WHY DOES GERMANY'S BUNDESLIGA DEVELOP AMERICAN FOOTBALLERS BETTER THAN MLS?
"The Bundesliga continues to exploit the US and has begun to do it to England."
Germany has long been a country welcoming of American footballers, giving the chance to play and thrive. As far back as 1986 with Thomas Dooley playing for FC Homburg, the talent pipeline from the United States to Germany has been open.
In the early to mid-1990s, the pipeline opened wide with American players seeking success in Europe post-World Cup 1990, finding contracts with teams. Clubs were happy to sign cheap, athletic talent at the time, and Yanks were just glad to finally be appreciated.
In more recent years, Germany’s Bundesliga has welcomed even more Americans than before. However, instead of signing players post-international tournaments, Bundesliga teams have plundered Major League Soccer youth teams to find young, raw talent.
Christian Pulisic was the first player of the recent surge of Yanks heading to Germany. His success at Borussia Dortmund and move to Chelsea has influenced more teams to go to the states to find talent. Gio Reyna, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and Chris Richards are just four players who were signed up by German clubs after being scouted playing from either an MLS academy team, MLS team, or US national team set-up.
But why are these players joining German clubs? The simplest reason is that German teams offer young Americans the chance to break into European football. Americans such as Adams not only moved from New York Red Bulls to RB Leipzig and found first-team football, but he has succeeded in the Champions League. Adams scored RB Leipzig’s winner against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League 2019-20 quarterfinals, sending his rising star even higher.
German clubs are looking at American players for their versatility and athleticism. American sports culture leads to players competing in multiple sports compared to footballers in countries in Europe. While footballers in England or Germany may solely focus on football from a young age, American players may compete in football, basketball, baseball or any other sports offered by their schools. Long-time American national team goalkeeper and Everton shot-stopper, Tim Howard, was also a good basketball player. The skills he learned on the hardwood translated over to goalkeeping.
Perhaps the main reason young Americans are trading in MLS for Bundesliga teams is due to the pathway to first-team football being clearer. Many young American footballers do not play for MLS academy teams due to the country’s size and the scattering of teams across the US. The pathway from youth player to professional is not clear and many players go to university with the hope of being signed by an MLS team afterwards.
By the time these players reach MLS, they are already in their early 20s. Those that get signed as teenagers, moving from the academy to the first-team, often find the jump to be difficult and to lack the tools needed to be successful. MLS clubs are more interested in signing players form Central and South America that are low-priced options with potential transfer market upside rather than giving young Americans a chance. Had Pulisic, Reyna, or McKennie stayed in the US, it is easy to believe they would have been overlooked by MLS clubs.
The Bundesliga continues to exploit the US and has begun to do it to England to get good young players. The trend is bound to continue as German teams remain a step ahead when it comes to scouting talent.