With the World Cup looming in November, never before has the start of a European club season been more important for players of the United States men’s national team. Those with aspirations of going to Qatar 2022 will need get off to a flying start to the 2022-23 season to confirm their place on the plane.
With leagues across the Old World kicking into gear, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter will have his eyes on more screens than he can count, monitoring how his players are performing in domestic competitions all over the continent. But where exactly are those Europe-based players playing this season?
ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, Kyle Bonagura, Bill Connelly, Dan Hajducky, Caitlin Murray, Danny Guerra and Austin Lindberg pin down where every World Cup hopeful is playing in 2022-23 and where they stand within their respective clubs. And while the transfer window remains open for the rest of the month, they’ll update this story with all the latest moves on who’s moving where.
Position: Attacking midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 3,089 (FC Salzburg)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 842
Has anyone in the U.S. player pool seen their stock rise as rapidly as Aaronson in the past two seasons? After two solid MLS seasons with the Philadelphia Union, the New Jersey native, now 21, moved to FC Salzburg in January 2021 and quickly made an impact. In a season and a half in the Austrian Bundesliga, he scored eight goals with nine assists, and last year in the Champions League he scored twice in qualification, then recorded two assists in the group stage. He proved himself relentless in ball pressure, as well.
All the while, he’s become almost irreplaceable for the national team. With other key attackers battling injuries, he was one of the USMNT’s steadiest players in World Cup qualification, combining two goals with one assist and an endless supply of energy. Former Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch brought him to Leeds United this summer, and he’s been pivotal in playing 174 of 180 minutes against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton. — Connelly
Tyler Adams | Leeds United | Premier League
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 2,057 (RB Leipzig)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 1,219
Leeds manager and English pundits’ favorite American punching bag Marsch has taken heat for the Peacocks barely staying in England’s top flight last season. How did he bolster his squad? By making Adams, 23, the then-fourth-most-expensive American in soccer history.
Marsch may not be favored across the pond, but Adams is. His Leeds debut was met with wide praise: he was one of 12 Premier League midfielders to play 90 minutes, register 50-plus touches and 25 completed passes, take a shot and create a chance. After Leeds were relegated following the 2003-04 season, they didn’t sniff Premier League action for 17 years, but with Adams anchoring their ranks, they look poised to more than stay afloat.
Best of all? Adams is a mainstay in global football’s most competitive league right before a World Cup. — Hajducky
Herculez Gomez says there’s more than Leeds’ success riding on Tyler Adams’ performances at his new club.
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 427
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 249
Signed from Atlanta United FC in January, the 20-year-old left-back couldn’t help to prevent Arminia Bielefeld from suffering relegation last season. Both he and his club have gotten off to a terribly slow start on defense this season. Thus far, the move to Germany has not aided Bello’s development. — Connelly
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 3,037 (VfL Wolfsburg)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 135
Brooks made just two appearances last season, both of which occurred nearly a year ago, in last September’s international window. Berhalter told the German-born and raised center-back that his physical attributes didn’t mesh with the high defensive line the manager’s tactical setup called for, and Brooks’ improved play in the second half of the season at Wolfsburg didn’t convince Berhalter to change his mind.
The Hertha Berlin academy graduate remains without a club, having left the Volkswagen Arena as a free agent over the summer, and that won’t do his chances of appearing at a second World Cup any favors whatsoever. — Lindberg
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,956
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 121
Busio looked bright in his first season in Europe, playing an hour or more in 14 of his first 18 appearances for Venezia before suffering from the fatigue of playing for a calendar year straight around the turn of the year. He was good enough in Serie A that the Venetian club’s relegation to Serie B prompted speculation that he would depart just 12 months after his arrival, in search of opportunities in one of Europe’s Big Five leagues. He penned a new two-year contract with the Italian club, though, stating his intent to return the team to Italy’s first division, and started and played 69 minutes in Venezia’s season-opening loss to Genoa. — Lindberg
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,873
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 374
With roster sizes increasing to 26 for the 2022 World Cup, Cannon could end up being one of the beneficiaries of the additional three slots — he is not a likely starter, but could add valuable depth. He has played every minute for Portuguese top-flight club Boavista this season, and he will be looking to bounce back from a 2021-22 in which he missed three months to injury.
