Steve Cherundolo Paved the Way for Americans at Hannover 96

Which city in the world counts an American soccer player as its “Mayor”? Something of a rarity in professional sports these days, Steve Cherundolo played his entire 16-season professional career for Die Roten, where the three-time World Cup veteran’s name is spoken with reverence.

 

 


WATCH: A Tour of Hannover with Mayor Steve Cherundolo

 

 

 

After a season with the University of Portland, the right back moved to the Second Bundesliga side as a 19-year-old in 1999 and earned his first USMNT appearance that fall in a 2-2 draw with Jamaica. Cherundolo went on to establish himself at right back the next season, and eventually helped the club to win the league title in 2001-02 and promotion to the top-flight for the first time since 1989.

 

Always a steady contributor at right back, Cherundolo was named club captain prior to the 2010-11 season, a campaign in which the Die Roten achieved a fourth-place finish – it’s best all-time in the Bundesliga. Towards the end of the 2012-13 campaign, he set the club record for Bundesliga appearances and also became the league’s longest-serving player.

 

WATCH: Cherundolo Shows Off HDI Arena

 

 

After struggling to recover from a long-term knee injury, Cherundolo announced his retirement in 2014. He ended his career having made 423 appearances across all competitions – a record among U.S. players with a foreign club which may never be broken. Cherundolo made 370 league appearances for Hannover and 302 in the first Bundesliga.

 

Upon retirement, Cherundolo immediately moved into the coaching ranks, working with the club’s amateur team, and Academy sides, and briefly served as a first-team assistant.

  

WATCH: Hannover Pays Tribute to Steve Cherundolo

 

 

With Cherundolo’s name so closely associated with the club, it will perhaps surprise that he is one of a half-dozen Americans to play for the first team, including a pair of World Cup teammates.

 

One of his partners at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Clint Mathis moved from the MetroStars in 2004 and spent two seasons at the HDI-Arena. Mathis scored on his debut for Hannover – a dazzling run threading through defenders – to help Hamburg to a 3-2 victory on Feb. 1, 2004. The goal kicked off a hot start to his Hannover tenure, with Mathis scoring four goals in his first five matches, including a memorable volley a 3-1 victory against Hansa Rostock three weeks later.

 

 

 



WATCH: Mathis Volleys Home vs. Hansa Rostock

 

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Cherundolo’s teammate from three World Cup squads, DaMarcus Beasley also had a one-year stint with the club during the 2010-11 campaign.

 

On loan from Borussia Dortmund for the 2001-02 season, Conor Casey helped Hannover achieve promotion to the Bundesliga by scoring seven goals in 19 games and continued with the club during their next two seasons in the top-flight.

 

Bobby Wood also had a one-year loan spell in 2018, tallying three goals in 20 appearances, including a brace in a 3-1 win against the Cherundolo-coached VfB Stuttgart side on Oct. 10, 2018.

 

 

 

WATCH: Wood Heads Two Home vs. Stuttgart in 2018

 

 

Sal Zizzo left college early in 2007 to sign in Germany. A knee injury kept him out of the 2009-10 season, and he ended his three-year spell with eight appearances for the first team while making an impact with the reserves. 

Most recently, 2019 U-20 World Cup striker Sebastian Soto broke through with the Hannover first team last season and is waiting in the wings with the USMNT.