A remarkable draw for the UEFA Champions League saw the unlikely scenario of the ten participating Americans, nearly all of whom stand a strong chance to play, distributed across all eight groups in the competition.
Following the dramatic completion of this summer’s qualifying rounds, ten Americans on the first-team rosters for nine different teams entered Thursday’s UEFA draw, and a near miracle saw them spread evenly across groups.
While this did provide a bare minimum of Yank vs. Yank encounters – only Weston McKennie‘s Juventus and Josh Cohen‘s Maccabi Haifa will face off in Group H – it does mean that American fans can already set aside both Tuesday and Wednesday during the six game weeks to enjoy the spectacle.
With nearly a week left in the summer transfer window, the situation could change if either Sergiño Dest or Christian Pulisic heads out on loan as has been rumored for both players. Nevertheless, the historical spectacle is still worth a few moments of appreciation.
Since an in-depth break-down of each group containing Americans would stretch into the length of a novel, we’ll give a short mention of the groups, and save any further analysis for a later date, when any questions regarding player loans or transfers have been settled.
In Group A, Malik Tillman and James Sands, both of whom are forging names as Rangers FC heroes following their successful qualification campaign, will be optimistic of their chances to reach the knockout stage, as they drew Dutch champions Ajax, English team Liverpool, and Italian not-quite-powerhouse Napoli.
Owen Otasowie is by no means a starter for Club Brugge, but has begun to earn occasional minutes for the first team, meaning he could eventually suit up for their Group B games against Portuguese champions Porto, Spaniards Atlético Madrid, and German team Bayer Leverkusen.
For those American fans upset over FC Barcelona’s recent treatment of Sergiño Dest, the Blaugrana’s draw into Group C alongside FC Bayern, who have inflicted several embarrassing beatings upon the fallen Catalonians, will elicit hopes and dreams of future schadenfreude.
Whether Dest will remain at Bayern following the current transfer window remains to be seen, but if so, he will also face Inter Milan and Czech champions Viktoria Plzen in the group.
In Group D, Tim Chandler and the Europa League champions Eintracht Frankfurt will be hopeful of their chances to advance to the knockout round against Tottenham, Sporting and Olympique Marseille – none of whom enter the competition as reigning league champions in their respective countries.
The same can’t be said for Christian Pulisic and Chelsea, who are the lone non-Champions in Group E, although only AC Milan likely poses any threat, as opposed to relative minnows RB Salzburg and Dinamo Zagreb.
Cameron Carter-Vickers and Celtic will have a tough time in Group F against reigning Spanish and European champions Real Madrid, however will be hopeful of pulling off some surprises against RB Leipzig and Ukrainians Shakthar Donetsk.
Gio Reyna is once again coming back from injury, but figures to play a major role for Borussia Dortmund – if he can stay healthy – when they go up against Manchester City, Sevilla and FC Copenhagen in Group G.
Finally, Group H provides the only chance to see two Americans face off in group play, as Weston McKennie and Juventus will play a pair of games against Josh Cohen and Maccabi Haifa. Rounding out the group are French paper tigers PSG and Portuguese third-place team Benfica.
The games kick off early this time around, with the first round already on Sept. 6/7. Due to the November World Cup, all six group games will be played over an eight-week span, with the final games to be played on Nov. 1/2.
Champions League Group-Stage Draw
Group A: Ajax, Liverpool, Napoli, Rangers FC (James Sands, Malik Tillman)
Group B: Porto, Atlético Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge (Owen Otasowie)
Group C: FC Bayern, Barcelona (Sergiño Dest), Inter Milan, Viktoria Plzen
Group D: Eintracht Frankfurt (Tim Chandler), Tottenham, Sporting, Marselle
Group E: AC Milan, Chelsea (Christian Pulisic), RB Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb
Group F: Real Madrid, RB Leipzig, Shakthar Donetsk, Celtic (Cameron Carter-Vickers)
Group G: Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund (Gio Reyna), FC Copenhagen
Group H: PSG, Juventus (Weston McKennie), Benfica, Maccabi Haifa (Josh Cohen)