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USMNT Weekly Youth Update: The youth ranks in Germany

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If you’re following American youth players, there are a plethora in German academies.

USA U20 v Japan U20 - International Friendly Photo by Jose Breton/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We’ve reached the FIFA international fixture window ahead of CONCACAF Nations League play. The American youngsters had another busy week with their clubs and now disperse for youth camps and senior call-ups. For any new readers, the rating at the end of each update reflects how much I think each player should be called up to the national team for the United States at the next opportunity (1-nowhere near ready; 10-absolutely call him up and start him).

Germany

It’s been well documented that the Bundesliga has become home to many Americans in recent years, but what you may not know is there are tons of Americans at the youth ranks as well. I’ve mentioned the majority of them at some point or another, but it’s a unique situation to have so many Americans at so many different clubs around Germany. This week is a nod to the German system where so many young players are starting their European journeys.

Ulysses Llanez - Winger, Wolfsburg

Llanez continues to produce at a ridiculous rate in the U-19 Bundesliga. The 18-year-old LA Galaxy product has been absolutely dominant since his move to Germany. On Sunday, Llanez started as usual as Wolfsburg took on RB Leipzig’s U-19s. He once again found the back of the net in the 8th minute in yet another win. This goal gives him ten goals and two assists in just eight games on the season. It’s safe to say he’s better than this level. He wasn’t called up to the most recent U-23 camp. That could give him an opportunity to impress the coaches at Wolfsburg over the international window. Rating: 5

Michael Edwards - Centerback, Wolfsburg

After a summer in which Edwards featured at times with the Wolfsburg first team and seemed to be on the precipice of a breakthrough, he has yet to make the bench for the senior squad this season. The 18-year-old has instead been playing regularly with the B team in the German Regionalliga (the German fourth tier). Edwards has been in and out of the lineup with them over the last couple months after starting seven consecutive matches early in the season. He was an unused substitute last weekend after two consecutive starts. Edwards is ineligible for the next U-20 cycle (he’ll be 19 in a few weeks), but he is a possibility for the Olympic qualifying squad. We’ll see if he can earn his way back into a consistent starting role for Wolfsburg’s reserves and eventually push his way into Wolfsburg’s first team. Rating: 4

Sebastian Soto - Striker, Hannover

It’s been a nightmare season for Soto so far. Following a hectic summer where he and the club were at odds regarding his future, Soto has featured only one time with the first team all season for a grand total of four minutes back in early August. He’s been mired to the bench and the U-23s ever since. In his second appearance with the U-23’s on October 26, Soto was pulled after 38 minutes with a torn hamstring. He’s been unable to play since then while he works back to fitness. Soto’s contract runs out next summer and all signs point to him struggling to get many opportunities going forward. That is unless he decides to seek a future with the club. The more likely scenario is this becomes basically a lost year for Soto. Hannover currently sit in 15th place in the 2. Bundesliga, so they stand little chance to earn promotion back to the top flight. Next summer he will likely move on and look for opportunity elsewhere. Rating: 4

Stuart Ritchie - Left Back, Hannover

Last summer, Ritchie moved from FC Groningen to join Hannover, and he’s had a good start to his career in Germany. The 18-year-old has been consistently starting for Hannover’s U-19s since late August and has helped them put together three consecutive wins while allowing just one goal in recent weeks. He also picked up his first assist of the season in last week’s win over Chemnitz. Ritchie is a player that could be important to Hannover in the coming years, particularly since Chris Gloster left the club this past summer. Rating: 1

Justin Butler - Striker, FC Ingolstadt

Justin Butler is quietly putting together a respectable season this year. The 18-year-old German-American started on Saturday as Ingolstadt’s U-19s took on Greuther Fürth. Butler scored the opener and eventual game-winner in the 30th minute (fellow German-American Jalen Hawkins scored the second goal for Ingolstadt in the 55th minute). Butler now has three goals in nine matches for the U-19’s as he looks to push his way into the first team discussion. Ingolstadt’s senior squad is currently in second place in the 3. Bundesliga as they seek promotion back into the 2. Bundesliga following relegations in two out of three seasons. Rating: 1

Taylor Booth - Central Midfielder, Bayern Munich

Booth is finally healthy and is pushing his way into a starter role for Bayern’s U-19s once again. The 18-year-old started in their midweek UEFA Youth League matchup against Olympiacos. He was pulled at halftime with Bayern up 1-0 (they went on to crush them in the second half and win 6-0 on the day). This past weekend, Booth started again against previous teammates Justin Butler and Jalen Hawkins and FC Ingolstadt. With Bayern dominating 4-0, Booth came off in the 56th minute. The 4-0 win has them one point out of first place in the U-19 Bundesliga Southwest standings. It’s great to see him back to full health and contributing again. Rating: 1

Mason Judge - Centerback, Eintracht Frankfurt

Mason Judge has had a really nice start to the season for Frankfurt’s U-19s. The 17-year-old has been playing quite a bit at right back this season, only playing his preferred centerback spot once. He’s started every match this year and has been active going forward, with two goals and an assist. Judge was one of the players that several people wish had been included in the U-17 World Cup team that flopped in Brazil. It wasn’t meant to be, and hopefully he uses that to fuel his effort to make it into the 2021 U-20 World Cup team. Hopefully Judge can keep pushing his way through Frankfurt’s system and into the first team discussion sometime soon. Rating: 1

Pablo Santana Soares - Attacking Midfielder/Fullback, Borussia Mönchengladbach

Soares is a 17-year-old German-American (he’s also eligible for Brazil through his mother) who currently plays for Borussia Mönchengladbach’s U-19s. A versatile player, Soares is one of many 17-year-olds playing up a level and starting regularly for the U-19s. He’s started every game for them this season. Soares was born in New York, but his family moved to Germany when he was young. The good news is he’s already on US Soccer’s radar, having been called up to the U-17 team at the 2019 Youth Summit. Soares is joined by another German-American on the team in Centerback, Michael Wentzel. Rating: 1

And these aren’t even close to all of them. Just at the U-19 level there’s Gio Reyna at Dortmund, Noah Jones at RB Leipzig, Thomas Robinson at Energie Cottbus, Max Göggel at Stuttgart, Maximilian Dietz at Freiburg, Matthew Hoppe at Schalke 04, Quincy Butler at Hoffenheim, Leon Flach at St. Pauli, Roberto Hategan at Nurnberg, Jordaine Jaeger at FC Ingolstadt, Joon-mo Kang at Dynamo Dresden and probably more I don’t even know. The numbers seem to only increase every year.

Please note that I will take next week off while the international break is underway. Look for the next update on November 25th. As always, hit the comment section to let me know if there’s anything major I overlooked or if there’s anyone you’d like to hear about. Thank you for reading.