovich are two players who are at a point where they cannot afford to have bench roles in their careers. De la Torre has been in the abyss at Fulham but will this season be the year he can have a chance? Novakovich had a decent season last year on loan at Fortuna Sittard but does Reading have a role for him beyond being a reserve forward?


The Eredivisie


  • Aiming for a breakthrough: Sergino Dest, Alex Mendez, Chris Gloster, Richard Ledezma, Desevio Payne, Haji Wright


The mandatory high minimum salaries for non-EU citizens has historically made the Eredivisie a tough place for Americans to play who were non-dual citizens with EU countries or were not at the club on loan. This year has a slew of Americans who are going to try to break through despite that barrier.

Ajax’s Alex Mendez and PSV’s Chris Gloster both used strong performances with the U.S. U-20 national team to earn transfers from German clubs to the Eredivisie (Gloster's deal with PSV has not been announced but it is reportedly done). It follows the path of fellow U.S. U-20 midfielder Richard Ledezma who joined PSV in January. Neither of these three players are EU citizens so their minimum salary is €218,000 this season. When they turn 20, that salary must jump to  at least €436,202.

For Ledezma, Gloster, and Mendez, they will be under pressure right away because clubs will be looking for justification that these players are worth the high level of investment. They also must perform significantly better or show a much higher ceiling than the cheaper European options which are readily available. The pressure will be intense but the good news is that there will be opportunity. Clubs are going to want to give each an extended look and its clear each of the clubs believe in these players.

Gloster will have impressive competition at left back with PSV. The club recently bought French left back Olivier Boscagli, 21, from Nice. The club also has other left backs such as Czech youth international Michal Sadilek and Toni Lato who is at PSV on loan from Valencia but who has also played with Spain's youth national teams. Mendez and Ledezma will also compete for minutes with highly rated players. 

It is too early to predict that all three will earn first team minutes this season but it is easy to see the players getting the benefit of the doubt if they perform well for Jong PSV or Jong Ajax. Clubs will be eager to move them along if they show promise, so first team minutes are definitely not out of the realm of possibilities this year.

For Sergino Dest, there is room for optimism now that he had a nice preseason where he showed he can play left back. That versatility should open doors because right back at Ajax is crowded at the moment. At left back he is behind Argentine international Nicolas Tagliafico but Tagliafico will not be able to play every game. The Eredivisie, Dutch Cup, and Champions League will force squad rotation which will give Dest a chance. From then, it will be up to him. But he is still very young at 18 and has shown that he has a potential ceiling that American fans should be excited about. 

For Haji Wright and Desevio Payne, expectations are lower. Wright was aided in his transfer from Schalke to VVV Venlo as the German club is helping with salary. It is little risk for VVV as the club is not heavily invested in Wright. It is also a short-term deal. It is hard to see him staying with VVV when Schalke's financial assistance is no longer in place so in a sense, Wright is playing for his next job beyond VVV. As for Payne, four years ago he dazzled for the U.S. team at the 2015 U-20 World Cup but has suffered a constant wave of injuries. His talent is why he continues to get jobs but eventually he is going to need to show that he is healthy. 


Ligue 1


  • Aiming for a breakthrough: Timothy Weah




If there was any doubt about his role at Lille this season, Timothy Weah has done his part to eliminate those concerns by virtue of having a great preseason. Weah has been receiving a lot of playing time and looks to be either a starter or a top option off the bench this year.

Lille, of course, finished runner’s up in France last year and will be playing in the Champions League this year. This is far more beneficial for Weah than the loan last year to Celtic because Weah is familiar with France and will be playing for a club which owns him and has invested heavily in him, as opposed to just having him on loan. Lille’s reported investment of a €10 million transfer fee reflects that.


For a 19 year old American who plays a variety of different attacking positions, this move is one of the more exciting ones of the offseason and one where American fans should feel bullishly optimistic.



Danish Superliga


  • First team players: Jonathan Amon, Emmanuel Sabbi, Christian Cappis, Jens Caljeste
  • Aiming for a breakthrough: Yosef Samuel, Louicius Don Deedson




Demark is becoming another hotbed of places where Americans can flock with its limited restrictions on non-EU players. Hobro IK is certainly taking advantage of this and it now has four Americans on the books. But among each of the players are very different situations.

