While fans of other popular sports in the United States might argue otherwise, nothing tops the passion for the ‘beautiful game’ around the globe, which is often what leads American soccer players to try their luck overseas.
Despite continuing to boom and expand in the United States, many players feel that to genuinely expand their horizons, moving across the pond to Europe is essential to their careers. After all, Europe is where the biggest and most prestigious club sides are located.
Furthermore, many of the most high-profile club competitions are based in Europe, which also makes them amongst the most popular soccer competitions for betting. Asiabet’s experts have listed the best sites for sports betting, rating and reviewing the top sportsbooks around, saving us time and effort so we can quickly find everything to suit our wagering needs.
Moving abroad might always be regarded as a gamble, yet these New Jersey soccer icons donned their cleats and tested themselves against the best in the business.
New Jersey Soccer Pathfinders
As the current United States men’s national soccer team head coach, Gregg Berhalter has enjoyed an accomplished career in the professional game. His adventures in Europe came after the USA 1994 World Cup, which proved to be a springboard for many of his compatriots.
Born in Englewood, NJ, Berhalter was an imposing central defender and spent 15 years in Europe. In the Netherlands he represented Zwolle, Sparta Rotterdam and Cambuur Leeuwarden, followed by a season in England with Crystal Palace. Then came successful spells with Energie Cottbus and 1860 Munich in Germany.
When his playing career ended with LA Galaxy in the MLS, Berhalter began his coaching career with the club, then headed to Europe once more to become head coach at Hammarby IF in Sweden. He returned to the US in 2013 to manage Columbus Crew in the MLS, before accepting the USMNT job in 2018, a position he continues to hold.
Interestingly, the New Jersey journey of Berhalter began at Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, playing as the high school teammate of another American soccer icon of his generation. This was Claudio Reyna, born in Livingston, NJ, whose father was a former professional player from Argentina.
Reyna departed for Germany having caught attention as a collegiate player, representing Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg. But it was at Rangers in Scotland where he became a cult icon, hugely popular with the Glaswegian fans, before moving south to England. There he enjoyed several strong seasons with Sunderland and Manchester City.
Upon finishing his playing days with New York Red Bulls in 2007 and 2008, having also made 112 international appearances for the USMNT, it was inevitable Reyna would stay involved in the game he loves. Between 2013 and 2019, he was the Sporting Director of New York City FC, overseeing a period of great success, before holding the same role with MLS expansion side Austin FC until 2021.
Journeyman Jersey Icons
As the son of soccer coach Bob Bradley, it was always likely that Princeton-born Michael Bradley would also pursue a career in the beautiful game. His professional start came at NY/NJ MetroStars where dad was head coach at the time, before European teams began paying attention to his midfield qualities.
Around the same time as the senior Bradley was taking the reigns as USMNT head coach, the junior Bradley was departing for the Netherlands, where he spent two strong seasons with Heerenveen. Next came four years at Borussia Mönchengladbach in Germany, intermingled with loan spells at Aston Villa in England and Chievo in Italy.
That spell in Italy prompted a permanent move to the capital with AS Roma, before finally heading back to North America, joining MLS franchise Toronto FC in 2014. Bradley has remained at the Canadian club since then, eventually reuniting with his father in 2021, when he was appointed as head coach.
Born in Livingston, NJ, but raised in Florida, Jozy Altidore was destined for home in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft, picked up by NY/NJ MetroStars, who eventually became the New York Red Bulls. After impressing in the MLS, the powerful young striker soon attracted attention from a host of European teams.
Spanish side Villarreal paid roughly $10 million for the services of Altidore, a record fee for an American player at the time. He became the first US international to score in LaLiga, coming on as a late substitute against Athletic Bilbao in November 2008. However, regular match action became a struggle, as did a series of unfortunate minor injuries.
Amidst just 16 appearances for Villarreal over three seasons, Altidore was loaned to Hull City in England and Bursaspor in Turkey, before securing a permanent move to Dutch side AZ Alkmaar. The Eredivisie suited his game and over two excellent seasons, Altidore scored 31 goals in 41 games, helping them to win the KNVB Cup in 2012-13.
The following season and on the move again, Altidore was a runner-up with Sunderland in the English League Cup, spending just two seasons with the team before returning to the MLS in 2015 with Toronto FC. Flourishing once again, during eight seasons he scored 79 goals in 173 total appearances, won the MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield in 2017, and the CONCACAF Gold Cup with the USMNT in the same year. Altidore now plays for New England Revolution.
Cream of the Current NJ Crop
Hailing from Clifton, NJ, 26-year-old Matthew Miazga has represented several clubs on loan, since joining Chelsea in 2016. This has taken him to Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands, Nantes in France, Reading in England, and Anderlecht in Belgium. The central defender currently plays in Spain’s LaLiga with Deportivo Alavés.
Highly regarded as a great prospect for the future, 21-year-old Brenden Aaronson was born in Medford, NJ, establishing himself initially with Philadelphia Union in the MLS. Dubbed “The Medford Messi” for his playing style as an attacking midfielder, since 2021 he has become a key playmaker at Red Bull Salzburg in Austria.
Finally, from Park Ridge, NJ, 27-year-old goalkeeper Matt Turner is about to embark upon his own European adventure. Having excelled between the posts with New England Revolution since 2016, English side Arsenal announced a deal worth up to $10 million in February 2022. Turner will join the London club in July 2022, hopefully realizing ambitions as the latest New Jersey soccer talent making the move to Europe.