Make no mistake about it, Leeds are America’s Premier League team. And the nickname ‘Leeds United States of America’ was strengthened on Monday night, when Weston McKennie completed his loan move from Juventus.
There, he was greeted by Tyler Adams – the United States captain, teammate and his friend from his teenage years. Adams crept up on McKennie as he was giving his first interview as a Leeds player and then took over his journalistic duties.
‘He had nothing to do with my decision!’ McKennie joked about Adams, shortly after putting pen to paper to officially become a Leeds player.
He continued: ‘You know how it is when we play. We love bumpin’ atmospheres. But obviously knowing that there’s a big support network in America here – there’s Jesse, you, Brendan (Aaronson) – who played in the national team, it was an easy decision.’
Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams have reunited with Premier League team Leeds
They have been friends since 14 – here, they are pictured together at an Under 17 USA camp in Florida as teenagers, which Adams posted on social media after McKennie joined Leeds
Adams surprised McKennie when he gave his first Leeds interview after joining from Juventus
It was an interview filled with laughter and cheeky smiles between the two as Adams fielded questions and jokes that took to social media, with Adams posting a throwback photo from a United States Under 17 training camps in Florida.
They first met when they were 14 and that snap was one of their first together. McKennie was actually shorter than Adams at the time, but now stands six feet and three inches taller.
“That picture came out and I just lost it,” Adams said of the image in 2018. “Wes hasn’t hit his growth spurt yet, not even close to it.”
Their story is remarkable – they both made their USA debuts in November 2017 against Portugal. It ended as a 1-1 tie and McKennie scored for the US.
But the pair are in England to work and McKennie must start at top speed. Leeds are 15th in the Premier League standings, just one point above the relegation zone and play Nottingham Forest – another team fighting to stay in the league – next in a must-win game on Sunday.
‘The 8 role is the position I like to play, running box-to-box, try to create plays and get back defensively,’ McKennie told Adams. ‘I want to have the freedom to attack and defend.’
Both McKennie and Adams impressed in midfield for the United States at the World Cup
Adams is the USA captain, while McKennie has established himself as a key man on the team
The USA reached the last-16 of the World Cup in Qatar before they were beaten 3-1 by Holland
Speaking to ESPN in 2018 without Adams looking to interrupt him, McKennie opened up more deeply about how the duo compliment each other.
‘I think we’re both eager to press,’ says McKennie. ‘We both love touch and we both have a good set of lungs – we can definitely run for a while. I think that’s one of the things we talk about when we talk about going into games and game plans.
‘We know we want to press, we know what kind of style we want to play. We are usually on the field together. Every time one man goes up, the other is behind the other. I think we really compliment each other.’
Speaking to FOX ahead of the World Cup, McKennie also explained how Adams can take the tough line on him if he needs to.
‘We all know each other so well that we can talk openly,’ says McKennie. ‘If I’m doing something wrong, Tyler has no problem holding me accountable for it.’
Adams won admirers around the world at the World Cup when he kept his cool in the face of an intense grilling from an Iranian journalist at a press conference before the two teams played in Qatar.
The reporter corrected Adams on his pronunciation of ‘Iran’ before asking him if he was comfortable representing a country that ‘discriminates so much against black people’.
Meanwhile, McKennie was a standout performer for the United States in Qatar but did not complete 90 minutes once in the tournament, after injuring his thigh last month. Whenever he was replaced, the US struggled to maintain a foothold in the game.
Adams (pictured) and McKennie made their USA debuts in the same game in November 2017
McKennie (right) scored in the game against Portugal, which ended in a 1-1 tie
McKennie played with Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus – affectionately calling him ‘Texas Boy’
Leeds’ success between now and the end of the Premier League season in May has a big impact on US soccer’s reputation around the world, too.
Jesse Marsch admits Ted Lasso didn’t help him gain respect as an American in the game when he replaced the much-loved Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds a year ago.
Marsch, clearly, looked to his knowledge of American soccer in the same way that Rafa Benitez did as coach of Liverpool in Spain, or Arsene Wenger in France at Arsenal.
Now, Leeds could field an American midfield three of Adams, McKennie and Aaronson as the side bid to climb out of the bottom three. With the United States trying to establish itself as a force in international soccer and the country a co-host for the 2026 World Cup, the team’s games will be watched closely in America.
This season, Leeds games often get priority screening in sports bars across the country, ahead of the likes of both Manchester and Liverpool teams, due to their presence in America.
McKennie could be a revelation for Leeds. He impressed at Juventus and became friends with Cristiano Ronaldo, who affectionately called him ‘Texas Boy’ in reference to where he was born. When news of the Leeds move first broke, former USA international Alexi Lalas said he felt the midfielder could go to a better team in England.
‘I think Weston McKennie is better than Leeds,’ Lalas said on his State of the Union podcast, and also tweeted much to the dismay of Leeds fans.
Brad Friedel, a columnist for DailyMail.Com during the World Cup who coached McKennie at youth level for the United States, was effusive in his praise for the midfielder.
McKennie will join Adams and Brendan Aaronson (right) as the Americans in Leeds’ midfield
Leeds are also coached by American Jesse Marsch – the team is currently 15th in the league
He wrote: ‘Weston McKennie is one of my favorite US-made players.
Wes is the type of kid who will throw the ball into his own box, he has the guile and ability to spin out of tight spaces, a range of passing, a powerful shot to him, a powerful attacking header – the child has everything.’
The US is the second-youngest squad at the World Cup in Qatar and there is a growing belief that in 2026, this team will come to the boil just in time as a host nation.
But their 3-1 defeat in the World Cup last-16 in Holland was surprising and showed just how cruel knock-out international football can be.
American soccer now must hope that McKennie and Adams, along with Aaronson, don’t learn another hard lesson by tasting Premier League relegation.