FC Nordsjaelland’s Jonathan Amon, 20, has a lot of talent and skill on the ball in 1v1 situations. When he is on the field, he has been productive for Nordsjaelland and this has earned him two full national team caps. But Amon is now in his third season in the top flight for Nordsjaelland and the South Carolina native has been sidelined for long stretches due to various injuries. In his first season, he played 566 minutes and last season he managed 1306 minutes. Injuries have prevented him from playing in Nordsjaelland’s first four games this season.


Nordsjaelland like to play and sell young players. But if Amon wants to get sold, he has to be healthy for a long stretch. His injuries have not only scared away prospective buyers, but it has also limited his opportunity to improve. A 2000-minute, productive season is what he desperately needs.


For U.S. U-23 winger Emmanuel Sabbi, he is the most established American player at Hobro and has been playing very well dating back to the end of last season. As of now, he has scored five goals in his last six games for Hobro. Hobro sporting director Jens Hammer has said he doesn’t think the club will keep Sabbi but a transfer within Denmark seems difficult with many of the top Superliga clubs not having a need in Sabbi’s position.


Whether or not Sabbi gets transferred and where he goes will be an important situation worth watching. As will be his performances for Hobro if he doesn’t go this window. 

Central midfielder Christian Cappis, 19, looks to be a player who could make the transition from the youth levels to the first-team. The Texan is has already looked promising at the start of the season when on the field (including a dramatic late game-tying assist) and now has become one of the Americans to watch for a potential breakthrough into becoming an impact player. An important measuring stick will be if Cappis can help this team get results and avoid another relegation fight.

Also on Hobro is former Atlanta United 2 and Bethlehem Steel midfielder Yosef Samuel, who made his first team debut last week, and newly signed forward Louicius Don Deedson, 18, who could be in line to replace Sabbi if he is sold.

Finally, a very good under the radar American to follow is Jens Lyn-Caljeste. The Swedish-American will turn 20 this week and was raised predominately in Sweden and China. He has earned a starting role with a Midtjylland team that could contend for the title.


Belgian First Division


  • First team players: Ethan Horvath, Brendan Hines-Ike, Kenny Saief



Things are not as rosy as they once were in Belgium for Americans at the moment. Ethan Horvath has been the starter for reigning champions Club Brugge but the club’s acquisition of Simon Mignolet will now make him the backup. Mignolet’s arrival also likely means Horvath will have to find a new club sooner than later – but will he get out this month or wait until December? For the national team, if he rides the bench for a long period of time, he could lose his status as the top backup option to Zack Steffen.

Anderlecht’s Kenny Saief, 25, is also in a bad situation right now. It wasn’t long ago when he was doing very well in Belgium with KAA Gent but things started to crumble for him after a hernia surgery in the summer of 2017 which was followed by a setback due to a complicated infection. A move the following year at Anderlecht started off well but soon deteriorated following a coaching change. He was recently on loan at FC Cincinnati in MLS that did not go well. Now back at Anderlecht, his prospects under player-manager Vincent Kompany are murky at best and expectations are low for Saief heading into this season.

Meanwhile, Kortrijk central defender Brendan Hines-Ike, 24, is one of the more under-the-radar European-based Americans as the Colorado native quietly is a steady performer for the club with midtable expectations. If Hines-Ike continues to perform well, he could look for another move up either to one of the higher-table Belgian clubs or elsewhere in Europe.




  • First team players: Tyler Boyd, Erik Palmer-Brown, Joel Sonora, Ventura Alvarado
  • Aiming for a breakthrough: Matt Polster, Alan Sonora, Matko Milijevic, Jonathan Suarez
  • Coach: Jesse Marsch



There are plenty of important American players worth following in other leagues throughout the world.

In Turkey’s Superlig, expectations should be high for American winger Tyler Boyd after his transfer from Besiktas. The New Zealand-born Boyd put up solid numbers in his half-season loan from Vitoria de Guimaraes to Ankaragucu where his six goals and four assists helped the club avoid relegation. Those performances on loan caught the eye of Besiktas, one of Turkey’s biggest teams, which then signed him on a permanent transfer.

Boyd, 24, has been playing with the Besiktas starters so far in preseason so it is likely he will be earning a lot of minutes early in the Super Lig season as well as in the Europa league – which the club qualified thanks to a third-place finish last season. Boyd will have pressure but he will also have attacking support that he has never had before in his career.  

