A new Major League Soccer season coming brings the return of top American talents in action. Many of these are young players ready to make a name for themsevles. In the process, they can attract the eyes of scouts from abroad, particularly in Europe.

That jump from MLS players going to Europe is happening with more frequency than ever before. According to AS, no league in the Americas sends more players to Europe than MLS. Moreover, a number of those are American internationals.

Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson and his brother Paxten, Matt Turner, Gabriel Slonina, Ricardo Pepi and Daryl Dike are just a taste of the USMNT members now in Europe after time in MLS.

Each season, more players throw their name into the rumor mill to join the ranks of Americans to jump from MLS clubs to Europe. Here are a few of those to watch as the 2023 MLS season rolls around.

Americans that could switch to clubs in Europe soon

1. Brandon Vazquez

Brandon Vazquez of FC Cincinnati exploded last year with 18 league goals. In all competitions, he pocketed 19. Like many of the world’s best strikers, Vazquez shines off the ball. He can find the pockets of space behind defenses to make incisive runs. Having pace like Vazquez helps in that regard.

Also, he can win aerial duels at 6’2. Upon earning his first USMNT call-up in friendly games against Serbia, Vazquez used that heading ability to put the USMNT in front.

Vazquez, who is a dual international with Mexico, has potential to move to Liga MX. He has the potential and talent to move to a club in Europe. Then, he can grow to potentially join a bigger club in Europe’s top leagues.

2. Cade Cowell

Cade Cowell of the San Jose Earthquakes is cunning and guile. While Cowell has speed, he is more well-known for his ability on the ball. At times, San Jose deploys Cowell as a false nine, someone that can hold up play but then also distribute. Yet, his most comfortably position is left wing. Body feints are enough to get past many MLS defenders on the flank, allowing Cowell to whip the ball in.

The one thing Cowell is missing in his current repertoire is output. At the age of 19, Cowell already has 80 appearances in MLS play. Yet, he only has nine goals and nine assists over those 80 appearances.

International stints already showed what Cowell is capabale of. He played a role in the CONCACAF U-20 tournament that the United States won. Cowell helped the United States qualify for the 2023 U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Summer Olympics with that performance. If he can add goals to his game that is already enjoyable to watch, there is no reason for clubs in Europe to avoid him. Then, those international tournaments can show what Cowell can do in pressure situations.

3. Jalen Neal

In the 2023 season, Jalen Neal will make his LA Galaxy debut. Or, at least, his MLS debut. Neal, a homegrown talent for the LA Galaxy, spent the previous season with LA Galaxy 2 in the USL Championship. He made 21 appearances for the middling side.

Despite any club struggles, Neal impressed enough to get a call-up to the national team in the January 2023 camp.

A raw talent, Neal has a reputation for being strong on the ball. Yet, he is not reckless when establishing himself as a hard-nosed defender. Few position pick up bookings as often as centerback. Neal only has five in his professional career. If he can continue to grow in confidence and ability with LA Galaxy in MLS against better clubs, he could be a sleeper choice among Americans moving to Europe.

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4. John Tolkin

Since Tolkin came on the scene in a home league match against Orlando City in 2021, he has been the left-sided fullback that everyone in Europe will be salivating about. As is standard with the Red Bull philosphy, Tolkin’s operation is very much based around pressing. That pressing and getting forward allowed Tolkin to score some key goals. For example, his only two goals in MLS play over two seasons were both winning scores in one-goal games.

He links up well on the attack, and his run-back defense is strong. His first cap in the US January friendly against Colombia showed why he’s on the radar very soon. As a starter, he played over 70 minutes, preventing meaningful chances from Colombia. The visitors took 12 shots, but Tolkin and the other defenders only allowed one of those to be on target.

New York Red Bulls has a tendency to send Americans to clubs in Europe. Tolkin has potential to be the next name on that list.

5. Dejuan Jones

Dejuan Jones of the New England Revolution has also shown why he is a fullback capable of matching up against different forwards and wingers for these past few seasons in MLS. In 2021, he played 31 of 34 games when New England set the record for most points in a single season.

Currently, he is in Bruce Arena’s plans for the 2023 season. However, Dejuan Jones’s ability checks a number of boxes for sides in Europe. Offensive stats do not necessarily jump off the page. At 98 regular season appearances with New England, Jones has just five goals and 10 assists. Still, he is a defender. A solid build at just under six-feet tall can block out many players, particularly on the wing. Ability to turn that defense into starting offense can go a long way in fast-paced leagues in Europe.

When could these move happen?

The timetable for moves varies. The winter transfer window in Europe is over, and the MLS season starting in late February prevents those transfers. Also, the summer transfer window is in the middle of the MLS season. Therefore, any moves for these five names could occur in the middle of the season or after.

Matt Turner’s move to Arsenal finalized in February 2022. However, he departed New England in the summer. Gabriel Slonina was the opposite. Chelsea acquired the goalkeeper in the summer of 2022. However, the Blues loaned Slonina back to Chicago for the remainder of the 2022 MLS campaign. So, Slonina joined the Stamford Bridge outfit in the middle of Chelsea’s season.


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