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What is the best route for young American soccer players?

The collegiate system has been the pathways for all great American athletes to make their way to the top of their respective sports. Tom Brady made his way at Michigan before forging the greatest NFL career with the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Michael Jordan was a standout at North Carolina and maintained his excellence for the Chicago Bulls in a legendary tenure in the NBA. However, it has not been the case in the world of soccer.

There are ample opportunities for young Americans to excel in the game at collegiate programs across the country as we cover in-depth here at Some take up the opportunity to hone their craft in the system, but others have taken the chance and have moved overseas to enhance their careers. The United States Men’s National Team are flooded with players that have taken the decision to attempt to break into the European game and have been rewarded. It has been to the detriment of the domestic game in the MLS to see their star players thrive elsewhere, although it could benefit the game on a national scale to foster further interest.

The States will compete in the World Cup in 2022, and are building arguably their strongest squad to date. The USMNT will have a chance to progress to their best finish of the quarter-finals in 2002 based on the quality of the roster, and their odds could be favourable among the bookmakers. Finding the best value online can be difficult, but has compiled a list of the top sportsbooks that give their customers great prices and a diverse range of markets for wagering on football. There could be value to be had on a good run in the tournament, and the USA will certainly benefit from those players that have been playing at a high standard in Europe.

European Route

It is now common for players born in the States to move to Europe to allow their careers to blossom. Christian Pulisic is perhaps the best example as he signed for Borussia Dortmund at the age of 15. He thrived in their youth system before being handed his debut when he was just 17. He dazzled with his form for Die Schwarzgelben in the Bundesliga and Champions League. Pulisic impressed Chelsea enough to secure a move to the Premier League, with the Blues paying £58m to acquire the forward. The 22-year-old will be the driving force of the USMNT’s hopes in the World Cup along with the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2021.

Weston McKennie had a similar route to Pulisic. He was on the books of FC Dallas, but did not make a senior appearance before he accepted a move to Germany to play for Schalke 04. The midfielder made an instant impact after arriving, earning his first start at the age of 18. McKennie was a regular in the Schalke midfield for three season, excelling in the middle of the park. The quality of his performances were noted across Europe, but Juventus made the move for the 22-year-old and he has enjoyed a solid first season with the Bianconeri.

These players will form the core of the USMNT for the future, and both made the decisive decision to move to Europe at a young age to develop their game. However, there are always exceptions.

Dike Flying The Flag

Daryl Dike is the exception to the European exodus, although his performances in the MLS have seen him secure a loan move to the Championship. Whereas Pulisic and McKennie opted to move to Europe, Dike opted to remain in the collegiate system and play Division One soccer in the NCAA for the Virginia Cavaliers. In two seasons, he scored 15 goals in 36 appearances and was named the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

The Cavaliers narrowly missed out on winning the National Championship on penalties, but Dike proved his potential. The forward was selected fifth overall in the Superdraft by Orlando City, and was on form in the 2020 campaign, notching eight goals as a rookie. Dike’s excellence in the final third was noted by Championship club Barnsley, who signed the forward to a loan deal with the option of a permanent move. Dike was a smash hit under Valerian Ismael at Oakwell, and helped guide the club into the playoffs. It remains to be seen whether he will make a permanent move to the Tykes.

Dike has proven that the college route is certainly a pathway to success, and may offer a new perspective for young players believing that they must take the plunge as soon as possible.


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