Who are the Americans playing in LaLiga 2022/23? Musah, Dest, De la Torre...
In recent years, the number of US players in Spain’s top tier has begun to grow. This year, three LaLiga clubs have an American in their first-team squad.
Since goalkeeper Kasey Keller became the first American to play in LaLiga in 1999, the Spanish top flight hasn’t exactly witnessed an influx of talent from the States - more of an intermittent trickle. That is starting to change, though.
Until 2017, only three US-qualified players had appeared in the league: Keller for Rayo Vallecano, Jozy Altidore for Villarreal and Oguchi Onyewu for Málaga. In the past five years, however, a further six have played in LaLiga: Shaq Moore at Levante, Yunus Musah at Valencia, Sergiño Dest at Barcelona, Matthew Hoppe at Real Mallorca, Matt Miazga at Alavés and Luca Koleosho at Espanyol. A seventh, Luca de la Torre, is preparing for his Primera División debut for Celta Vigo this weekend.
De la Torre, Dest and Musah are the three Americans who are part of a LaLiga first-team squad going into 2022/23 - although that trio could well be reduced to a duo by the end of the summer transfer window.
LaLiga’s US players this season:
De la Torre
Born in Calfornia to a Spanish father and an American mother, De la Torre emerged from the Fulham youth setup in 2016, making 14 appearances for the Londoners before moving to Dutch club Heracles Almelo in 2020. In the Eredivisie, the 24-year-old was a fixture in a side that finished an eminently respectable ninth in 2020/21, only to drop out of the top flight last term. The midfielder, who has been capped 11 times by the USMNT, has joined Celta for a reported €2m ($2.1m), signing a four-year contract at Balaídos.
Bought from Ajax in a deal worth €26m ($26.7m) in 2020, Dest has made 72 appearances for Barcelona, starting for the Catalans in their 4-0 thumping of Athletic Club in the 2021 Copa del Rey final. However, the right-back has consistently been tipped for a move since Xavi Hernández arrived as head coach in November. Xavi appears less than convinced by the 21-year-old, and has left him out of the squad for Barça’s 2022/23 LaLiga bow against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday. Premier League pair Manchester United and Chelsea are among the clubs interested in signing Dest, who has won 17 caps for the USMNT since making his international debut in 2019.
Born in New York to Ghanaian parents, Musah spent seven years in the Arsenal youth academy before joining Valencia in 2019, at the age of 16. A year later, the midfielder was handed his first-team debut for Los Che, and he has quickly established himself as a regular at Mestalla. Still only 19, his tally of 61 LaLiga appearances is more than than any other American player has managed. He featured for Valencia in last season’s Copa del Rey final, but suffered the misfortune of missing the crucial spot-kick in a shootout defeat to Real Betis. Having grown up in England, Musah played for the Three Lions at several age-group levels, but declared for the US in 2021. He has been capped 19 times by the Stars and Stripes.
In addition to the threesome above, Koleosho and Real Sociedad’s Jonathan Gómez are two ‘B’-team players who have featured in their clubs’ first-team fold. However, while they are both eligible to represent the US, there is uncertainty over whether they will end up pledging their long-term allegiance to other nations.
At Espanyol, winger Koleosho made his first-team debut as a late substitute on the final day of LaLiga last season, and has been named in Los Pericos’ squad for their league opener against Celta this weekend. The 17-year-old has played for the US at age-group level, but also qualifies for Canada - among other nations - and received his first call-up to the senior Canadian squad in May. He didn’t play, though, and hasn’t made a final decision on his allegiance, ESPN reported earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Gómez is yet to play for the first team at La Real, but has been a part of the senior matchday squad in LaLiga. The 18-year-old left-back, who has dual US-Mexican citizenship, made his USMNT debut in a friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina in December, but accepted a call-up by Mexico five months later and appeared for El Tri in a friendly draw with Guatemala.
Under FIFA rules, players can switch nationality as long as they have not represented a country at full international level in a competitive match. The governing body also allows players under 21 to change their allegiance if they have made no more than three competitive appearances for a national team.