Although he is primarily a right-back, Cannon is capable of playing as a center-back and spent last season at Boavista in a back five. That versatility could prove useful, especially if Berhalter wants to use something akin to the 3-2-2-3 shape the USMNT has tinkered with. — Murray
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 4,064
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 216
After a delightful loan spell in 2021-22, Celtic signed Carter-Vickers permanently this summer. It means that for the first time in his club career, the 24-year old — a strong passer and aerial presence — will play for the same club for two consecutive seasons. That certainly can’t be a bad thing for his overall development. — Connelly
Position: Attacking midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,077 (Marseille)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 72
The ex-Barcelona academy graduate moved to Marseille last summer in hopes of more playing time, but injuries limited his impact. Now on loan at Olympiakos after initial reports of a LaLiga return, Konrad’s chances of a spot on the World Cup squad look slim. With the move to the Greek club, he just needs consistent playing time in order stay in the USMNT mix post-Qatar. — Guerra
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 3,043 (Heracles Almelo)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 347
De la Torre played in Europe — largely toiling in anonymity — for almost a decade between Fulham‘s youth ranks and senior squad from 2013 to 2020. Then he surprised in the Eredivisie from 2020 to 2022 as well; among players with 5,000 minutes played, De la Torre was first in passing percentage in the attacking third (86.1%), second in overall passing percentage (87.3%) and 16th in chances created (55).
He’ll contribute under the brightest lights yet, moving to LaLiga’s Celta Vigo this summer, although he didn’t get off the bench in their season opener. If he can get into a rhythm and build momentum in Spain, he could turn heads in Qatar. — Hajducky
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 2,042
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 424
Dest’s future at Camp Nou resembles the club’s finances: shrouded in mystery. The recently “clinically dead” Barcelona welcomed an apocryphal flood of newcomers this summer, casting some doubt on Dest’s future there.
Dani Alves‘ release supported reports that Dest was in Xavi’s plans moving forward, but sources have told ESPN that the manager prefers Dest as a complementary defender, suggesting playing time could be limited — he was an unused substitute in Barca’s season-opening scoreless draw against Rayo Vallecano. Privately, Dest’s camp aren’t against a move; ESPN’s Moises Llorens reported that Barcelona are hearing offers and already beleaguered Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag — who gave Dest his professional debut at Ajax in 2019 — fancies the Dutch-American full-back.
It’s not an ideal concoction with Qatar three months out. Of course, a swift move to Old Trafford could be an elixir. Dest, 21, is an upgrade over United wing-back Diogo Dalot and steady Premier League minutes, with U.S. vs. England looming on Nov. 25, could prove invaluable. But how does the injury-prone Dest fare in the bruising Premier League? And is that club stable enough for him to really show his skills? Wherever Dest’s future lies, it needs resolution … and fast. — Hajducky
Herculez Gomez says a switch to Man Utd would be even worse for Sergino Dest than staying on the bench at Barcelona.
