Julian Green is the best prospect the USA has ever had, and a total question mark

Thomas Niedermueller

Julian Green is young and talented, more so than any American before him, but what does that mean for this summer?

Julian Green got some papers, filled them out, signed his name and had them sent to FIFA. They were his application for a one-time switch, allowing him to go from a Germany international to a United States international.

And with that, Green became the best American prospect ever.

Once upon a time, John O'Brien or Landon Donovan were the American starlets. Jonathan Spector even had his chance, as did Freddy Adu, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, but no American has been one of the top young players at a club as big as Bayern Munich. As wonderful as Ajax's history of player development is, O'Brien starring there is not the same as Green doing so at Bayern. Donovan struggled to establish himself at Bayer Leverkusen, Spector was never offered a professional contract by Manchester United, Adu couldn't establish himself in MLS, Bradley landed at Heerenveen and Altidore couldn't get into the mix at Villarreal.

Green may not be in a better place at the Allianz Arena than Bradley or Altidore were in the Netherlands and Spain, but Bayern Munich is a completely different level, and the 18-year-old isn't just another young player either. He's an academy product who earned a professional contract, a senior team cameo and a spot with the first team in training.

When a player is considered one of the shining stars from an academy that has produced Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philip Lahm, Thomas Muller, Holger Badstuber, Toni Kroos and David Alaba, it is special, at least by American standards. Green is that, the shining star from that Bayern Munich academy, and that makes him special.

It makes Green the most special American teenager yet.

But there's that -- he's a teenager. He is not Schweinsteiger or Muller. He is not even Altidore or Bradley. The comparisons are only apt when it is to what the Bayern greats or America's best were at 18 years old, and a lot happens between 18 and stardom.

Green has yet to play a senior team league match, let alone a senior international. There is still debate about what his best position is, with him clearly a talented attacker, but questions about whether he should be a traditional touchline hugging winger, a left-sided player who cuts in or even be deployed centrally. That's a pretty serious question for a player, especially when he isn't going to be tested in a top division with any regularity in the near future.

So what is Green?

He is talented and he is an American. That alone makes him the apple of Jurgen Klinsmann's eye and, perhaps as soon as next month, eligible to put on the U.S. shirt in an official match. That is hugely important just three months before the World Cup, even if Green's international future seems brighter in 2018 or 2022.

There has been speculation that Klinsmann guaranteed Green a place on this summer's World Cup team with the hope that the lure of Brazil could get him to choose the U.S. over Germany. More likely, he told Green that he needed to make a decision soon if he wanted to be considered for the World Cup, with any indecision making him a candidate for the next cycle instead of this one. But this summer certainly loomed large in his decision and why wouldn't it?

What player, 18 years old or not, resists the lure of the World Cup? To this point, Carlos Vela is one of a select few, and Green doesn't appear likely to join the list.

It's not unreasonable for Green to consider the World Cup as a teenager either, nor is it crazy for Klinsmann to put him in the mix. Even if Klinsmann were to put aside his desire to bring Green into the U.S. program long-term, he could be a factor as soon as this summer.

The Americans have so few options on the wings that Brek Shea is still in the mix. Graham Zusi and Donovan are possibilities, as are Fabian Johnson and Alejandro Bedoya, but who else? When it comes to depth and bench options, the U.S. doesn't have a lot and that's where Green can gain a foothold -- an energetic attacker with a nose for goal, or at least the ability to create havoc for defenses.

Whether Green can actually become that player remains to be seen. Playing for Bayern II in the German fourth division means that the only Americans who have seen Green play a full 90 minutes are probably Klinsmann and Martin Vasquez. Not coincidentally, they are also the men who will decide whether Green is on the plane to Brazil.

At this point, it's nearly impossible for anyone not named Klinsmann or Vasquez to have a strong opinion on whether Green can contribute to the U.S. right now, or whether he should be on the American team in Brazil. There's a lot about Green that we don't know.

What we do know is that he's a better prospect than any American teenager before him, and that's not a bad place to be. For now.

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