Americans abroad seek promotion, league titles as seasons wind down
As the calendar gets set to turn to May, there's no better time to assess the promotion and European competition hopes and relegation fears among the Americans playing abroad.
Hannover 96 in Germany, captained by U.S. right back Steve Cherundolo, is on the cusp of clinching a spot in next year's UEFA Champions League. With three games remaining in the Bundesliga season, Hannover is a point clear of Bayern Munich for the league's third and final Champions League spot. Hannover has been one of the surprises of the season in all of Europe and has been in Champions League range for so long that to settle for a spot in the UEFA Europa League would still be an accomplishment, but a disappointing one.
Conversely, Timmy Chandler and FC Nurnberg would relish the chance to compete in the Europa League, and they trail Mainz 05 by two points for the league's final berth. On the other end of the German spectrum, Borussia Monchengladbach is currently in the drop zone, meaning that should Michael Bradley return to his parent club this summer, he might do so in the country's second division.
In England, Clint Dempsey's Fulham is in position to return to the Europa League through the UEFA Fair Play ranking system. England is poised to get a fourth slot in the Europa League because of its fair-play standing on the continent, and Fulham currently ranks behind Chelsea -- destined for the Champions League -- in the league's fair-play rankings. In short, Chelsea's success and Fulham's sportsmanship means that the Cottagers could secure a spot in European play despite finishing mid-table in the Premier League.
Teams that aren't as fortunate include Marcus Hahnemann's Wolverhampton and Jonathan Spector's West Ham, which are currently the bottom two teams, respectively, in the drop zone. It's looking like a five-team race to stay in the country's top flight, between Wolves, West Ham, Wigan Athletic, Blackpool and Blackburn, where Jermaine Jones is doing his part to try and keep the team afloat.
A handful of Americans are seeking promotion to replace the Premier League's worst sides. Zak Whitbread's Norwich City, Mike Grella's (and on-loan Eric Lichaj's) Leeds United and Robbie Findley's Nottingham Forest are all in the mix to join the big boys. Norwich City currently sits in the League Championship's final automatic promotion spot, while Leeds and Forest are among those duking it out for the final spot in the league's four-team promotion playoff with two games remaining in the season.
A step further down in League One, cash-strapped Plymouth Argyle, which employs Anton Peterlin, seems doomed for relegation to League Two, where Jon-Paul Pittman and Wycombe Wanderers are in the thick of the promotion hunt. They are currently a point off the pace for automatic promotion and, worst case, should definitely take part in the league's four-team promotion playoff.
Among those challenging for a league title and an accompanying Champions League berth include Oguchi Onyewu and FC Twente, who currently lead the Dutch Eredivisie by one point with two matches remaining; Sacha Kljestan and RSC Anderlecht, who are a point off the pace midway through the Belgian playoff hexagonal; and Maurice Edu and Rangers, who lead the Scottish championship playoff group by one point with four matches to go.
As the races for many of the world's leagues wind down and become more intense, here's how the Americans playing abroad -- including goalscorers Herculez Gomez, Clarence Goodson, Chris Rolfe and Matt Taylor -- fared over the past week (statistics encompass all competitions):