Weston McKennie has reportedly completed the move to Leeds, a win for all parties and a USMNT bye
Another member of the United States men’s national team, midfielder Weston McKennie, is reportedly joining Leeds United.
Leeds strike a deal with Juventus to bring McKennie into the English Premier League, where he will join USMNT captain Tyler Adams, his USA team-mate Brenden Aaronson and America manager Jesse Marsch. Pending a medical check-up, the transfer could be completed on Sunday.
And crucially, McKennie makes the move with little downside. It is, according to several reportsa first loan deal giving Leeds an opportunity to buy McKennie permanently this summer.
The rental fee is reportedly $1.3 million. The eventual transfer fee would be in excess of $35m, which Leeds would likely pay if McKennie, 24, performs well and keep them in the Premier League but unlikely to pay if they are relegated.
Leeds are currently 15th out of 20 teams in the Premier League, with four wins in 19 games, just a point above the relegation zone. The bottom three teams at the end of the EPL season are relegated to the second tier championship. The downside to McKennie’s move, had it been a simple permanent move, would have been that three key USMNT players risked spending their prime together in a second division.
The exact terms of the actual deal have not been revealed, but the eventual purchase of Leeds is likely to depend, either contractually or by implication, on the club remaining in the top flight. And the disadvantage is therefore limited. If Leeds go under, McKennie and Juventus could find another buyer this summer.
It’s also a win for cash-strapped Juventus. McKennie’s current contract runs through the end of the 2024-25 season. Juve have taken the step to sell him after receiving a 15-point penalty over his recent transfer activity. It emerged the club had engaged in fraudulent accounting maneuvers – a result and now aggravation of their financial struggles.
McKennie has played a key role for Juventus over the past three seasons, albeit with fluctuations. He has made 13 starts in Serie A, recording one goal and one assist in 2022-23. He made 15 starts in the 2021/22 season before suffering a foot injury.
In total, McKennie has scored nine goals in his three seasons with the legendary Italian club. He joined Juve after four seasons at Schalke in the Bundesliga.
Leeds solidify as America’s EPL team
In England, the Texas-born McKennie will be reunited with Aaronson and Adams. All played key roles in midfield in USA’s four games at the 2022 World Cup. McKennie and Adams started all four games, while Aaronson was one of the first players off the bench throughout the tournament.
Aaronson has started every EPL game for Leeds while Adams has started all but two. McKennie is likely to make the starting XI sooner rather than later and could complete an all-American three-man midfield on a few occasions.
He will also strengthen an already strong friendship with Adams. The two have known each other for over a decade and made their USMNT debut in November 2017. Prior to the World Championship, McKennie fell into Adams’ session at a media event in Cincinnati and posed as a reporter. McKennie asked him, “What position do you feel most comfortable in? The 6 roll? The 8-roll?”
“Which one do you mean, Coach?” Adams shot back with a smile.
“I mean,” McKennie said, “I mean, I like it when you play 6 and run for me.” Both burst out laughing.
And they’ll be coached, for now at least, by Marsch, the most accomplished American coach in European football; and his newly hired American assistant, Chris Armas.
Marsch is in an increasingly hot spot but an FA Cup win on Saturday should keep him in the job until at least February.
The club is also minority owned by the York family and 49ers Enterprises, owners of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.
You’re not quite Fulhamerica. Fulham will retain the record for American representation in a single Premier League squad. The London club employed Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride, Kasey Keller and Eddie Johnson in the 2007/08 season. Leeds now move up to second place alongside 2012-13 Stoke City.
But never before has a single top European club had three USMNT stars in their prime, and a fourth starter who attended an American high school and college (Jack Harrison), and an American head coach, and an American assistant coach, and American owners.
Leeds are America’s team in this potentially fleeting moment.