The proposed European Super League has the potential to rewrite world soccer as we know it. SBnation has posted an explainer that covers the details. The most important point for this particular post is that players who participate in the Super League may be barred from international competition, including the World Cup.
As American players have risen through the ranks in Europe, one consequence is that there are several USMNT stars who could be affected if a worst-case scenario unfolds with the Super League. Let’s unpack them, tier-by-tier.
Clear first-team players
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea FC), Sergiño Dest (FC Barcelona), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Zack Steffen (Manchester City)
These four players are crucial, both to the USMNT and to their clubs. Steffen is somewhat of an outlier, as he is normally Ederson’s backup for City, whereas the other three are nailed-on starters for their clubs. This group is almost sure to be disqualified if things do head south.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of Pulisic, Dest, and McKennie for the USMNT. All three are seen as irreplaceable. Pulisic is the talisman of the national team, and the most dangerous attacker. McKennie is the highest-rated midfielder, although fellow young players Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah can also step up to leading roles.
Dest might be the hardest to replace, due to both his unique skillset and his positional flexibility. Most other fullbacks in the USMNT pool are limited to one preferred side (Antonee Robinson, DeAndre Yedlin, Bryan Reynolds, Reggie Cannon). Dest stands alone in his ability to key the attack from both the left and right fullback positions.
While there are certainly many other nations that would be harder hit by a Super League ban (think of Argentina without Messi), the US would also be losing three of its top talents, who also happen to be three of its most enigmatic personalities and leaders.
Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona), Folarin Balogun (Arsenal FC), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Erik Palmer-Brown (Manchester City), Philippe Sandler (Manchester City)
These players are each in unique scenarios. Konrad has made Barcelona’s matchday squad 15 times this season in the league, two more times in the Champions League, and actually played for them twice in the Champions League. He has yet to appear for Barça in La Liga, but would certainly be disqualified if making the matchday squad was the barometer. However, there have been reports Konrad could leave Barcelona in search of first-team football. That could be a boon for his USMNT future.
England-Nigeria-USA triple-national Folarin Balogun is in a similar situation at Arsenal. He hasn’t played for them in the league, but has appeared several times in the Europa League, including their most recent game, after several media outlets reported he was on the verge of signing a new, extended contract with the Gunners.
Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Erik Palmer-Brown are all on the books for English clubs that are founding the Super League, but all three are typically loaned out to other divisions. Miazga made 2 appearances for Chelsea in the Premier League years ago, and Carter-Vickers played with Spurs in the 2020-2021 preseason. Bournemouth has expressed interest in signing Carter-Vickers to a permanent contract, whereas the future is more uncertain for Miazga and EPB. Palmer-Brown seems especially likely to return to Man City from his loan to Austria Wien, as the club has been denied an Austrian Bundesliga license for the 2021/2022 season due to financial issues.
Netherlands dual-national CB Philippe Sandler is another Man City loanee, but he has recently returned to the Emirates after a long injury spell. Sandler impressed in his 9 appearances for Anderlecht on loan from Chelsea, but his time there was cut short by injury. He has returned to his parent club, joined first-team training, and featured in two recent matches for the U23s. The manager has said Sandler will compete for a first-team place ahead of the 2021-2022 season.
Youth academy players
MF Kevin Bright (AC Milan), FW Federico Oliva (Atlético Madrid), MF Matteo Ritaccio (Liverpool FC), GK Ethan Wady (Chelsea)
None of these players are particularly close to their respective first teams, but they are in the US youth national team pipeline, and if they are lucky enough to become first-team pros, their international future could be jeopardized.
We here at Stars and Stripes FC wanted to offer a perspective on how these developments could affect the future of the US men’s national team. We know the Super League discussion will be ongoing, and wanted to provide a place for it to continue.
What do you think? How do you imagine things unfolding? Let us know in the comments below.