A Look at 9 MLS Development Academy Players Who Have Signed Contracts to German Clubs
A Look at 9 MLS Development Academy Players Who Have Signed Contracts to German Club
Recently, many MLS Development Academy players are representing the USA well, advancing through the MLS Academy system and beginning successful international club careers abroad in Germany.
Historically, the USA has not produced many world-class field players, but in recent years, there has been a surge of young talent in the United States — thanks to the recent development of MLS youth academies. German soccer has certainly benefited from the recent uprise of young, talented American players.
Over a dozen American youth soccer players have signed contracts with German clubs in the past year.
Here is a look specifically at youth players coming from MLS Development Academies — focusing on what club they’ve signed, whether they were free or a transfer signing, how they progressed toward their first European contract, and how they are faring in Germany.
MLS Academy Youth Players Playing with German Clubs
Atlanta United: Zyen Jones — Schalke 04, Free
Forward Zyen Jones has never featured on the U.S. Men’s National Senior Team or played a professional soccer match, but he’s shown himself to be a fun prospect with a quality soccer IQ throughout his performances for Atlanta United and the U.S. Men’s National Youth Teams.
In the CONCACAF Championship match for the U17 National Team, Jones scored two goals and showed that he knows how to be in the right place at the right time and can easily execute on a play. These skills will certainly serve him well in his first professional season with Gelsenkirchen FC Schalke 04’s U19 team, where he’s started over half of the squad’s matches and scored three goals.
FC Dallas: Chris Richards — Bayern Munich, Transfer
Center back Chris Richards has quickly risen through the ranks in his career. In 2017, Richards joined FC Dallas’s academy and quickly earned himself a contract with the club the following spring.
Throughout 2018, the Alabama native played with FC Bayern Munich on loan, then quickly saw himself playing meaningful minutes on the first team and has since transferred to the club for $1.25 million.
Tall and exceptionally quick, the sizeable defender is able to read the field and position remarkably well for a teenager. These skills have played out well for Richards, as he plays the majority of minutes on the U19 team.
D.C. United: Michael Edwards — Wolfsburg, Transfer
Michael Edwards is a center back who plays with unrelenting pressure. He started his D.C. United campaign as a 15-year-old and has been an integral part to each of D.C.’s youth teams up until this year.
Approaching his 18th birthday, Edwards signed with VfL Wolfsburg and began a smooth transition into a consistently starting center back role for Wolfsburg A-Junioren.
LA Galaxy: Alex Mendez — Freiburg, Free
Central midfielder Alex Mendez has excelled on the pitch whether representing the LA Galaxy Academy, La Galaxy II team, or USMNT U17s and U20s.
Just after signing a contract with SC Freiburg, Mendez again proved his abilities in a remarkable CONCACAF U20s Championship performance. The left-footer added eight goals and six assists in seven games and won the Gold Ball as the tournament’s most outstanding player as well as the 2018 U.S. Male Young Player of the Year.
Mendez can see the game at a much higher level than most his age and has the ability to both create as well as finish plays, already earning consistent playing time with Freiburg’s U19 team.
LA Galaxy: Ulysses Llanez — Wolfsburg, Free
LA Galaxy academy standout Ulysses Llanez has the ability to play either as an attacking midfielder or supporting striker. With great touch and control on the ball, Llanez is able to sneakily beat almost any defender.
He’s had successful looks with the Los Dos, gaining the opportunity to practice with the first team, and in last year’s CONCACAF U20 tournament, where he tied for second in goals scored. Llanez will officially join VfL Wolfsburg when the transfer window opens June 1 and he will be looking for his first senior-team club opportunity.
NY Red Bulls: Tyler Adams — RB Leipzig, Transfer
The versatile defensive midfielder has vastly exceeded all expectations set for him, quickly becoming one of the top players in a world-class club. Even from his debut at Leipzig, Adams showed the ability to effortlessly connect precise passes and interrupt the flow of opposing teams.
NY Red Bulls: Chris Gloster — Hannover 96, Free
A left back hailing from New Jersey, Chris Gloster brought his experience with New York Red Bulls II and the U.S. Men’s National U20 CONCACAF Championship competing team into the Bundesliga, signing with Hannover 96 at 17 years old.
While being a tall, defensive bruiser, Gloster is still quick and able to make legitimate attacking runs; he plays with confidence, knowing he certainly has the skill to back it up. He originally started with the U19 team this past summer but was shortly promoted to the second team and has since already had some first-team call-ups.
Real Salt Lake: Taylor Booth — Bayern Munich, Free
Bayern were clearly sold on Booth’s abilities, as they offered him a three-and-a-half year contract in January. Booth, who was a part of the U.S. U17 National Team World Cup, currently plays for Bayern’s U19 team as well as the U.S. Men’s National U19 Team.
Real Salt Lake: Sebastian Soto — Hannover 96, Free
Center forward Sebastian Soto played in Real Salt Lake’s academy from 2015-2018 until he joined Hannover 96’s youth academy last summer, and he has a blazing bright future ahead of him. Soto was spectacular for Hannover’s U19 team last season through the start of this season and has made three first team appearances since his Bundesliga debut early in April.
The hard-pressing attacker is likely to get several more senior team opportunities, as well as playing a big role in the upcoming U.S. U20 World Cup.
Sporting KC: Max Rugova — FC Nürnberg, Free
Highly technical forward Max Rugova joined the Sporting Kansas City academy in 2013 and earned some USL action in 2016 and 2017. In August 2018, Rugova signed with FC Nürnberg and now plays on the U19 team where he makes semi-regular match appearances.
The forward hasn’t seen much U.S. Youth National Team play but gets regular call-ups to his dual citizenship country Kosovo’s U19 National Team.
Vancouver Whitecaps: Alphonso Davies — Bayern Munich, Transfer
Vancouver Whitecaps Homegrown winger Alphonso Davies is perhaps the best player to come from the MLS. Within months of joining the Whitecaps academy at 14, Davies had advanced all the way through to the senior team, making his MLS debut at just 15 years old.
He set records in international competition as well, making his senior debut for Canada at just 16 and becoming Canada’s youngest ever goal-scorer.
The Canadian has continued to build on his impressive career joining top club FC Bayern Munich this season, appearing in six matches and scoring his first Bundesliga goal at just 18 years old.
These players have been in MLS Development Academies for years, and it is paying off.
Their experience playing with pros and future pros is maturing their game well beyond their years and allowing American youth to keep up with the rest of the world on the soccer field.