During his season on loan with Tondela in 2017/2018, Boyd’s club was in the lower half of the Portuguese table. Last year, Ankaragucu narrowly avoided relegation. Besiktas, however, will be more talented than most opponents it faces. Boyd will play with a team that can provide him great service and control possession. But on the flip side, Boyd will also be expected to have to have a good final ball to provide service to others. This is a big move for Boyd, but he has earned the spotlight.

Erik Palmer-Brown, 22, improved his club situation after finalizing his loan from Manchester City to Austria Vienna last week. Last year, Palmer-Brown played well in the second half of the season at NAC Breda but could not help it avoid relegation out of the Eredivisie. At Austria Vienna he will be at a club that needs central defenders due to injuries and will also play in the Europa League after finishing fourth last season in the Austrian Bundesliga.


Austria Vienna has looked poor defensively in the first two games of the season so Palmer-Brown should get a real chance to be part of the solution. If he does, he will be in a good position to keep the job even when the other players return from injury. He is in a position where he is in control of his destiny. The constant string of loans makes it seem like Palmer-Brown has been around forever, but he is still young, is eligible for the U.S. U-23 team, and still has a huge upside as young defender. But now he must start taking steps to realize it.

Former 2015 U.S. U-20 World Cup midfielder Joel Sonora will turn 23 next month and this will be a big year for him in a league where development is key. Last season at Talleres, he took his first steps as a first team player and even played in the Copa Libertadores. But last week he completed a transfer within the Argentine Primera to newly-promoted Arsenal de Sarandi and it is imperative for him to lock down that starting job. He made good first impression in his first game for Arsenal on Monday when he came off the bench in the 73rd minute and scored a wonder goal in the 90th for a 2-0 win over Godoy Cruz.



In Mexico, Ventura Alvarado continues to be a regular starter in central defense for Necaxa and the club should once again be in a position for the playoffs. Alvarado has been under-the-radar among American fans thanks to his forgettable run on the national team under Jurgen Klinsmann but he is quietly doing very well as of late. It is a steep uphill climb for him to get back onto the national team but a deep run by Necaxa in the playoffs or a move to a bigger club will help.

For those looking for a potential breakthrough, Alan Sonora, 21, (younger brother of Joel) recently signed a professional contract with Independiente and was on the bench for a recent match. That is one of South America’s bigger teams and playing for Independiente would be a big achievement.

Staying in the Argentine Primera, Miami-born Matko Miljevic, 18, has also recently played for the first team of Argentios Juniors in a Copa de la Superliga match. He is rated by the club and first team minutes this season should be expected. His international involvement will also be curious to monitor as he has been playing with Argentina’s youth national teams (as recently as last week) but played for the U.S. U-16 team in his past and has been public recently about his hopes for future U.S. call-ups. If he is onboard with the U.S., he could be a big player for the upcoming 2021 U-20 cycle.

Former Chicago Fire right back/central midfielder Matt Polster moved to Rangers last January but struggled with injuries. Will he earn playing time this years?

In Mexico, Queretaro midfielder Jonathan Suarez, 22, played 263 Liga MX minutes last year but has yet to get off the bench in the club’s first three games this season. At his age, he needs to get on the field and establish himself although Queretaro’s strong start will only make it more difficult for him.

And finally, perhaps one of the biggest stories this year among Americans abroad isn't a player, but rather a coach. Jesse Marsch is now leading Red Bull Salzburg and is off to a strong start to the season with six points from his first two Austrian Bundesliga games. Marsch's hire is a groundbreaking move in American soccer as he will become the first American-born/raised coach in charge of a UEFA Champions League team. The Wisconsin native is expected to win the Austrian Bundesliga title but the performances of his team in European competitions will be a true test and one that every fan of American soccer should be following. 


Bottom Line


It should be an exciting season that will give us a lot of answers as to where players stand and if they are on the right track. Of course, other players who are not even on this list might surprise and emerge from deeper in the youth ranks. There is also the possibility that a few of the top Americans in MLS might get sold as rumors have surfaced regarding Reggie Cannon, Paxton Pomykal, Chris Durkin while offers have come in for star Red Bull defender Aaron Long.

So much is unpredictable and so much isn’t certain but this year will reveal a lot.

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