THE MIDFIELDER WHO WAS PROMISED

US soccer enters a new era as Christian Pulisic will likely join a top English team

The best American soccer player ever?
The best American soccer player ever?
Image: Reuters/Sergio Perez
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It’s been a rough couple of years for US soccer. The US team did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The team fired its coach, and the most accomplished US player ever, Clint Dempsey, retired from the sport.

Yet the future of the world’s game in the US is bright, and no one is more symbolic of that then Christian Pulisic. On Friday (Dec. 28), the German publication Bild reported that the top English club Chelsea has verbally agreed to a nearly $60 million deal to sign Pulisic from his current German club, Borussia Dortmund. The move would happen this upcoming summer. The teams have not yet confirmed the deal.

The 20-year-old Pulisic is perhaps US soccer’s greatest ever prospect. He is an exceptional dribbler and has strong goal scoring instincts. If Pulisic were to succeed at Chelsea, he would be the first American player to be a major contributor at a top-tier English team.

Mike Goodman, managing editor of the soccer analytics site Statsbomb, believes he is good enough to do it.  “He was wildly successful as a teenager at Dortmund and while his progress had stalled somewhat the last season or two he’s still so young at 20,” Goodman tells Quartz. “His ceiling is simply enormous. He has the potential to be a regular starter, if not more, for Chelsea.”

Pulisic is not alone. The US now sports a set of very strong young players. Weston McKinnie, another 20-year-old playing in Germany, and Timothy Weah, and 18-year-old in France, also give US soccer hope for the future, and for success in future World Cups.

Pulisic’s rise may also inspire other young American athletes to get into the game. He is a soccer star who will likely make as much money as some top American football, basketball, or baseball players—his exact wages are not yet public. Goodman believes soccer is already beyond that, though. “I think soccer as a sport in America is past the point where it takes Pulisic going to Chelsea to engage kids,” he says. Still, he admits it can’t hurt.