December 17, 2017

Werder Bremen to Sign 17 Year-old American Josh Sargent

Both Werder Bremen and American youth international Josh Sargent have announced that the 17 year-old will sign with the north German Bundesliga in February, when Sargent turns 18 years old and is eligible to sign a contract.  The announcements continues the trend of young Americans forgoing college soccer to sign with German clubs.

Sargent is expected to arrive in Bremen before his February 20th birthday, but first he will be involved in the USMNT’s effort in the upcoming October FIFA U17 World Cup in India.  The 5’11” striker has already played i.n 30 matchs for the US U17s since 2016, scoring 18 times.  He scored five times for the U17s in the CONCACAF U17 Championship back in April, including two goals in a win over the USMNT’s archrivals Mexico, and two days later was called up to the U.S. U20 side, scoring four goals in four matches, including two in the May matchup with Ecuador that made him the y0ungest-ever goalscorer for the American U20s.  He’s trialed with MLS’ side Sporting Kansas City, as well as PSV Eindhoven and FC Schalke, but chose Werder Bremen, where the interest has been even before his international fireworks.

Bremen youth manager Tim Steidten noted

We’ve tracked Joshua for a long time, and therefore it wasn’t a big surprise to us that he made himself known internationally through remarkable performances.  He’s among the most promising players of his age group worldwide.  Josh can get to know the club and the city. He will train with our U23 team, and play matches from the summer on

For his part, Sargent has appreciated Werder Bremen’s attention

I am already looking forward to the coming year and the new sporting challenge at Bremen.  They made great efforts to get me, and in the past have shown they can help young talents like me to an ideal start to their professional career.  Therefore, the decision to continue my career in Bremen was not difficult

Sargent certainly brings pedigree to Werder Bremen.  Both of his parents played college soccer, as is the case with Dortmund’s American teenage phenom Christian Pulisic. The red-headed Missourian has been a member of the prestigious  St. Louis Scott Gallagher Soccer Club, which has won a record eight Missouri club state championships and has alumni such as former New England Revolution stars Taylor Twellman and Pat Noonan, along with current Fulham and USMNT backliner Tim Ream, who attended the same high school as Sargent (St. Dominic’s in the O’Fallon, MO suburb of St. Louis) before Sargent joined the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida —  the same academy that produces so many professionals, including Borussia Dortmund’s Neven Subotic.  Growing up in the soccer-mad St. Louis area doesn’t hurt either — although the Midwestern city is no longer THE focal point of American soccer, it’s rich past includes five St. Louisans in the starting USMNT lineup that unbelievably beat England 1-0 in the 1950 World Cup and has contributed such starts as USWNT defender Becky Sauerbrunn (131 caps), Seattle Soundeers forward Wil Bruin and Hertha Berlin’s Bosnian-American striker Vedad Ibisevic, who played high school and youth soccer in St. Louis, as well as a being named Freshman of the Year while at St. Louis University.

Germany is THE place to go for young Americans wanting to grow their game.  With the success of German academies and the focus on youth development, youngsters such as Pulisic, Schalke’s Weston McKennie and Haji Wright and others in all divisions of German soccer are finding the way to success.  With the impact of German-American players such as Fabian Johnson, John Anthony Brooks and Timmy Chandler both for club and the USMNT, along with the American-born players such as Pulisic and Hamburg’s Bobby Wood, Germany is a welcome haven for American players.  And beginning German training at a pre-college age is important, as Justin Rose of the German Soccer Experience has noted — there is more room to grow and play with U17 and U19 club squads, for example, than for a player that’s played in college and is already 21 or 22 years old.

Werder Bremen are no strangers to courting American players.  Two years ago, during winter break, American international Jordan Morris trialed with the club, playing in a preseason friendly, before deciding to sign his first professional contract with his hometown Seattle Sounders.  Defender Trevor Zwetsloot is an American (with dual Dutch nationality) who already plays for Bremen’s U19s and came up through the IMG Academy.  Another American graduate of the IMG Academy,  forward Isiah Young, has gone from Werder Bremen’s U19 to having featured in six 3 Liga matches so far this season with the green-whites reserve side, while yet another IMG Academy forward, Aron Jóhannsson, has been with Werder since August, 2015, although injury has curtailed the playing time of the American international.  Sargent should feel very comfortable in the Werder Bremen family.

Until then, though Sargent says that

My full concentration is first and foremost on the World Cup and the time I have left in Missouri.  But I am really looking forward to next year and the new challenge in Bremen. Werder made a huge effort with me and they have always shown in the past that they give young players like myself an ideal introduction to professional football. That meant that my decision to continue my career in Bremen was not a hard one to make

Commentary

The news of Sargent’s imminent signing with Werder Bremen has been big news in the St. Louis, MO area.  It has been reported in the local St. Louis Post-Dispatch as well as KMOX, the 50,000 clear channel AM radio station whose signal travels throughout the country, Canada and Mexico at night, as well as local TV stations.  Nationally, his exploits have been chronicled on Fox, the Washington Post, Soccer America,and Sports Illustrated, among many others.  His signing was big news on the most recent episode of the Radio Free Weser podcast of news and views of all things Werder Bremen — and it was difficult for co-host Patrick Davey, who grew up in the St. Louis area, to curb his enthusiasm for the upcoming signing — although he did warn fans not to expect to see Sargent trotting out for Werder Bremen’s senior side anytime soon.

Those interested in following Sargent’s exploits in the coming months can tune in the aforementioned RFW pod, as well as checking the USSF site.  If the teenager gets any playing time with the Werder reserves side in 3 Liga, highlights of 3. Liga matches are shown on the Sportschau 3 Liga channel on YouTube.  For decades, Americans have had success playing in Germany  and we wish Josh Sargent the best of luck to become yet another.

For more on the unique history of St. Louis soccer, which goes back to the earliest days of the 20th century, check out Dave Lange’s excellent S0ccer Made in St. Louis.

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Gerry Wittmann

Gerry is the founder of the Bundesliga Fanatic. Besides loving German football, he also enjoys the NBA, collecting jerseys and LPs, his pets and wishes he had more time for fishing, bicycling and learning the bass guitar.

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