Americans have been playing in Europe in numbers for the last 30 years, but nothing like this season when they have broken into some of the biggest clubs in the world.
It would not uncommon for them to play for small clubs fighting to avoid relegation. That often meant coaching changes and uncertainty about playing time.
In 2020-21, Americans have played for eight teams currently in the lead in their top 20 European league, four teams in second place and six others in the top 5 in their league.
Not all are playing regularly or are still at their club. Zack Steffen and Ethan Horvath are the backup keepers for Manchester United and Club Brugge, the runaway leaders of their respective leagues. Defenders Chris Richards and Sergino Dest have changed clubs since the start of the season.
But others like Tim Weah at French Lille, which plays on Wednesday, and his former Red Bulls academy teammate Tyler Adams at RB Leipzig, have been making big contributions of late for teams in the middle of improbable races for league titles.
Then there’s DeAndre Yedlin, who finds himself starting at first-place Galatasaray in Turkey after being stuck as the third-choice right back at Newcastle United, 17th in the Premier League.
Notations: Number is the country’s current ranking in the UEFA club coefficients.
1. Spain (LaLiga)
Sergino Dest (19 league appearances), Barcelona, 2nd place (still in UEFA Champions League)
Note: Konrad de la Fuente has yet to play a LaLiga game for Barcelona.
Barcelona is unbeaten in its last 15 league games to move to within five points of leader Atletico Madrid, which has a game in hand. After Dest’s nightmare performance against Paris St. Germain in the UEFA Champions League, Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said, “He needs to be more aggressive, he needs to be more concentrated. He had too many periods in the game where he’s not 100 percent focused.” But the Dutchman showed his confidence in Dest by starting him in the last two LaLiga games.
2. England (Premier League)
Zack Steffen (1 league appearance), Man. City, 1st place (still in UEFA Champions League)
Christian Pulisic (16 league appearances, 1 goal), Chelsea, 5th place (UEFA Champions League)
Winner of 21 straight games in all competitions, Manchester City is running away with the
Premier League title. Steffen should get his first shot at a cup trophy on April 25 when City plays Tottenham in the League Cup final. (It faces Everton on March 20 in the FA Cup quarterfinals.) Pulisic has yet to start a Premier League game under new manager Thomas Tuchel, his former coach at Borussia Dortmund. The Blues remain unbeaten in nine games since Tuchel took charge and are back in the hunt for a top 4 spot and a berth in the 2021-22 Champions League.
3. Italy (Serie A)
Weston McKennie (21 league appearances, 4 goals), Juventus, 3rd place (UEFA Champions League).
Note: Bryan Reynolds has yet to play a Serie A game for Roma.
Juventus has yet to run off a string of more than three wins in a row in Serie A, where it trails Inter Milan by seven points and AC Milan by three, putting its record string of Scudetti (nine in a row) in jeopardy. McKennie won his first Italian trophy in January (Supercoppa), and Juventus has qualified for the final of the Coppa Italia on May 19.
4. Germany (Bundesliga)
*Chris Richards (3 league appearances), Bayern Munich, 1st place (UEFA Champions League)
Tyler Adams (19 league appearances, 1 goal), RB Leipzig, 2nd place (UEFA Champions League)
John Brooks (21 league appearances, 2 goals), Wolfsburg, 3rd place
Tim Chandler (5 league appearances), Eintracht Frankfurt, 4th place
Gio Reyna (22 league appearances, 3 goals), Borussia Dortmund, 5th place (UEFA Champions League)
*Joined Hoffenheim on loan in January 2021.
Americans are playing for or have played for the top five teams in the Bundesliga. Adams is enjoying one of his best runs of form for RB Leipzig, which remained only two points behind Bayern when it rallied to beat Borussia Moenchengladbach. Brooks’ strong play is a big factor in Wolfsburg’s recent climb into the top 5 with seven wins a tie in its last eight games. (Wolfsburg and Leipzig meet in the DFB Pokal quarterfinals on Wednesday.)
5. France (Ligue 1, 20 teams)
Tim Weah (21 league appearances, 3 goals), Lille, 1st place
Lille is considered the favorite in the four-team race with Paris St. Germain, Lyon and Monaco, in large part due to its road form — seven Ligue A wins in a row. That will be put to a test as Les Dogues play at PSG, Monaco and Lyon, in that order, between now and April 24. With Lille’s heavy load of games — it was just eliminated by Ajax in the Europa League — Weah has been starting the mid-week games and coming off the bench on Sundays. (He is tipped to start on Wednesday at home against Marseille.)
8. Netherlands (Eredivisie, 18 teams)
*Sergino Dest (3 league appearances), Ajax, 1st place (Europa League)
Richie Ledezma (3 league appearances), PSV, 2nd place
*Joined Barcelona on loan in October 2020.
Note: Alex Mendez has yet to play an Eredivisie game for Ajax.
Ledezma cracked the PSV first team this season but suffered a serious knee in his first start. Mendez was registered for Ajax’s Champions League roster but has played just 301 minutes for Jong Ajax after a promising first season in the Eerste Divisie.
9. Belgium (Pro League, 18 teams)
Ethan Horvath (1 league appearance), Club Brugge, 1st place
Mark McKenzie (6 league appearances), Genk, 3rd place
Matt Miazga (19 league appearances), Anderlecht, 5th place
For the third season in a row, Horvath is the backup to Belgian international Simon Mignolet at Club Brugge, which is running away with the Pro League title (15-point lead over second-place Antwerp). In his first four seasons at Brugge, it was second, first, second and first.
10. Austria (Bundesliga)
*Brenden Aaronson (6 league appearances, 1 goal), Red Bull Salzburg, 1st place (Europa League)
The pressure is on Salzburg, winner of seven straight Bundesliga championships and nine out of the last 10. Its loss at Sturm Graz on Sunday dropped its lead over second-place Rapid Wien to three points with three games remaining in the first stage. The top six teams advance to the championship round, carrying over half their points from the first stage.
13. Turkey (Super Lig)
DeAndre Yedlin (6 league appearances), Galatasaray, 1st place
*Tyler Boyd (4 large appearances, 1 goal), Besiktas, 2nd place
*Moved to Sivasspor on loan in January 2021.
After five seasons at Newcastle United, the Magpies granted Yedlin’s wish and allowed him to leave before the end of his final season to a club at which he could get a chance to start. Gala, which leads Besiktas on goal difference, has won all four games in which Yedlin has played and it has yet to concede a goal with him on the field.
17. Switzerland (Super League)
Jordan Siebatcheu (20 league appearances, 8 goals), Young Boys, 1st place (Europa League)
Young Boys has already opened up a 19-point lead over second-place Basel after 22 games. Siebatcheu’s eight goals have come in his last nine games.