The new editions of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League competitions are set to kick off this week with the largest group ever of American players prepared for involvement.
A total of 18 players are eligible for involvement in the 2022-23 editions of the respective tournaments with Sergino Dest, Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Matt Turner among the list. John Brooks, Dest, and Turner are among the players with new clubs this summer following transfers or loans completed.
All 18 will have dreams of lifting the tournament trophy in 2023 with their respective clubs are a total of 64 teams begin their quest of European glory.
Here is a closer look at the American contingent set for European involvement:
Playing time has been hard to come by for Christian Pulisic in the early stages of Chelsea’s season, but the U.S. men’s national team star comes into Tuesday’s clash with Dinamo Zagreb off the back of his first start this summer. Pulisic logged 60 minutes in a 2-1 Premier League win over West Ham, a positive sign heading into a winnable trip to Croatia.
Sergino Dest earned a loan move to Serie A side AC Milan last week and will be pushing for minutes in Tuesday’s trip to Red Bull Salzburg. Dest did not feature in Saturday’s 3-2 Milan Derby win for the Bianconeri, which should have him fresh to start if Stefano Pioli needs him. His last competitive action was in April 24 for Barcelona.
Juventus has a tough trip to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday with Weston McKennie coming off his first 90 minute performance this season. The USMNT midfielder went the distance in a 1-1 Serie A draw with Fiorentina, his first full outing since February. McKennie remained at Juventus this summer and now will be pushing to get back to his best on the field.
Borussia Dortmund kicks off group stage play vs. Danish side FC Kobenhaven, a winnable first match for Gio Reyna and his teammates. Reyna has only played 35 minutes in Bundesliga play so far, with manager Edin Terzic continuing to ease him back into the fold. The 19-year-old is still seeking his first UCL goal, but has two assists in 10-career appearances.
John Brooks kicks off his Benfica career this week with the Portuguese club hosting Maccabi Haifa on Tuesday. Brooks signed a one-year deal with Benfica last week, joining a club that will be competing for league silverware and advancement out of the UCL group stage. Brooks’ move to Benfica will give manager Roger Schmidt an experienced centerback to partner with Nicolas Otamendi.
Celtic has the toughest challenge this week with defending UCL winners Real Madrid coming to Glasgow on Tuesday. Cameron Carter-Vickers has remained a first team regular following his permanent transfer to Celtic from Tottenham, helping Ange Postecoglou’s side to a seven-match winning run to start the domestic season. Carter-Vickers will have his hands full with Karim Benzema, but its a great opportunity for the USMNT defender to test himself against one of the best forwards in the world.
Malik Tillman has fit in nicely with Rangers since his arrival on loan this summer, but now the American forward will kick off involvement in the UCL group stage. A trip to Ajax is on the horizon for Giovanni Van Bronckhorst’s squad this week, a second-straight European trip to the Netherlands following Rangers’ elimination of PSV in qualifying. Tillman has two goals and one assist so far since his arrival from Bayern Munich, a positive start for the 20-year-old.
James Sands endured a rough start to UCL qualifying this season, but since has rebounded with back-to-back impressive outings to help Rangers clinch a group stage spot. The NYCFC loanee has worked his way into the centerback pecking order, giving him a new opportunity for minutes in Van Bronckhorst’s squad. Sands has logged 90 minutes in four of his last five appearances in all competitions.
Maccabi Haifa reached the UCL group stage this summer for the first time since 2010 and American goalkeeper Josh Cohen was a major part of that triumph. Cohen and Maccabi Haifa eliminated Olympiakos, Apollon Limassol, and Red Star Belgrade in qualifying, with the 30-year-old posting three clean sheets in six appearances. After playing most of his career in the USL, Cohen will now get to play under the bright lights of the UCL, starting with Tuesday’s trip to Benfica.
Owen Otasowie’s season kicked off with a bang as the American midfielder/defender lifted the first trophy of his club career, but since has entered a period of doubt. Otasowie has not featured for Club Brugge since August 5 and has only appeared twice in Carl Hoefkens’ squad this summer. Otasowie missed most of last season for Club Brugge and it will be interesting to see if he features at all during the UCL group stage, starting with Wednesday’s showdown vs. Bayer Leverkusen.
The USMNT veteran has remained part of the first team with Eintracht Frankfurt as the Europa League winners return to the UCL group stage. Chandler, 32, has only played 17 minutes in Bundesliga action so far, serving as a key veteran in the squad. Eintracht Frankfurt hosts Sporting Lisbon in its UCL opener on Wednesday, with Chandler likely to watch from the sidelines.
Matt Turner has yet to feature in a competitive match for Arsenal, but the start of the Gunners’ Europa League involvement could be his best chance going forward. Turner is the No. 2 in Mikel Arteta’s squad, sitting behind Aaron Ramsdale during the early stages of the Premier League season. With Arsenal aiming to stay in the EPL title race through the first-half of the season, Turner could be relied on in Europa League action in a group where the Gunners should flourish.
PSV did not qualify for the UCL group stage, but will be in the Europa League group stage that kicks off on Thursday. Richie Ledezma is back from an early-season injury and available for Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s squad ahead of a Matchday 1 home match vs. Bodo/Glimt. Ledezma is aiming to get back to his best as PSV this season and added matches in the UEL could be just what the USMNT midfielder needs.
Jordan Pefok has been impressive through the early going with Union Berlin and will get a new opportunity in the Europa League this summer/fall. Pefok, 26, has scored three goals and added two assists in five combined appearances for his new club, gelling nicely with fellow Concacaf forward Sheraldo Becker in Union Berlin’s attack. Pefok missed Union Berlin’s 1-1 draw vs. Bayern Munich on Saturday due to a muscular injury, but has not been ruled out of eligibility for Thursday’s match vs. Union St. Gilloise.
Ferencváros kicks off its Europa League schedule on Thursday vs. Trabzonspor and Henry Wingo will be hoping to stay in the club’s starting lineup. Wingo, 26, has started in each of the last two matches for the Hungarian champions and overall has logged 360 minutes from his past 450 available. The former Seattle Sounders right back has found a home with Ferencvaros and will now aim to lead the club far in Europe.
Konrad De La Fuente
Konrad De la Fuente featured in both of Olympiakos’ Europa League qualifiers in August, but now will have his first crack of group stage action this month. The Marseille loanee has made four combined appearances in Greece following his arrival from France, most recently playing 75 minutes in a 3-1 win over Ionikos. De La Fuente needs regular minutes to get back to his best and Olympiakos has already shown that it can provide it.
Former USMNT midfielder Mix Diskerud will begin his second-ever Europa League group stage with Omonia Nicosia this week. The 31-year-old started in both of Omonia Nicosia’s qualifying matches against Belgian side Gent, as he continues to play a regular role for the Cyrpiot-based club. Diskerud last featured in the Europa League group stage in 2012-13, mainly being involved in different qualifying cycles in the UCL and UEL.
Romain Gall’s time with Malmo has certainly been frustrating for the midfielder, but added matches to a busy schedule for the Swedish club could help Gall get back into the picture. Gall has not featured in a league match for Malmo since May 16, a 4-0 loss to Djurgarden. The 27-year-old did score a hat trick in a recent 9-0 Swedish Cup victory over Bralanda, a positive sign for his immediate involvement going forward.