Some young American stars are on their way out of Major League Soccer, and heading over to European clubs to continue their careers. A natural progression for the most talented domestic soccer stars.
Let's start with 18 year-old (soon to be 19 year-old) Ricardo Pepi, who is moving to FC Augsburg in Germany's Bundesliga. The El Paso, Texas native came up through the vaunted FC Dallas academy and was signed to the senior roster as a homegrown player in 2019 at the age of 16.
Pepi had several of the top clubs in Europe scouting him, including teams in England and other squads in Germany. Ultimately, Augsburg took the biggest risk on him by offering a transfer fee of $20 Million dollars to FC Dallas, which was accepted by both player and club. This also gives the young forward a better shot at playing time in one of the best leagues in the world, rather than struggling to find minutes at a club like Bayern Munich or Liverpool.
After an initial struggle to choose which national team he would represent, as he was eligible for both Mexico and the United States, Pepi chose the USMNT, and quickly made his debut this summer. He made his mark, scoring 3 goals with 3 assists in 7 games, including some big ones in Concacaf World Cup Qualifying. This clearly gave him confidence, as he publicly stated in an interview with ESPN, that he can be USA's starting striker in this year's World Cup in Qatar.
"Yes, I believe that if I keep working and I keep showing that I have that specialty and I have the work ethic, I believe I can be." Pepi said.
Next up, Orlando City striker Daryl Dike has moved to English Championship side West Bromwich Albion for a reported $9.5 million dollar fee. Dike finally gets his permanent move, and it's well deserved after all he's done in MLS and with his time on loan last season at Barnsley, also in England's second division. This seems a great fit and situation for the big striker and he has a massive chance to improve his stock. While West Brom are sitting in a promotion playoff spot right now, they have the worst attack in the current top six with only 31 goals in 25 games. That shows that they need an impact forward who can work and boost this attack in hopes of Premier League promotion.
With half a season left, West Brom find themselves in 4th place. The top 2 get promoted to the Premier League automatically, while 3rd through 6th go to the promotion playoff to compete for the final spot.
His physical style is perfect for English soccer, and I think he'll have a similar impact at West Brom to what he did at Barnsley (nine goals in 22 games).
The Oklahoma native made a huge impact in his two seasons at Orlando City, scoring 18 goals in 35 appearances. Along with Pepi, he is another option at striker for the USMNT.
Finally there is defender/midfielder James Sands, fresh off winning MLS Cup with New York City FC, who is heading to Scottish champion Rangers FC on an 18 month loan from his MLS club.
This is an interesting move for the Gold Cup winning defender this summer with USA. The leaders of the Scottish Premiership, Rangers don't need much and even with Sands' versatility he may struggle to get minutes. They've got a 16-3-1 record and are strong at every position. But at the age of 21, this does seem like a good spot for him to further develop and get rotation minutes providing depth. It's unlikely he'll become a consistent starter this season, but he's locked in for next season as well. Rangers view him as somebody they can play in both the middle and the back, and that flexibility should result in him getting opportunities to prove he's ready to take on a bigger role. He will also have the opportunity to possibly play in the Europa League this season which is the most tantalizing factor in this loan deal, but one could argue how much better the Scottish Premiership is compared to MLS. In Scotland you have Rangers and Celtic, but the rest of the league drops off quite a bit in quality.
We'll monitor these players' progress as the season moves along. Stay tuned for much more soccer news and notes throughout the year.