Most kids in the well-off suburb of St. Louis where Josh Sargent grew up probably don’t have to choose their career paths until they’re in college.
Sargent had to do it at age 17.
After breakout performances for the United States at last year’s FIFA under-17 and under-20 World Cups, he started picking up professional suitors. Sporting Kansas City lined him up as a potential homegrown player signing, and German club Werder Bremen offered him a contract that would take effect on his 18th birthday.
Sargent found the allure of the Bundesliga to be too hard to resist. So he signed with Bremen and has been there since January.
“It’s a huge decision to move away from your family, and K.C. is only three hours from my home,” he said. “In the end, Germany is where I wanted to be. … I’d rather try to do it now as a young kid than try to wait and see how it works out later on.”
Sargent admitted the first few months were difficult. He had to learn a new language, and he lived with other Bremen youth prospects in quarters at the club’s stadium. But he has adjusted to his new life and soon will have his own apartment.
“When you see guys like Weston and Christian doing pretty well in the Bundesliga, it helps you realize that maybe I can do that too,” Sargent said. “I kept in contact with them before I went over there, just getting a little advice from them. It’s good knowing that any time, I can go see them if I ever have problems with anything.”
Sargent earned his first senior national team call-up last November, becoming the first player to ever be part of the U.S. under-17, under-20, and senior national teams in the same year. He was already just the second American to play at the under-17 and under-20 World Cups in the same year, after Freddy Adu in 2003.
The U.S. squad for Monday’s game against Bolivia at Talen Energy Stadium (6:55 p.m., Fox Sports 1 and UniMás) includes four players from those youth World Cups: Sargent, winger Tim Weah, and defenders Erik Palmer-Brown and Cameron Carter-Vickers.
But it notably includes only one other pure striker, Andrija Novakovich. As such, the odds seem good that Sargent will play. But he’s trying not to get ahead of himself.
“We’re all in the same situation, sort of just trying to prove ourselves and trying to find our way into this team,” Sargent said. “I think there’s a lot to look forward to with this group.”
This much is certain: Sargent is living out a dream, and there’s a lot more to come for him. He’ll train with Bremen’s first team when the preseason starts this summer, and see where things go from there.
“I always told kids in class that I was going to be a professional soccer player, and they were like, ‘Yeah, OK. That’s what everybody says,’ ” Sargent said. “I’m happy I actually proved them wrong.”