Another member of the United States men’s national team, midfielder Weston McKennie, is reportedly heading to Leeds United.
Leeds is finalizing a deal with Juventus to bring McKennie to the English Premier League, where he’ll join forces with USMNT captain Tyler Adams, fellow U.S. teammate Brenden Aaronson and American manager Jesse Marsch. Pending a medical, the transfer could be completed Sunday.
And crucially, McKennie is making the move with little downside. It is, according to multiple reports, an initial loan deal that gives Leeds the option to buy McKennie permanently this summer.
The loan fee is reportedly $1.3 million. The eventual transfer fee would be upward of $35 million, which Leeds would presumably pay if McKennie, 24, performs well and keeps them in the Premier League, but presumably wouldn’t pay if they get relegated.
Leeds currently sits in 15th out of 20 teams in the Premier League, with four wins in 19 games, just one point above the relegation zone. The bottom three teams at the end of the EPL season are relegated to the second-tier Championship. The downside of McKennie’s move, if it were a simple permanent transfer, would have been that three key USMNT players were in danger of spending prime years together in a second division.
The exact terms of the actual deal have not been disclosed, but Leeds’ eventual purchase is likely, either contractually or implicitly, contingent on the club staying in the top flight. And the downside is therefore limited. If Leeds go down, McKennie and Juventus could find another buyer this summer.
It is also a win for cash-strapped Juventus. McKennie’s current contract runs through the end of the 2024-25 season. Juve made the move to sell him after it received a 15-point penalty over its recent transfer activity. The club was found to have made fraudulent accounting maneuvers — a result and now an aggravator of its financial struggles.
McKennie has played a key role, albeit a fluctuating one, for Juventus over the past three seasons. He has made 13 Serie A starts and has a goal and an assist in 2022-23. He made 15 starts during the 2021-22 season before suffering a foot injury.
Overall, McKennie has scored nine goals in his three seasons at the legendary Italian club. He joined Juve after spending four seasons with Schalke in the Bundesliga.
Leeds solidifies itself as America’s EPL team
In England, the Texas-born McKennie will reunite with Aaronson and Adams. All played key midfield roles for the U.S. in its four games at the 2022 World Cup. McKennie and Adams started all four matches while Aaronson was one of the first players off the bench throughout the tournament.
Aaronson has started every EPL game for Leeds while Adams has started all but two. McKennie will likely slot into the starting lineup sooner rather than later, and could complete an all-American three-man midfield on some occasions.
He’ll also strengthen an already-strong friendship with Adams. The two have known each other for over a decade, and made their USMNT debuts in November 2017. Ahead of the World Cup, at a media event in Cincinnati, McKennie crashed Adams’ session and posed as a reporter. McKennie asked him: “What position do you find yourself most comfortable in? The 6 role? The 8 role?”
“Which one do you think, coach?” Adams shot back with a smile.
“I mean,” McKennie said, “I mean, I like when you play 6 and run for me.” Both burst into laughter.
And they’ll be coached, at least for now, by Marsch, the most accomplished American coach in European soccer; and his newly hired American assistant, Chris Armas.
Marsch is on an increasingly hot seat, but an FA Cup win on Saturday should keep him in the job until at least February.
The club is also minority-owned by the York family and 49ers Enterprises, the owners of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.
They are not quite Fulhamerica. Fulham will retain the record for American representation on a single Premier League roster. The London club employed Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride, Kasey Keller and Eddie Johnson during the 2007-08 season. Leeds now moves into joint-second place alongside 2012-13 Stoke City.
But never has a single top-flight European club had three prime-age USMNT stars, and a fourth starter who went to an American high school and college (Jack Harrison), and an American head coach, and an American assistant coach, and American owners.
Leeds, at this potentially fleeting moment, is America’s team.