As the football world gathered in Russia for the 2018 World Cup, the USA was absent. For the first time since 1986 there was no sign of the stars and stripes at the sport’s biggest party after the country suffered a disastrous qualification campaign. Defeat to Trinidad & Tobago in 2017, which ended hopes of making it to Russia, was a nadir for the American game. Since then, though, the USA has enjoyed a footballing renaissance and the indications are that they are on the cusp of producing a golden generation.
Three years ago, those in the American game embarked on a lot of soul-searching. Some claimed the sport’s entire structure in the country needed to be dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up. There was some justification in this argument with the ‘pay to play’ youth system approach widely condemned.
America is having no trouble producing elite level talent, though. Never before has the country boasted so many players at top European clubs. Christian Pulisic has been the flag bearer for the USA golden generation for a number of years, growing into the country’s first true global superstar by making the £58 million move to Chelsea two summers ago.
Pulisic is arguably the best player at Stamford Bridge right now, with the 22-year-old crucial to the way Frank Lampard’s side play. And he’s only getting better. The only thing stopping Pulisic from being one of the very best attackers in the sport at this moment in time is fitness. If he can put injuries behind him, Pulisic could soon take another step up.
Sergino Dest is another who has recently made his mark at the elite level, with the Dutch-born right back a rare bright spot in Barcelona’s dull season so far. Having broken through at Ajax, the 20-year-old has settled very quickly into his new surroundings and is widely seen as the natural successor to Dani Alves at the Camp Nou.
Weston McKennie made the switch to Juventus from Schalke in the summer transfer window and has become a key figure for the Bianconeri, giving Andrea Pirlo something nobody else at the club can. The 22-year-old is energetic and offers drive through the middle of the pitch, but is still very technical on the ball. McKennie is the all-round central midfielder.,
Gio Reyna, son of former Manchester City and Rangers midfielder Claudio Reyna, has carried on Borussia Dortmund’s recent tradition of harnessing young Americans, taking the baton from Pulisic at the Westfalenstadion. This season has been a difficult one for the Black and Yellows, but Reyna has excelled, registering three goals and four assists in 12 Bundesliga appearances.
Then there’s Tyler Adams, who has flourished since making the move to the Bundesliga from the New York Red Bulls two years ago. RB Leipzig have earned themselves a reputation as a finishing school for talented youngsters destined for big things (see Timo Werner and Naby Keita) and Adams is one of their standout students.
Even below the elite level, there is a rich vein of American talent. Chris Richards is coming through at Bayern Munich with the 20-year-old widely tipped as a future first team centre back for the German and European champions. Konrad de la Fuente has forced his way into the senior squad at Barcelona this season, while 18-year-old Yunus Musah is already an important player for Valencia.
Zack Steffen has started three games for Manchester City this season, Antonee Robinson is playing well for Fulham, Josh Sargent is a first team figure for Werder Bremen and Owen Otasowie made an impressive cameo off the bench for Wolves in their recent win over Chelsea, assisting the equaliser.
The US national team has long struggled for credibility in European football, but times are changing and the country is proving itself as a hotbed of talent with so many exceptional players across the continent. Having missed the 2018 World Cup, the USA could be on the brink of a golden generation.