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 84
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 0
After a hamstring injury dampened his spring arrival to West Brom, Dike had looked good for the Championship side in preseason, only to suffer a “substantial tear” to his thigh muscle in training following the first game of the regular season. If the ex-Orlando City man gets fit again and rediscovers the form he had during his loan at Barnsley in 2021, he will be in the mix for the much-maligned USMNT striker role. — Guerra
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 169 (Mallorca)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 17
Hoppe’s single season in LaLiga with Mallorca didn’t go as planned. He made just seven appearances, with one start, although injuries and a bout with COVID-19 played a part. Now he’s secured a permanent move to Middlesbrough in the Championship, and the hope is that he’ll have more opportunities to make an impression on Berhalter, be it as a forward or out wide. — Carlisle
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 900 (Nottingham Forest)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 90
Playing time has been hard to come by for the 27-year-old, as he ended up as a backup at both Club Brugge and Nottingham Forest the past three years. He’s been loaned to Luton this season, however, which should give him a chance to find his form; he’s started all three of their league games so far in 2022-23. Is it too late to make an impression? — Connelly
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,965
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 777
If the USMNT is going to be successful in Qatar, Juventus midfielder McKennie will likely need to play a big role, and he’ll want to avoid a repeat of last season in the run-up to the World Cup. McKennie’s 2021-22 was dogged with on-and-off injuries, as well as disciplinary issues with both the USMNT and Juve, and he finished with four goals in 29 appearances. Despite a preseason injury, he started Juventus’ 2022-23 Serie A opener on Monday, playing 76 minutes in a win over Sassuolo.
In this window, McKennie has been linked to bigger clubs throughout Europe, including Tottenham Hotspur, AS Roma and Atletico Madrid, but it appears he will stay put at Juve, where his contract runs three more years. Coach Massimiliano Allegri has expressed confidence in McKennie, last month calling him the best American in Europe at the moment. That’s up for debate, of course, but McKennie’s versatility has seen him play in several positions in his career, particularly at his former club Schalke 04, and his ball-winning ability means that looking only at goals stats won’t capture all he brings, even in an attacking midfield role.
It appears Allegri will give McKennie the chances to earn continued minutes in Turin, but McKennie’s biggest challenges may be to stay healthy and out of the newspaper gossip pages. Those are realistically the only setbacks that could prevent McKennie from making the trip and starting regularly for the USMNT. — Murray
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 2,128
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 180
After getting his move to Genk in Belgium in January 2021, after helping Philadelphia to the Supporters’ Shield in MLS, McKenzie seemed positioned to compete for a starting role with the U.S. That hasn’t happened. He struggled for minutes in the second half of the club season and hasn’t played for the U.S. since going 90 minutes in a 1-0 qualifying loss to Panama in October. At this point, he’s a long shot to play his way back into Berhalter’s plans. — Bonagura
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,714
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 1,003
Musah’s decision to represent the USMNT over England was a major coup for Berhalter and the 19-year-old midfielder is among the most promising and versatile players in the pool. Musah will have a new manager in Gennaro Gattuso (an ex-midfield maestro himself) at Valencia, which could bode well for his development. He started their season opener (a 1-0 win over newly promoted Girona) in central midfield and went the full 90 minutes there. — Guerra
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,857
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 55
After a lengthy spell in the Manchester City loan army, Palmer-Brown moved permanently to Troyes last season and started 19 Ligue 1 matches. He looked solid in a back three during the club’s narrow, season-opening loss to Montpellier, and sources have told ESPN’s Julien Laurens that manager Bruno Irles sees him as a key contributor in 2022-23. — Connelly
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 3,164 (Young Boys)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 139
What Pefok did at Young Boys in the Swiss Super League in the past two seasons was quite impressive: 42 goals and nine assists in 87 appearances, which works out to be a direct goal contribution every 96 minutes. That he was rewarded with just 307 minutes for the national team across those two years is rather curious.
If there were questions about the strength of competition in the Swiss league, those will be put to bed by the former France youth international moving to the Bundesliga with Union. Sunday’s scoreless draw with Mainz was just Pefok’s third game with his new team, and it was also the first time he hadn’t scored for Die Eisernen, having netted in his first two appearances. In all three games so far, he’s started, suggesting he will get every chance to prove himself worthy of playing in one of the strongest leagues in the world on a regular basis. — Lindberg
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 475
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 708
Heading into 2022, Pepi seemed like a virtual lock for the USMNT in Qatar. At just 18 years old, he scored in his first two games for the USMNT — back-to-back World Cup qualifying wins — including both goals in a 2-0 victory over Jamaica in October. Then he made the leap to Europe, joining Bundesliga side Augsburg in January from MLS for a hefty $20 million transfer fee.
