Five German-Americans, 21% of the entire team, made the U.S. 23-man roster for the World Cup in Brazil.
There’s also an Icelandic-American and a Norwegian-American, in addition to players of Colombian, Mexican, and Haitian descent.
When he took over as coach in 2011, Jurgen Klinsmann said, “Soccer in a way reflects the culture of a country.”
Three years later, he’s taking a team to the World Cup that’s fittingly diverse and multicultural.
The German-Americans are the biggest bloc of dual-nationals on the team. Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, Timmy Chandler, and Julian Green are all going to Brazil.
This German influx isn’t random, and it has little to do with Klinsmann being a German soccer legend.
The U.S. has had tens of thousands of troops stationed in Germany for 60 years. Of the five German-Americans in the U.S. squad, four were born in Germany to American fathers in the military. The fifth, the Tampa-born Green, is also the son of a U.S. solider.
There’s a large pool of U.S.-eligible players living in Germany and benefiting from the cultural and developmental advantages it has over the United States when it comes to soccer. Assuming coaches and scouts can identify and recruit German-Americans in Germany at a young age, it’s a valuable pipeline for the U.S. soccer program.
Because of the wealth of talent in Germany, these dual-nationals have a much better chance of playing regular, international soccer on the U.S. team. As a result, guys who have spent most of their lives in Germany — which all five of the players on the 2014 World Cup roster have — are committing to the U.S. more than ever.
This German influence isn’t new.
The U.S. captain at the 1998 World Cup, German-born Thomas Dooley, couldn’t speak English when he committed to the U.S. team for the first time.
But since Klinsmann took over in 2011 the number of German-Americans has increased.
Youth coach Thomas Rongen told the New York Times in 2011 that it’s just a coincidence that more German-Americans are committing to the U.S. now that Klinsmann’s coach.
Indeed, Klinsmann has been aggressive in pursuing dual-nationals from Mexico and Scandinavia and anywhere else where you can find a good soccer player with an American passport.
Clearly Klinsmann’s celebrity status in Germany — as well as his boundless enthusiasm — are an asset when recruiting German-Americans. But these charms are helpful no matter where a player is from, and it just so happens that the largest concentration of U.S.-eligible players in Europe is in Germany.
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