The 2017 Major League Soccer season began Friday night in Portland as the Timbers defeated newboys Minnesota United 4-1. MLS now numbers 22 teams while the average attendance per MLS match in 2016 was 0ver 21,000, a far cry from the league’s 1996 inaugural season that featured ten teams playing in cavernous stadiums before small crowds.
Although MLS features a large contingent of American players and others from Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, the league also boasts many players with European pedigrees. Germany will have a solid presence in the MLS again this season as a number of players with Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 experience, reserve side experience with German clubs and others that were youth players in Germany will feature in MLS play. The interchange between North American and German soccer cultures is nothing new — that’s been happening for over 50 years. Here is a list of many of the players with MLS clubs in 2017 that will bring a taste of Germany to the league
Kevin Kratz (Atlanta United) The 30 year-old German midfielder came up in the youth system of Bayern Leverkusen and played in 89 matches with Die Werkself’s reserve side. In 2009 he joined Bundesliga 2 side Alemannia Aachen, playing there for three seasons before joining Eintracht Braunschweig, helping them to promotion to the first division. After playing a season in the Bundesliga, Kratz signed with SV Sandhausen. Kratz has played in over 130 senior squad league matches in Germany, mostly in Bundesliga 2.
Julian Gressel (Atlanta United) The German played in the youth system of SpVgg Greuther Furth and played for lower division German clubs Eintracht Bamberg in the Bayernliga and TSV Neustadt/Aisch. Gressel, 23. then played college soccer in the U.S. at Providence College.
Michael Parkhurst (Atlanta United) The veteran American international played for half a season with FC Augsburg, although he only appeared in two matches with the Bavarian club.
Jukka Raitala (Columbus Crew SC) The Finnish defender signed with TSG Hoffenheim in 2010 after spending time on loan with the village team. He only made two appearances with the club, but featured in 29 matches while on loan with SC Paderborn 07 during the 2010/2011 season.
Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew) The former University of Maryland goalkeeper, who has earned 30 caps as a U.S. youth international, played in 14 matches for SC Freiburg’s reserve side before signing with the Crew in July, 2016.
Julian Büscher (DC United) The 23 year-old German came up in the VfL Bochum youth system, and played a handful of games for SC Preußen Münster and Sportfreunde Lotte before coming to the U.S. to attend Syracuse University.
Jared Jeffrey (DC United) The Texan played in 87 matches with 1.FSV Mainz reserve side between 2010 and 2013.
DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo) The 34 year-old left winger has earned 124 U.S. caps during a career that has been played in the Netherlands, England, Scotland, Germany and Mexico in addition to his time in MLS. Beasley spent the 2010/2011 season with first division side Hannover 96, led on the field by American international Steve Cherundolo, but Beasley only featured in four matches before heading to Mexico the next season and effectively re-vitalizing his career at Puebla.
Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo) The American international played in Germany with Eintracht Frankfurt between 2009 and 2012. Limited by injuries, Clark only played in 18 competitive matches for Die Adler.
Jelle Van Damme (LA Galaxy) The Belgian played in eight matches with Werder Bremen during the 2005/2006 season, scoring a goal.
Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy) The current dean of Bundesliga players in MLS, the longtime Schalke midfielder came to MLS in 2014 to play with the New England Revolution and played last season with the Colorado Rapids. The 35 year-old began his career began his professional career with Bayer Leverkusen and had two stints with Eintracht Frankfurt before joining Schalke in 2007. He also has earned 68 international caps for the USMNT despite not making his senior international debut until 2010.
Vadim Sergeievich Demidov (Minnesota United) The Riga-born Norwegian international will make his MLS debut this season. The central defender played in five matches for Eintracht Frankfurt a few years back,
Luis Robles (NY Red Bulls) The goalkeeper from Arizona played for 1.FC Kaiserslautern and Karlsruher SC between 2007 and 2012 after attending the University of Portland. The 32 year-old has been the Red Bulls #1 keeper in recent years, and has featured in 140 matches for the New York side.
Sal Zizzo (NY Red Bulls) A native of San Diego, the former UCLA Bruin played for Hannover reserves and eight matches with the 96er’s senior squad, although an ACL injury caused him to miss the entire 2009/2010 season after debuting with the first team in May, 2008.
Alexander Ring (NYCFC) A Finn who grew up in Bonn, Ring is a relatively recent arrival in MLS from Germany. The midfielder came to Germany on a loan deal with Borussia Mönchengladbach in January, 2012 after playing professionally in Finland. A year and a half stint with the Foals saw Ring move to 1.FC Kaiserslautern, where he played for three and a half years before signing with NYCFC on January 31.
Fabian Herbers (Philadelphia Union) The 23 year-old attacker was born in Ahaus, Germany, near the Netherlands border, and played in the youth system of Preussen Munter (and across the border with FC Twente) before beginning his college career at Creighton University.
Fafa Picault (Philadelphia Union) The New York born winger/forward played from 2015-2017, for FC Stl Pauli, featuring in 22 matches for the Hamburg club and scoring four goals.
Giliano Wijnaldum (Philadelphia Union) The Dutchman played for VfL Bochum last season.
Jahmir Hyka (San Jose Earthquakes) The Albanian midfielder played for Mainz between 2008-2010, playing his first season with the Karneval club in Bundesliga 2 and stayed with the team when they returned to Germany’s first division.
Florian Jungwirth (San Jose Earthquakes) The 28 year-old German was with SV Darmstadt 98 for two full seasons and competed with the club during the just completed Hinrunde. He has also been with 1860 Munich reserves, Bochum’s reserves and played in almost 100 matches with Dynamo Dresden.
Bennie Feilhaber (Sporting KC) The Brazilian-born American international began his professional career with Hamburger SV after playing at UCLA. Feilhaber featured in nine senior squad matches for the red-shorts in 2006/2007 after playing in 49 games for the Hamburg reserves.
Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) The American international with 128 caps played in 81 matches in all competitions for Borussia Mönchengladbach between 2008 and 2011.
Armando Cooper (Toronto FC) The Panamanian played seven matches with FC St. Pauli in 2015.
Marcel de Jong (Vancouver Whitecaps) The Canadian veteran played for FC Augsburg between 2010-2015, appearing in 67 league matches and helping the club earn promotion to Germany’s top division.