But that was end of what was expected to be Pepi’s big breakout. He tallied no goals and no assists in 11 appearances for Augsburg last season, and barely has gotten on the field during preseason and the new Bundesliga season. He hasn’t scored for the USMNT since his first two games either. Meanwhile, the striker’s chances of heading to Qatar keep dropping. — Murray
Position: Attacking midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 2,207
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 862
Last season was one of frustration for Pulisic. Sure, he made 38 appearances in all competitions, scoring eight goals, but just 21 of those were starts, and his shifting role — he was used as an attacking midfielder, as a false nine and as a wing-back last year — reveals that he wasn’t one of Thomas Tuchel’s preferred attacking options.
This campaign is shaping up as more of the same, with sources telling ESPN’s James Olley that there are doubts about Pulisic within the Chelsea hierarchy. Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner may be gone, but Raheem Sterling has arrived. Reports state that Chelsea are searching for another forward, and with Tuchel employing a 3-4-3 (at least so far), the American is looking like a depth piece.
That assumes that he remains at Stamford Bridge. Sources told Olley on Wednesday morning that Manchester United have inquired about a deal for Pulisic. And the Red Devils aren’t alone in their interest: Newcastle United are also monitoring the situation, while Juventus and Atletico Madrid are said to be keen on adding the former Dortmund starlet as well. — Carlisle
Herculez Gomez urges Christian Pulisic to find somewhere to get the playing time he needs ahead of the World Cup.
Position: Attacking midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 647
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 194
Perhaps the most talented player in the pool, Reyna is coming off a nightmarish season during which he spent the bulk of his time rehabbing and watching from the sideline. Thanks to an injury picked up in the first U.S. qualifying match, Reyna made just 10 Bundesliga appearances for Borussia Dortmund (with two goals and an assist) with his season coming to a teary end five minutes into a start against Stuttgart on April 8.
He has yet to appear for Dortmund this season as the club takes a cautious approach to bringing him back. However, a debut could come at any time.
When he’s healthy, he needs to be on the field for the U.S. Whether that’s on the wing, in central midfield or maybe even at striker can be sorted out later. If he’s healthy, his talent will make a difference in some capacity. — Bonagura
Richards has been gaining considerable experience the past two seasons in the Bundesliga, earning a starting spot while on loan at Hoffenheim before injuries cut short his most recent campaign. He also established himself as a dependable option in Berhalter’s lineup, and with Miles Robinson sidelined by an Achilles injury, Richards figures to be one of the starting center-backs.
He hasn’t completely locked up that position just yet, though, and now that Richards has moved to the Premier League with Crystal Palace, he has made one substitute appearance in the first two games of the season. He’ll need to change that if he’s to maintain his hold on a starting spot. — Carlisle
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 3,032
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 1,284
There isn’t need for a mind trick here, with the player known as “Jedi” expected to heavily feature for both club and country. He’s locked in as the starting left-back for both teams — especially for the USMNT, where the depth is thin — and went the full 90 minutes in Fulham’s pair of draws against Wolves and Liverpool to start the season.
Along with speed and solid defensive skills, Robinson has the ability to stay out wide and contribute to the attack. Playing on the same side as Pulisic in a first-choice XI, Robinson can pressure the opposing outside back with the ball and get in position to send in crosses if the wingers drift toward the middle. — Guerra
Josh Sargent | Norwich City | English Championship
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,976
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 116
Sargent’s first season in England wasn’t a resounding success, contributing directly to a goal every 256 minutes in 2021-22. On paper, the former Werder Bremen striker should find this season more straightforward, contesting the second division with Norwich; he’s started two of the Canaries’ five competitive matches so far, scoring one goal.
