Why Playing Overseas Could Change an Athlete’s Life

On a warm June night in London, Chelsea FC’s American wonderkid Christian Pulisic pounced on a sloppy piece of defending from Manchester City at midfield. In a flash, he was gone. He dummied a defender, sprung himself loose, took a moment to gather himself, and cooly slotted the ball past City’s keeper to his far post.

Elsewhere, in Germany, on a much chillier February evening, Borussia’s Dortmund 17-year-old American Gio Reyna made history when he was subbed on in the 67th minute, becoming the third-youngest player ever to appear in a knockout game of the Champion’s League, Europe’s biggest soccer club competition. Ten minutes later, he slotted a perfectly-weighted through ball into the path of teammate, and fellow teenager, Erling Haaland. Haaland buried it, and Borussia Dortmund beat Paris St. Germain in one of 2020’s most memorable soccer games.

Weston McKennie is starring for Italian soccer giants Juventus, taking the field alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. Shalke 04’s Matthew Hoppe recently became the first American to score a hat trick in the Bundesliga, Germany’s domestic league. All around the world, Americans are becoming stars, and despite missing the World Cup in 2018, the future looks bright for American soccer.

It’s important to remember something, though: Pulisic scoring in the Premier League didn’t just happen overnight. Gio Reyna didn’t just wake up with the ability to deliver the perfect pass, with all the lights and eyes on him. They both worked tirelessly to cultivate that level of talent, by working the hardest, challenging themselves every way that they could, and most importantly…they were seen.

Soccer clubs like Chelsea FC and Juventus have scouts all over the world, but it’s as much on the athletes to be in the right places at the right times, and capitalizing on the opportunities presented to them. That’s why organizations like the International Development Academy can be so instrumental for young soccer players’ development. They offer playing and scouting opportunities overseas, especially in Europe, which can alter the trajectory of any athlete. From the upcoming Surf Cup International tournament to once-in-a-lifetime summer camps in Spain and England, IDA knows how important it is to give athletes a platform to be discovered.

Take Christian Pulisic, for example. After impressing Borussia Dortmund scouts at an U17 US soccer match, he and his father opted to move to Germany, in large part because of Dortmund’s willingness to offer him a European Union passport through his grandfather, who was born in Croatia.

And that was a game changer for him.

“As a result of my dual citizenship, I’ve been able to play in Europe, training at the Dortmund academy, since I was 16,” Pulisic explained to the Bundesliga’s official site. “Without it, I would have had to wait until I was 18. And, for a soccer player, those years are everything. From a developmental perspective, it’s almost like this sweet spot, where a player’s growth and skill sort of intersect, in just the right way – where a player can make their biggest leap in development by far.”

While not everyone will have a Croatian grandfather, Pulisic and his family made his development a priority for him, and for his family. That meant looking everywhere for opportunities to be seen…including across the ocean. And once he was seen, the rest was history.

Now, there is and will only ever be one Christian Pulisic; unique players arise from unique circumstances. But at the same time, every athlete should ask themselves: what are they doing to be seen? Social media and YouTube clips are one thing, but can you impress the right people at the right time?

The best athletes dedicate themselves to their sport, and will pursue every opportunity they can through it. That’s why getting involved in soccer overseas can be so beneficial. The Surf Cup International is a truly unique experience that goes beyond the pitch, and will make memories that last way longer than a week in November. To get involved, contact tournament director Jordi Ganau for more information, and start planning your tournament experience in Spain.”