With the European season coming to a close with the Champions League final this weekend, we’re going to rate the 2023-24 seasons of our top American players playing abroad in Europe. 

It has been a successful season for many of our players. Some might even say it has been the best season for Americans abroad, but that is a much more in-depth conversation. It has been a very good season for the 9 players we will rate in this article, and it’s a great sign that more and more Americans continue to make an impact in Europe. 

All of these players will likely make our Copa America squad, and their positive form should help the US Men’s National team make an impression at the tournament this summer on home soil. 

Now, on to the players. 

9. Johnny Cardoso

Number 9 on our list, Johnny Cardoso, is a relatively unknown player to mainstream American fans. Born in New Jersey to Brazilian parents, he moved to Brazil at three months old. Cardoso came up through the youth system for legendary club Internacional in Porto Alegre. He was with their senior team from 2019-2023, before making the switch to Real Betis in Spain in late 2023. 

A defensive midfielder, he is known for his tidy play on the ball and his ability to win the ball back and use it efficiently. He earned rave reviews for his play for Betis the second half of the season, playing 17 games, starting 15 of those (very strong endorsement for a new player to such a high level). Cardoso found himself inside the top 1% of all midfielders in the top five leagues in Europe for tackles and interceptions. 

The fact that he only had a half season in Europe puts him farther down this list than his underlying numbers would suggest. We’re just happy he opted to play for the US – if he keeps developing he will be a huge part of our national team over the next decade. 

8. Haji Wright

One of our goal scorers from the last World Cup, Haji Wright has cemented a place with Coventry City in the English Championship (the second tier in England, which is still a very high level). 

Switching primarily between the forward and left-sided attacker positions, he has utilized his pace, power, and nose for goal to great effect this season. 16 goals and 7 assists is a great return for a versatile attacker over 44 appearances (31 of which were from the start). 

Wright has bounced around Europe for the past few years and just now starting to show production from his massive potential as a youth player. 

Whether he should stick it out one more season with Coventry in the Championship, where he seems very comfortable, or try to find a new team at a higher level will be the key question in the next step of his development. Hopefully he continues to improve at age 26, even as a relatively late bloomer on his early promise. A great story all around and definitely someone who can contribute to the US team. 

7. Josh Sargent

Bouncing back down to the Championship with Norwich City last season, Sargent followed up his relatively quiet season in the Premier League last year with a very productive season this year. Although shortened due to injury, Sargent finished strongly with 16 goals and 2 assists in 28 appearances. 

Unfortunately, Norwich lost in the promotion playoffs, which will see him remain in the Championship as things stand today.

His all-around play was solid this season, and it seems like the 24 year old is one step away from a breakthrough in a better league. Although he’s probably not quite good enough to contribute in the Premier League right now, he could make a step up to another league, like the Bundesliga, to further test his development. 

He also would be higher up this list if injuries did not affect his number of appearances – he still managed to finish in the top 10 scorers in his division while playing less than 65% of all games. 

6. Malik Tillman

The 22 year old former Bayern Munich player enjoyed a great season playing as a versatile attacking midfielder for Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven. With 9 goals and 10 assists in 28 appearances, he was a key attacking cog for the dominant team in the Eredivisie.

Tillman is still a young player and has plenty of potential as a creative, skillful attacker with an eye for goal and the final ball. Teams will always value these types of players, and he will likely take a step up to a higher level league in the next few years if his trajectory continues. 

If he can translate his club form to the national team, he’ll push for a starting spot this summer in the Copa America. He hasn’t done much yet for the US team, so he’ll likely start as a key substitute who can potentially change a game when we need a goal. If he can prove himself off the bench, he has the ability and pedigree to contribute significantly to the team.

Tillman is an exciting attacker and definitely one to watch over the next few years in Europe. 

5. Chris Richards

Chris Richards shot up this list in the latter half of the season. The 24 year old former Bayern Munich product made his mark as a consistent starter for Crystal Palace in the Premier League after beginning the season on the bench. He made 23 starts, a few coming at defensive midfield and most coming in his favored center-back position, as Crystal Palace ended the season on a strong note. They finished in a surprising 10 place after replacing their coach mid-season when they were flirting with the relegation places.  

