This summer, several Americans are taking part in qualification for the group stages in UEFA Champions League as well as UEFA Europa League while others are already qualified for these competitions. Here’s where we stand:
Ethan Horvath (Goalkeeper, Club Brugge)
Club Brugge finished last season in second place in the Belgian Pro League, which qualified them to enter qualification in the third qualifying round. They drew Dynamo Kyiv and will face off against them on August 6th, with the second leg taking place August 13th. If they win the playoff, they will advance to the fourth qualifying round later in August. If they win that playoff, they would qualify for the Champions League group stage. Horvath has already started Brugge’s season opener after winning the job back in the fall of last season. Keep an eye out to see if they can push through and get back into the competition where Horvath impressed a season ago.
Sergiño Dest (Fullback, AFC Ajax)
AFC Ajax won the domestic double last season (Eredivisie Champions and Dutch Cup Champions) and were seconds away from making the final in the Champions League. However, Holland’s lower UEFA coefficient means that’s only enough to get them through to the third qualifying round. Like Brugge, they also know their opponent. They will face Super League Greece defending champions PAOK FC on August 6th and the second leg will be on August 13th. Dest made his heavily anticipated first team debut on Saturday and impressed. Ajax open their Eredivisie season this weekend, and Dest may well be called upon to help out in either or both competitions. We’ll see if they can put together another magical run like last season.
Note: Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), and Timothy Weah (Lille OSC) all currently play for clubs who already qualified for the Champions League group stage. Also, Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), Alex Mendez (AFC Ajax) and Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) could theoretically feature in these competitions.
Eintracht Frankfurt finished last season in 7th place in the Bundesliga and had to face a long road to qualify for the group stage of the Europa League. Last week, they took down FC Flora 2-1 in the first leg of their second qualifying round playoff. The second leg will take place on Thursday. If they hang on to their aggregate lead, they will advance to next week’s third qualifying round. Chandler made his season debut when he cane off the bench late in the win over FC Flora. We’ll see if the 29-year-old can force his way back into the starting lineup and do his part to help them move further through the competition.
Romain Gall (Winger, Malmö FF)
Malmö finished last season in 3rd place in the Swedish Allsvenskan, which qualified them for the early rounds of Europa League qualifying. They won the first qualifying round in dominant fashion over Ballymena United and are tied 2-2 on aggregate heading into Thursday’s second leg against NK Domžale. Romain Gall did not feature in the first leg of the second qualifying round as he has struggled to see the field with any regularity this year, although the 24-year-old did start Malmö’s 4-0 second leg win in the first qualifying round and scored a penalty as well. Gall has not gone silent about his frustration about his lack of playing time either. When he was left out of the squad for their first leg 7-0 demolition of Ballymena, Gall said that he came there to play and he wanted the opportunity to get exposure. Gall played a lot for them last year, but he hasn’t been able to convince his coaches to give him many looks this year. Hopefully they can advance and he gets the chance to show the club that he can get it done.
Aaron Shoenfeld (Striker, Maccabi Tel Aviv)
Schoenfeld seems to always pop up in the news every summer with Maccabi Tel Aviv. The Israeli Premier League Champions qualified for the early Champions League qualifying rounds yet again, but they were bounced from the competition on Tuesday by Romanian club CFR Cluj 3-2 on aggregate. However, that still qualifies them for the third Europa League qualifying round. They will face FK Suduva on August 8th and the second leg will take place on August 15th. 29-year-old Aaron Schoenfeld didn’t get off the bench on Tuesday, but he will look to contribute if called upon next week and beyond.
Note: Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), John Brooks (VFL Wolfsburg), Tyler Boyd (Beşiktaş), as well as USMNT-eligible Jordan Siebatcheu (Stade Rennais) all currently play for clubs who already qualified for the Europa League group stage. Also, Michael Edwards (VFL Wolfsburg) and Ulysses Llanez (VFL Wolfsburg) could theoretically feature in the group stage or knockout stage if Wolfsburg makes it that far.
Hit the comment section to discuss what you think about the upcoming matchups and where we stand in terms of getting United States internationals into these high levels of the sport.