The eyes of soccer fans will be focused on Germany this weekend as the Bundesliga becomes the first major league in the world to resume play since the beginning of the global health pandemic.
While the experience will certainly be unique – matches played in empty stadiums is typically the exception and not the rule – the significance of the results are real, particularly for current USMNT players.
Four are part of teams in a position to fight for the Bundesliga title along with spots in European competition, while a trio are at the bottom end looking to stave off relegation.
Here’s a quick primer on where they were before the break and what lies ahead.
Weston McKennie; Schalke, Gio Reyna; Borussia Dortmund (Revier Derby - Saturday, 9:30 a.m. ET – FS1, Fox Deportes)
The highlight of the reopening comes in the form of the “mother of all derbies” between Dortmund and Schalke, and for U.S. fans the eyes will be on a pair of talented youngsters.
Schalke had been on a massive skid, going winless in their last seven matches and will be fighting to keep sixth place and the last spot for entry into European competition. Weston McKennie is a regular for manager and former U.S. international David Wagner, although his spot on the field has varied throughout his tenure with Die Knappen.
WATCH: Weston McKennie’s Rise at Schalke
For Dortmund, the Bundesliga crown is within reach as they sit in second place and four points off Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich. Seventeen-year old Gio Reyna was turning heads prior to the halt in proceedings – including this stunner in the DFB Pokal - and had been poised to earn his first call up to the MNT.
John Brooks and Uly Llanez; Wolfsburg (at Augsburg - Saturday, 9:30 a.m. ET on FOX Soccer+)
Wolfsburg are near the top of a cluster of teams positioned 6-10 in the table who will duke it out for a place in the Europa League next season, now just one point behind Schalke. They were unbeaten in six league matches before the break, with John Brooks having reclaimed a starting role in central defense.
Meantime, Uly Llanez – who debuted with the USMNT in January and scored the game-winner against Consta Rica. The Lynwood, Calif. product took another step last month when he was promoted to the first team, but Wolfsburg manager Oliver Glasner confirmed this week that the 19-year-old will not dress in Saturday’s return to league football. Still with work to do and a hectic schedule ahead, Llanez will aim to make his Bundesliga debut in one of the Wolves’ nine remaining matches.
Tyler Adams; RB Leipzig (vs. Freiburg – Saturday, 9:30 a.m. ET on FS2, TUND)
Adams had just begun to remove the rust of his lengthy layoff when play was suspended. Having only appeared in five matches since last May – four of them in 2020 – he is still looking to establish himself in the squad. Leipzig returned to play wedged in the middle of the top five teams, only five points behind league leaders Bayern Munich.
With nine matches to play, there’s still time for Die Rotten Bullen to make up ground for the league title while stay focused on securing a berth in next season’s Champions League.
WATCH: Tyler Adams Path from Red Bull New York to RB Leipzig
Alfredo Morales, Zack Steffen; Fortuna Düsseldorf (vs. Paderborn – Saturday at 9:30 a.m. ET on Fox Soccer Match Pass)
At the other end of the table, Fortuna Düsseldorf sit in 16th place (aka the relegation playoff spot) and have a chance to gain a little daylight when they face last-place Paderborn.
Zack Steffen has been hampered by injuries since the winter break and continues to be sidelined, while Alfredo Morales remains a regular in the center of the park when healthy.
Josh Sargent; Werder Bremen (vs. Bayer Leverkusen - Monday, 2:30 p.m. ET on FS2)
Bremen sit in a precarious spot, four points behind Dusseldorf, but still with a game in hand. Both victories and goals have been in short supply, with the club earning only one win in the new year.
For young striker Josh Sargent this may also present an opportunity, particularly with the condensed schedule. While often used as a sub, the 20-year-old scored in the team’s last outing after earning a spot in the first XI. They face a tough challenge at the start, hosting fifth-place Bayer Leverkusen.