While Sargent is unlikely to be a consideration for the national team at any position other than No. 9, he’s divided his time for Norwich between center-forward and right wing. Perhaps worrying for the USMNT, just less than half of the Missouri native’s 199 minutes this season have come up front for Dean Smith’s side. — Lindberg
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 2,129
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 135
Of all the Americans in top-five European leagues, none played more minutes last season than Scally. On its own, that’s a remarkable achievement for the New York City FC academy graduate who won’t turn 20 until New Year’s Eve. With the national team, he’s been limited to a 45-minute appearance in the summer friendly against Morocco (with mixed reviews), but as long as he’s playing regularly with Monchengladbach — which will be a tall order with the return to fitness of Stefan Lainer — he’ll be in mix for one of the backup full-back spots. — Bonagura
Zack Steffen | Middlesbrough | English Championship
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 810 (Manchester City)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 540
Last season tested — and perhaps exceeded — the limits of Steffen’s role with Manchester City as backup to Ederson. His high-profile blunder in the FA Cup semifinal against Liverpool, when he gifted a goal to Sadio Mane, not to mention some uneven performances for the U.S., validated concerns about Steffen’s lack of game sharpness. So now he’s off to Middlesbrough on loan.
It’s still crazy early, but Steffen’s performances so far have been uneven, especially in the 3-2 defeat to QPR. There is time to turn things around, and he remains a favorite of Berhalter’s, but the reality is that the competition for the starting spot with the U.S. is still open, and Steffen needs to find some consistency. — Carlisle
Position: Attacking midfielder
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 164 (Bayern Munich)
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 70
Tillman only became eligible to play for the USMNT in May after representing Germany throughout his youth career, but lately he has emerged as a player to keep an eye on. The 20-year-old got promoted from Bayern Munich II to the senior side last year, making four appearances, and last month joined Rangers on loan, where he is finding his footing.
He scored his first goal for the Glasgow club over the weekend and then on Tuesday he netted in a win that put Rangers through to the next round of Champions League qualifying. Tillman remains a long shot for Qatar, but more performances like these could change that. — Murray
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 2,100
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 990
By this point, Turner’s rapid ascent has been properly documented, but it’s still worth taking a second to acknowledge his unique path to Arsenal and the English Premier League. When his time playing college soccer at Fairfield (a small Division I school in Connecticut) was up in 2015, there was only cursory interest from professional teams. An invite to train with New England landed him a contract and a place at the bottom of the depth chart before developing into one of the best goalkeepers MLS has ever seen.
Since moving to Arsenal this summer, Turner has been told to fight to be the club’s No. 1, although sources told ESPN’s James Olley that there is an acceptance that he will begin the campaign behind Aaron Ramsdale on the depth chart. Turner has quickly become a popular figure in north London, with staff impressed by his approachability, professionalism and willingness to learn.
There is little doubt he will be with the U.S. in Qatar. He’s been in a battle for the starting job for more than a year, so the only question about his role will be will he start or will he be the No. 2. — Bonagura
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 1,888
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 785
Weah, 22, is still positioned to excel in France, but he’s struggled to stay healthy — and has missed Lille’s first two games of the 2022-23 season with a foot injury — perform consistently and meet (admittedly lofty) expectations.
Leaving Paris Saint-Germain was supposed to mean a clean slate, but Weah has found the net just six times since arriving at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in 2019. He’ll be in Qatar, but he’s a long shot for the starting XI. — Guerra
Minutes for club in 2021-22: 2,069
Minutes for country in 2021-22: 119
After years spent in the European wilderness, Wright resurrected his career last season, scoring 15 goals in all competitions while on loan with Turkish Super Lig side Antalyaspor and earning a recall to the U.S. side. Quite sensibly, he made the move from Danish side SonderjyskE permanent, and that familiarity should maximize his odds of going to Qatar.
His spot is still very much up in the air, however. While he scored a penalty in the 3-0 win over Morocco, overall, with the U.S. he didn’t really make that much of an impact from open play. The forward competition remains wide open, but Wright still has plenty of work to do to get on the plane for Qatar. — Carlisle