Questions and answers about Julian Green, the 18-year-old German-American forward for Bayern Munich who on Tuesday pledged his allegiance to the U.S. national team …
1. Who is this kid?
He was born in Tampa, Fla., to an American father and German mother and moved to Germany when he was 2. By virtue of his birth country — and his father’s nationality — he is American. He rose through the Bayern system, scoring 10 goals for the under-19 squad in 2012-13 and 15 in 21 matches this season for the club’s second team, which competes in the Regionalliga (fourth division). He is not a pure striker. Rather, according to Bayern’s technical staff, he can play wide in the attack or as a forward.
“It means a lot to us because this is one of the biggest talents coming through European football right now,” Coach Juergen Klinsmann said.
2. Whoa, Klinsi. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Has he even played for Bayern Munich’s first team?
Not in a Bundesliga match. He was named to the game-day roster once this season and has served most of his time in the Regionalliga. Green did, however, take the field for the final few minutes of an UEFA Champions League match at CSKA Moscow in November. He traveled to Morocco for the FIFA Club World Cup in December but did not play. During the winter break, he scored in a pair of friendlies in the Middle East.
3. Has he already represented Germany in official competition?
Yes. In U-19 European Championship qualifiers last fall (three appearances totaling 98 minutes with two assists). But because he was a citizen of both Germany and the United States at the time of his initial international appearance, he meets FIFA’s guidelines to switch affiliations.
4. Once he switches, he cannot go back, correct?
Correct. The process will take a few weeks, and when the paperwork is complete and FIFA stamps approval, he will become exclusively a U.S. player.
5. Why switch to the United States when he could possibly play for a world power and represent a country where he grew up?
Every individual with multi-nationalities is different. In the past — and, to this day, for many players around the world — the allure of competing in a World Cup when other options were all but closed trumped any emotional attachments. It happens regularly in women’s soccer — U.S. players who are not up to the American standard utilize dual nationality to suit up for, say, Mexico. It’s also common in various Olympic sports. But Green is unique because of his age and because, at his current trajectory, he could have remained in the German mix. Instead, he chose America.
“I was born in Florida and my father still lives there, so I have deep roots in the U.S. I’m very proud to be representing the United States. … A big part of the decision was the experience I had in Frankfurt [during a U.S. camp early this month]. All the players were super nice and welcomed me from the beginning. Clint Dempsey gave me a jersey with my name on it, and the way they supported me gave me a lot of belief. The coaches have shown a lot of trust in me, and now I hope to do everything I can to earn a spot on the World Cup roster.”
6. Has Green ever attended a long-term U.S. camp?
He worked with the U.S. under-18s, scoring in a 2012 friendly against the Netherlands, and was invited to the senior squad for workouts in Frankfurt ahead of the Ukraine friendly.
“We were in touch with him over a long stretch of time,” Klinsmann said. “We invited him to the game against Ukraine to train with us, to get to know the staff, to get to know hopefully his future teammates. I think he saw the work we are doing with the national team is outstanding work. He felt part of it from the first second on. He felt comfortable. He has the feeling that something very special is waiting for him. And we are not only looking at Julian for this summer’s World Cup; we’re looking into the future with the Gold Cups, with the Olympics coming up, to the next World Cup” in 2018.
7. Did Bayern Munich have a say in Green’s decision?
Bayern did not have a say — it’s the player’s decision — but it did seem to give its blessing.
“They were a big part of the process because, for Julian, it is very important that he is supported by his club,” Klinsmann said. “And this is one of the biggest clubs in the world. When he makes a decision like that, it involves more traveling in the future and difficult timelines, so it was important the club was on the same page. We really want to thank Bayern Munich and their [chairman], Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, [sport director] Matthias Sammer and especially his coach, Pep Guardiola. I am in touch with Pep over the last two or three years. It’s great to know the club is behind the decision of Julian. For me, in this case, I get to get more reconnected with Bayern again, which I left four years ago [as head coach] in a little bit of an argument, to say the least. Those things are past and we are thrilled we have a player of his magnitude.”
8. So now what?
Await FIFA’s approval, which should not take long. Green is scheduled to report to U.S. camp ahead of the Mexico friendly April 2 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Rest assured, if he is eligible by then, he will play.
9. Okay, so he’ll probably play in a friendly and Bayern Munich holds him in high regard. But can he help the U.S. team right now?
Think long term. He is, after all, only a teenager. And he has played in only a few first-team club matches. And he has yet to go through the rigors of national team camps and tournaments. In other words, don’t expect him to replace Jozy Altidore or Aron Johannsson this summer.
10. But Klinsmann has at least got to name him to the World Cup roster, right?
Maybe. Klinsmann has several seasoned forwards: Altidore, Johannsson, Eddie Johnson and, if necessary, midfielders Landon Donovan and Dempsey. Green would benefit from the World Cup experience, even if he does not play. But Klinsmann might not feel he can afford to take along players just for the experience of sitting on the bench. At the 2010 World Cup, all but two U.S. field players (Clarence Goodson and Jonathan Spector) logged minutes over the four matches. So while a 23-man roster seems large — 20 field players and three goalkeepers — anyone chosen must be equipped to contribute. Is Green ready? The Mexico match would help provide an answer.
Video of goal in winter friendly: