The Yanks are coming: Pulisic leads new wave of American stars
The 10th of November 2017 was when it happened. The United States needed only a draw to confirm their place at the 2018 World Cup but were beaten by an already eliminated Trinidad and Tobago team 2-1 at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva. The result was a dagger to the heart of all those who had worked hard to advance the sport in America.
It was the first time in over 30 years the US failed to make the tournament, forcing immense self-reflection in those close to the sport as to why football is the one thing the stars and stripes just can't get right.
A country of over 300 million people should be expected to beat Trinidad and Tobago which has a population of just over 1 million regardless of the popularity of the sport in the United States.
Blaming the systematic failures of the association, the pay to play model, and the college game for the debacle in Trinidad are all pertinent conversations that needed to be had. However, one would be remiss to think the future of the game in America is not worth looking forward to.
The United States along with Canada and Mexico won the bid to host the 2026 World Cup. Qualification won't be a concern but simply hosting the event is not what American fans should be expecting.
Not qualifying that day was difficult for the players, especially the ones who have never participated in the event. Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Michael Bradley have all played in the world's biggest sporting event before. That was not the case for American footballing phenom Christian Pulisic. Pulisic scored the US' only goal that night in Trinidad but still found himself in a puddle of tears when the final whistle blew.
For many, Pulisic is already the most gifted player America has ever produced. This was maybe confirmed when English powerhouse Chelsea paid a whopping £58 million for the 20-year-old, making him the most expensive American in the history of the sport.
At the 2026 World Cup, Pulisic will be in his prime at 27 years old and while detractors would be quick to point out that he can't raise the quality of the national team on his own, the exciting part is, he does not have to.
Despite a monumental slip against Trinidad, all is not lost in US Soccer. With Pulisic leading the way the United States is producing more quality players than ever before; players who are capable of competing in Europe's top leagues every season.
Behind Pulisic is 18-year-old Tim Weah. Weah is the son of former Ballon d'Or winner and current President of Liberia George Weah. Tim is attached to one of the strongest teams in Europe, Paris Saint-Germain. Currently, on loan with Celtic, Weah has scored 3 goals in his first 5 games for the Scottish champions.
Before leaving on loan, the attacker had 2 goals for the PSG first team. With an increased focus on younger players, Weah has also been a regular for the US national team in their rebuilding phase, opening his account in a friendly against Bolivia.
The Bundesliga has been the home of many young American talents for years. But today the quality of the Americans in the Bundesliga is arguably at an all-time high. Schalke's Weston McKennie has already made his mark at the club both domestically and in Europe while young Haji Wright recently scored his first Bundesliga goal at home to Leverkusen.
The Red Bull sports group seemed to have learned from the transfer of Matt Miazga and have decided to keep midfield prospect Tyler Adams within the Red Bull family. Adams, who hails from little Wappingers Falls, New York has rapidly adjusted to life in Germany and has earned a starting role in RB Leipzig.
Miazga's progress should not be ignored either. Despite only making 2 Premier League appearances for parent club Chelsea the central defender has gone on loan and played in the top divisions in both Holland and France and is now with Championship team Reading. Miazga's possible defensive partners Cameron Carter-Vickers and Antonee Robinson are two English born players who are on loan from Tottenham and Everton respectively.
But staying in Germany where the American soccer influence is the greatest, Werder Bremen possess striking starlet Josh Sargent. Those who follow the sport closely in the United States are very enthusiastic about the potential of Sargent.
Sargent was an extraordinarily successful youth player for the US and got fans even more excited when he scored on his debut for the senior national team in May last year. The player has an untrainable knack for scoring goals, and netted for Bremen on his Bundesliga debut as well.
The American wave of footballing talent does not stop there as many teams from the Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, Eredivisie and other top leagues now have Americans in their youth ranks.
While this has happened in small numbers in the past it is nothing compared to what's taking shape today which is a testament to the growth of the game in the United States notwithstanding that hiccup in Trinidad.