Power Players

This 20-year-old is worth $73 million and could be the US's first big soccer star

Christian Pulisic plays for the US men's national soccer team in November 2018.
Catherine Ivill | Getty Images

Most US soccer fans are already familiar with Christian Pulisic, but the 20-year-old midfielder is about to become famous on the world stage.

The Hershey, Pennsylvania native is a rising soccer star who just earned the honor of being the most expensive American soccer player of all time. The English Premier League team Chelsea agreed on Wednesday to pay a $73.1 million transfer fee to acquire Pulisic from his current team, Borussia Dortmund of Germany's Bundesliga professional soccer league.

It's the largest transfer fee ever paid by a professional team to acquire an American soccer player. The high-profile transfer deal is also likely to result in a big payday for Pulisic, though the terms of his new deal with Chelsea, one of the league's top teams (and among the world's most valuable soccer teams, according to Forbes), are yet to be known.

Pulisic, who will join Chelsea this summer, is reportedly earning roughly $1.1 million per year under his current contract with Borussia Dortmund, according to the website TransferMarkt. That figure is likely to increase in his new contract with Chelsea if the money the UK team shelled out to acquire Pulisic is any indication.

The average player salary in the UK's Premier League is over $3.3 million per year, but stars can make much, much more. 

The fact that Chelsea is paying such a large sum to acquire Pulisic represents something of an international coming out for a player who has already been hyped quite a bit in his home country. Pulisic, the first American player in memory to even be mentioned in the same breath as mega-star players like Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi based on his success at a young age, has been talked about as a sort of savior for American soccer since his teens, when he signed with Borussia Dortmund's youth team at 16 before working his way onto the club's top professional squad by the following year.

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Pulisic had to learn German on the fly, attending a public high school in Germany while he kicked off his professional soccer career. To say he was often homesick is an understatement (though, he was allowed to return home to Pennsylvania to attend senior prom in 2016).

"It was a sacrifice, especially in the first six months not knowing the language," Pulisic told Sports Illustrated in a 2016 interview. "Every day, even now, I'm still missing home. I don't think people understand that aspect of it. It's not just some crazy, amazing life all the time. You miss home every single day."

Still, the point of the move to Germany — and of leaving behind his life as a typical American teen — was always to improve his skills and his chances of succeeding in soccer at a level previously unknown for American players, who have historically not been valued as highly by teams in European leagues as players from other countries where soccer is more popular.

"That's how you improve," Pulisic told Sports Illustrated about leaving the US to play against professionals in Europe. "When you come to Germany and you're training every day in January in the wind-driven rain and freezing cold, you're fighting through that. You're becoming stronger and better as a player."

The plan has worked out for Pulisic, who earned a spot on the US men's national soccer team as a teenager in 2016. And, last year, he became the team's youngest captain in decades shortly after turning 20 years old. While the US team failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Pulisic still showed that he was ready to succeed on a major international stage by leading the national team in scoring with six goals and four assists in nine qualifying games. 

Now, Pulisic is looking forward to his next challenge: playing for Chelsea in the Premier League. "It's a privilege to have signed for such a legendary club and I look forward to working hard towards being a contributor to their team of world class players," he wrote on Twitter.

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