There is a unique relationship between American players and the Bundesliga. This winter transfer window, the Bundesliga added U.S. players 60, 61, 62, and 63. Ricardo Pepi joined Augsburg from Dallas, Justin Che moved from Dallas to Hoffenheim, Kevin Paredes headed from D.C. United to Wolfsburg and George Bello moved from Atlanta United to Arminia Bielefeld.
In what was a usually quiet winter window for Bundesliga clubs, Major League Soccer became the biggest exporter of players to Germany. A major success story for the German top-flight, which celebrated the occasion by taking out full-page ads in some of America’s most prominent newspapers.
Pepi and Che received a full-length ad in The Dallas Morning News, Paredes was featured in The Washington Times, and George Bello in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The Bundesliga is the destination league for American players,” said Bundesliga International CEO Robert Klein. “This campaign was important because we not only wanted to celebrate the continued strength of this pathway, but we also want U.S. soccer fans to continue supporting their national team players as they take the next step here in Germany.”
With the addition of Pepi, Che, Paredes, and Bello, there are now 11 American players active in the Bundesliga. Only France (36), Austria (24), Switzerland, the Netherlands (both 18), Denmark (15) have more active players in Germany’s top-flight.
“This long-standing relationship dates back to 1964 when Andy Mate became the first USA international to play in the league,” Klein said. “Since then, and particularly in the last three decades, this pathway has become a clear route for talented U.S. players, with the Bundesliga alone featuring more American players than any of the other top European leagues.”
It is indeed an extraordinary relationship between German and American football. When one looks at the all-time history of the Bundesliga, then only 12 countries had more players participate in the Bundesliga. The list of current and former players includes the likes of current LAFC head coach Steven Cherundolo (302 Bundesliga games), Chelsea star Christian Pulisic (90 games for BVB) and current stars Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), John Anthony Brooks (Wolfsburg), Joe Scally (Gladbach), and Giovanni Reyna (BVB), he is walking in the footsteps of his father, Claudio. The latter played 74 games for Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen.
“These letters are an acknowledgment of the depth of quality that the U.S. has, and form both a welcome to our new arrivals and a connecting point to our many U.S. fans in their home markets,” Klein said. “Soccer in the U.S. will continue to grow, and through ESPN+, our fans can see all of the live action as well as great stories around what it takes to be a professional player in one of the top soccer leagues in the world.”
Both sides certainly realize that they can benefit from this extraordinary relationship. The Bundesliga has struggled in the shadow of the Premier League and is now aggressively trying to carve out a niche in the American sports market. The U.S. men’s national team, in the meantime, wants to build a contender for the 2026 World Cup that will be hosted by Mexico, Canada, and the United States.
Manuel Veth is the host of the Bundesliga Gegenpressing Podcast and the Area Manager USA at Transfermarkt. He has also been published in the Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA, and several other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth