The group stages of European competition are set to take off next week. Several Americans may take part in the competitions as they push for glory in two of the biggest International club events. Here’s who to look out for this year:
The UEFA Champions League is the best club competition in the world. 32 of the best clubs from around Europe form into eight groups with the top two teams from each group advancing to the knockout stage in early 2019. The third place team in each group qualifies for the Europa League knockout round. In regards to the United States Men’s National Team, there will be as many as four Americans that could appear in the group stage of the competition this year.
Borussia Dortmund has been drawn into Group A along with Atlético Madrid, Club Brugge and AS Monaco. Last year, Dortmund disappointed by not winning a single group stage match and eventually being knocked out of the Europa League knockout stage. Christian Pulisic figures to play an important role in correcting that this season. He missed the final Bundesliga match prior to the International break with a muscle injury, so now he faces a race against the clock to get healthy for the Champions League opener against Club Brugge on his 20th birthday, September 18th.
Borussia Dortmund schedule: Club Brugge Away (9/18); AS Monaco Home (10/3); Atl Madrid Home (10/24); Atl Madrid Away (11/6); Club Brugge Home (11/28); AS Monaco Away (12/11)
Schalke has been drawn into Group D along with FC Porto, Galatasaray and Locomotiv Moscow. Schalke returns to the Champions League for the first time since they were knocked out by Real Madrid in the Round of 16 in the Spring of 2015. 20-year-old Weston McKennie has started each of the team’s first three matches of the season and is likely to play a role as they hope to reach the knockout rounds. He did leave early from the Mexico friendly with a knee injury so he may not be available for selection at first.
FC Schalke schedule: FC Porto Home (9/18); Locomotiv Moscow Away (10/3); Galatasaray Away (10/24); Galatasaray Home (11/6); FC Porto Away (11/28); Locomotiv Moscow (12/11)
Paris St. Germain has been drawn into group C along with Liverpool, Napoli and Red Star Belgrade. PSG replaced Unai Emery with Thomas Tuchel in the offseason largey due to Emery’s failure in this competition in recent seasons. After the record breaking deals for Neymar and Kylian Mbappe a year ago, the pressure is on to win the competition in the French capital. 18-year-old Timothy Weah has been included in the Champions League squad as a B team player. It’s possible he could get a taste of the competition if PSG already have their position into the knockout round decided or if injuries set in.
PSG schedule: Liverpool Away (9/18); Red Star Belgrade (10/3); Napoli Home (10/24); Napoli Away (11/6); Liverpool Home (11/28); Red Star Belgrade (12/11)
Club Brugge joins Borussia Dortmund in Group A along with AS Monaco and Atletico Madrid. Last year, Brugge lost in the two leg playoff to eliminate them from Champions League and then lost in the Europa League playoff with Horvath in net. So they did not take part in either group stage. This year, they return to the group stage with a new number one, Karlo Letica. Unfortunately that has relegated 23-year-old Ethan Horvath to the reserve role. There’s a chance we could see him if Brugge already have their fate decided towards the end of the group stage.
Club Brugge schedule: Borussia Dortmund Home (9/18); Atletico Madrid Away (10/3); AS Monaco Home (10/24); AS Monaco Away (11/6); Borussia Dortmund Away (11/28); Atletico Madrid Home (12/11)
Note: Keaton Parks was not named to Benfica’s Champions League group stage squad so we will not see him in the competition this fall. The knockout rounds feature an opportunity to name a new squad so it’s theoretically possible we could see him in the knockout round if Benfica make it that far.
The Europa League puts 48 teams in 12 groups from the tier just below the Champions League level in Europe. The top two teams in each group advance to the knockout round to face off with the 8 third place finishers from the Champions League group stage. There could be as many as three US eligible players in this group competition.
RSC Anderlecht was drawn into Group A with Dinamo Zagreb, Fenerbahce, and Spartak Trnava. Last year, Anderlecht went without a point in the Champions League group stage. Saief has yet to feature for Anderlecht this season as he continues to recover from injury, but it’s likely he will be on the field once he’s back to full health. The 24-year-old winger has previously played in both the Champions League and Europa League competition during his time at KAA Gent.
RSC Anderlecht schedule: Spartak Trnava Away (9/20); Dinamo Zagreb Home (10/4); Fenerbahce Home (10/25); Fenerbahce Away (11/8); Spartak Trnava Away (11/29); Dinamo Zagreb (12/13)
Stade Rennes have been drawn into group K with Astana, Dynamo Kyiv, and Jablonec. Rennes has not played in European competition since the 2005/2006 season, so this is a major treat for their supporters. Siebatcheu was purchased in the offseason after helping Stade Reims reach promotion to Ligue 1 and has already been in the lineup early on in the season. This would be the 22-year-old striker’s first taste of European competition.
Stade Rennes schedule: Jablonec Home (9/20); Astana Away (10/4); Dynamo Kyiv Home (10/25); Dynamo Kyiv Away (11/8); Jablonec Away (11/29); Astana Home (12/13)
Malmö have been drawn into group I with Besiktas, KRC Genk, and Sarpsborg FF. Malmö qualified for the Europa League group stage by winning a playoff after they lost in the Champions League playoff ealrier this summer. Gall moved to Malmö this summer amid a very productive season in Sweden (9 goals and 5 assists in 18 league games). The 23-year-old winger did not feature for Malmo during the qualifying playoffs this summer after having just been brought into the team, but he could feature this fall.
Malmö schedule: KRC Genk Away (9/20); Besiktas Home (10/4); Sarpsborg Away (10/25); Sarpsborg Home (11/8); KRC Genk Home (11/29); Besiktas Away (12/13)
Note: Timothy Chandler is injured and isn’t expected to return until well after the group stage. It’s possible we could see him in the knockout stage if Eintracht Frankfurt make it that far in the competition. Also, if (when) Tyler Adams moves to RB Leipzig in January, there’s a possibility we could see him in the knockout round if Leipzig are still alive and he’s already in the team at that point.
Hit the comment section to discuss what you expect to see out of Americans in these competitions this year.