'by Paul Kennedy
The breakout year for Americans at some of Europe's biggest clubs -- Christian Pulisic (UEFA Champions League winner at Chelsea), Weston McKennie (double cup champion with Juventus), Gio Reyna (German Cup winner at Borussia Dortmund), to name just three -- has not gone unnoticed.
European clubs have descended on the U.S. market in search of deals on American players. They aren't typically the big clubs, but they are smaller clubs in Europe's big 5 leagues or clubs in second-tier European leagues, like Belgium, Portugal and Turkey with reputations for being active traders.
Since the European summer window opened two weeks ago, reports of deals with varying degrees of finality have popped up almost daily, not just about young American players in MLS but also the USL Championship.
July 3. Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas) headed to promoted Serie A club Venezia (Jeff Carlisle, ESPN FC)
July 6. Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy) with interest from Lille, Sporting, Eintracht Frankfurt (Rene Tovar, ESPN Deportes)
July 9. Venezia and a Belgian club (likely Genk) leading the sweepstakes for Gianluca Busio (Sporting KC) (Tom Bogart, MLSSoccer.com)
July 13. Chris Mueller (Orlando City) with a formal offer from Leuven and interest from two other Belgian clubs, Anderlecht and Oostende and OH Leuven (The Athletic staff)
July 13. Jonathan Gomez (Louisville City) near a deal with Spanish club Real Sociedad (The Athletic staff)
July 14. Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids) close to moving to Belgium's Antwerp (The Athletic soccer staff)
July 14. Kevin Paredes and Moses Nyeman (both D.C. United teenagers) with early interest from City Football Group and clubs in France and Belgium, respectively (Steven Goff, Washington Post)
Have these sorts of reports popped up before? Sure. Will all the deals pan out? No. But such is the growing interest that it's a good bet that least half of these players will move this summer.
And they follow the moves of Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg) and Mark McKenzie (Genk), both 2020 MLS Best XI picks with the Philadelphia Union, in January. Both won trophies in the spring -- the Austrian league and cup for Aaronson and Belgian cup for McKenzie -- and earned bigger roles on the national team.
For Gregg Berhalter, elevating the games of even a couple of these players -- as an example, Vines at left back or Busio at holding midfielder -- in the next year will give even more tools at his disposal as he tries to navigate the U.S. national team through World Cup qualifying and on to Qatar in November 2022.
Berhalter sees interest in players like Busio and Vines, who are with him at their first Gold Cup, as part of the natural progression for soccer in the United States.
"We've gotten to a point where there is a critical mass," he said. "We have had enough American players who have been successful overseas in Europe that now clubs are looking at the United States as a market. They are focused on us for our young players, to bring them in and develop them, or continue their development, and then potentially resell them. It is a good point we are at. Credit Major League Soccer, and U.S. Soccer for the Development Academy that started years ago. Now, we are seeing the fruits of that."
Berhalter says the interest of foreign clubs in U.S. players is nothing different than that MLS clubs in players from different Latin American countries.
"It's common you see that," he said. "In MLS, you had a few Venezuelans do well, and then you see an influx of Venezuelans. That's completely normal. I am glad we are at a point in the United States where Europe is really shining a light on us."