This has been a breakthrough season for Richards, as he didn’t see much playing time last year. His athleticism, 1v1 defending, and aerial ability were put to good use this season, and it looks like he has cemented his place in the lineup for a mid-table Premier League team on the rise. Not bad for his age. And certainly given his potential, he will only improve upon this season. 

As the anchor of our backline this summer in the Copa America, it’s nice to have your key defender in good form heading into the tournament. 

4. Sergiño Dest

A polarizing player, it’s hard to believe that Dest is still only 23 years old. After stints with some of the biggest clubs in Europe (Ajax, Barcelona, AC Milan), Dest had yet to build upon his breakthrough season at Ajax a few years back. 

A very talented attacking fullback, equally effective on the right or left, Dest gives teams an additional playmaker from the back. He boasts excellent technical ability and a flair for the exciting. This attacking instinct, however, can leave him defensively vulnerable, both from a positioning and mentality standpoint. It can be equally enthralling and frustrating, sometimes in the same game (see the US vs. Holland in the 2022 World Cup). 

As with Tillman, Dest was a key player for a very strong PSV side this year. He contributed 2 goals and 6 assists in 25 appearances – quite a good return for a fullback. 

Unfortunately his season ended early with a torn ACL in April. Hopefully he can bounce back next year to continue his consistent impact in the Dutch League. For now, the US will miss his attacking presence this summer at the Copa America. 

3. Weston McKennie

Getting into the top three, we start with Weston McKennie. A regular for the USMNT the past few years, McKennie had a great season for Juventus after a turbulent loan spell at Leeds last year (which ended in relegation). 

In his all-action central midfield role, McKennie still contributed 7 assists, a career high. More importantly, he was a consistent starter for a big club who qualified for the Champions League next season. As a non-regular player in the past for Juventus, the fact that he played so much in such a competitive league speaks volumes about his impact beyond the stat sheet. 

At only 25, his leadership, composure on the ball, passing range, and drive from midfield make him a key player for both his club team and the USMNT. He will be one of the key players this summer if the US has any hope of making a deep run in the Copa America. 

2. Antonee Robinson

If you had to predict at the beginning of the season who would make the most impact on their team this season, Antonee Robinson probably would not have been on most people’s radar for the top five. He’s been a solid left-back for Fulham, but this season he took a huge step forward in his development. 

He had an unbelievable season in the Premier League, winning Fulham’s player of the year. He is also in contention for the best left back in the league this season – no mean feat considering the high level of play in the English top flight. 

A consistent presence who started 37 games in the league this season, Robinson contributed 6 assists in addition to very solid defensive play. While he’s always been a great athlete, Robinson has improved his movement on the left flank, his delivery, composure on the ball, and defensive discipline. 

Robinson has become a complete fullback as he enters the peak of his career at age 26. His performances this year will hopefully translate to a productive summer as one of the key players on the USMNT for the Copa America. Especially with Dest out, we need his effective two-way play to contribute to our success. 

1. Christian Pulisic

What a bounce back season after a couple of up and down campaigns with Chelsea. Often the scapegoat for Chelsea’s lack of success the past couple of seasons (even though other attackers were less productive), Pulisic has found his feet again at one of the biggest clubs in Europe, AC Milan. 

Our national team’s best player had his most productive season in Europe this year, finishing with 12 goals and 8 assists in league play (36 games), and another 3 goals and 1 assist in European competition. And most of this came from his slightly non-favored right-sided attacking position.

At age 25, he should be heading into his peak years, and this season was a giant step in that direction. He seems to have regained a level of confidence that had gone missing for a couple of seasons, and he is back to his explosive and lethal best. 

Captain America has truly become a fan-favorite in Milan, helping them to a second-place finish. Can he become a world-class player? The potential is still on the table, but he’ll need to keep taking his game to another level. 

As for this summer, he will be the number one key to our success in the Copa America. Can he take charge of games we’re not supposed to win? Can he contribute key goals at key times to turn results in our favor? Will he keep improving on his play this season to make that next step towards becoming a world-class player? Does he have an iconic national team moment in him yet?

With Pulisic, there are still more questions than answers with the national team. Hopefully this summer he can provide at least a few definitive answers and take the next step in his career. 

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