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Champions League: Record 10 USMNT players make group stage rosters

Doug McIntyre
·2-min read

No fewer than 10 members of the United States men’s national team are on the rosters of teams competing in the UEFA Champions League group stage of this autumn — smashing the previous record of six.

European soccer’s governing body made public Thursday the squad lists for each of the 32 teams that qualified for 2020-21 edition of the world’s most prestigious club competition. The first round of the tournament kicks off later this month across the continent.

The 10 Americans who made the cut are Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Alex Mendez (Ajax), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich) and Zack Steffen (Manchester City).

Other than the elite clubs many of them represent — Bayern is the current titleholder, while Barca, Chelsea City, Dortmund and Juve all made deep runs last season — what stands out about the U.S. cohort is their youth. Goalkeepers Horvath and Steffen are the oldest of the 10; both are 25 years old. The other eight are all 22 or younger.

Only 24 Americans have ever participated in a Champions League match. Four — Adams, Dest, Pulisic and Reyna — played last season. Adams scored the goal that sent Leipzig to the semifinals, and Reyna, at 17, became the youngest American to appear in the tourney earlier this year. Dest played for Dutch club Ajax in the group phase, while Pulisic helped his team advance to the round of 16.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05: Chelsea's Christian Pulisic during the UEFA Champions League group H match between Chelsea FC and AFC Ajax at Stamford Bridge on November 5, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05: Chelsea's Christian Pulisic during the UEFA Champions League group H match between Chelsea FC and AFC Ajax at Stamford Bridge on November 5, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images)

At 22, Pulisic is already a grizzled Champions League veteran, having made 26 appearances over four seasons with the Blues and former club Dortmund. In 2017, Pulisic’s goal against Benfica put BVB into the quarterfinals.

McKennie joined Cristiano Ronaldo-led Juve in August. The midfielder previously experienced the competition in 2018, logging six games with German side Schalke. McKennie could face off against countrymen Dest and Konrad twice this fall, with the home-and-home between Juventus and Lionel Messi’s Barcelona matchup the undisputed highlight of last week’s draw.

Horvath didn’t allow a goal in the three group-stage games in which he played for Brugge in 2018. He backed up former Liverpool backstop Simon Mignolet last season and is expected to do the same this year. Mendez, Richards and Steffen will be looking to make their Champions League debuts this season.

The previous high of six Americans on Champions League rosters came in 2004-05, when DaMarcus Beasley, Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Jermaine Jones, Robbie Russell and Jonathan Spector all featured.