At the end of last season, Christian Pulisic doubled the number of Champions League trophies hoisted by American players. Chelsea defeated the favored Manchester City in the final, with Pulisic coming on in the final third of the game, helping the London club to see out a 1-0 win.
In fairness, even if Chelsea had lost, a second player hailing from the US would have claimed a Champions League medal, with Manchester City’s backup goalkeeper being born in Pennsylvania. Still, Pulisic is now in the record books as only the second American to win the coveted competition, joining Jovan Kirovski, who won it in 1996/97 with Borussia Dortmund.
Right now, there’s an abundance of US talent competing across Europe’s top football leagues, meaning that there’s a fair chance that soon, a third will join Pulisic and Kirovski. The only question is who has the best shot at achieving such a feat.
Premier League-based Americans leading the charge
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that both Steffen and Pulisic stand as the leading American contenders to claim the 2021/22 Champions League title. Even though they’re the reigning champions, Chelsea aren’t the frontrunner as it stands. In the outright football odds for the Champions League, Paris Saint-Germain are favoured at +275, but Manchester City aren’t far behind at +350.
So, it would appear as though Steffen is the player poised to bring a third Champions League winners’ medal back to the US. However, even though he started in the Community Shield in the 1-0 loss to Leicester City, the American shot-stopper is certainly City’s second-choice goalkeeper, behind Ederson. He amassed 12 games last season, with his sole Champions League appearance being in the throwaway final group stage game.
Considering this, Pulisic would be the player who’s most likely to be an impactful part of a winning team, with the London club that’s not far from Regent’s Park and its food festival at +900 this season. While not putting up stats quite as strong as the season prior, in part, due to bouts of injuries, the Pennsylvania-born winger still managed to feature in 43 games, scoring six and setting up a further four.
Other US contenders across Europe
Next in line as players on favored teams to win the Champions League are a 20-year-old and a 22-year-old. Sergiño Dest will be looking to fully establish himself as Barcelona’s go-to right back as the club enters its unwelcomed post-Lionel Messi era. Defense will be more important than ever without Messi’s 50-odd goals and assists this year, and Dest will be key to that effort.
Over in Italy, Weston McKennie made his loan move to Juventus permanent, having made 46 appearances for the Turin giants last season. The 22-year-old is certainly becoming a force in the middle of the park, with his new manager, Massimiliano Allegri, pushing him to be a more attacking threat for the Bianconeri this season. If he builds on his six goals and three assists of last season, the Texan should help propel the club back to the top of Serie A and deep into the Champions League.
While Pulisic and Steffen are better positioned to go all the way in the Champions League this season, both Dest and McKennie are playing for world-class clubs that could also mount a somewhat unexpected challenge.