Christian Pulisic's Premier League Debut Marks Next Step in 20-Year-Old's Career

It’s a big debut that’s happening for the family of Christian Pulisic this month, one that involves a lot of work, a new house and plenty of excitement for everyone. We’re talking, of course, about Tranquility Stables, the new 13-acre farm, indoor riding arena and equestrian business that Pulisic’s older sister, Devyn, recently opened in Lebanon, Pa., just outside Christian’s hometown of Hershey.

“It’s been crazy the last couple months, so I’m taking a year off from coaching and just helping her right now,” Christian and Devyn’s father, Mark, told me on Thursday from the new family home. “Christian bought the property for his sister, so she’s starting a business. It’s exciting times.”

He’s certainly right about that. On Sunday, Christian, 20, will make another big family debut after his U.S. record $73 million transfer when he his new Chelsea team take on Manchester United at Old Trafford in his first Premier League game (NBC and Telemundo, 11:30 am ET). With so much going on for the family, Mark—who lived with Christian in Germany during his first two years at Borussia Dortmund—will watch the game from Pennsylvania.

At the Pulisic’s home in Lebanon, Pa: Sister Devyn, brother Chase Gallant and Christian before he left for London, - Courtesy of Kelley Pulisic
At the Pulisic’s home in Lebanon, Pa: Sister Devyn, brother Chase Gallant and Christian before he left for London, Courtesy of Kelley Pulisic

“There’s a lot of nervous energy, because you always want your kids to do well,” said Mark, who’ll fly over to the U.K. on Sunday night ahead of Chelsea’s busy week of games, which includes the mid-week UEFA Super Cup against Liverpool in Istanbul and the league home opener against Leicester City on Sunday. “But he’s ready. This is what he wanted. This is what he worked for. I’m excited for it just as he is.”

Meanwhile, his wife, Kelley, Christian’s mother, will be at Old Trafford on Sunday for the United–Chelsea game. She’s in England with Christian for a couple weeks as he moves from the hotel he’s been staying in and into a house in London.

“We’re trying to find out the day he actually moves in and get some of his things over from Germany,” said Kelley by phone from London on Thursday. “With so many matches that are coming at him so fast, I want to try to get him settled in to his place and have everything in order so he won’t have any stress with that.”

Christian and mother Kelley from this week enjoying the view at the Chelsea Harbour. - Courtesy of Kelley Pulisic
Christian and mother Kelley from this week enjoying the view at the Chelsea Harbour. Courtesy of Kelley Pulisic

It’s a rich coincidence that Pulisic’s Premier League career will begin at Old Trafford. There’s a well-known photograph, taken during the year when the family was living in England while Kelley was there on a teaching grant, of seven-year-old Christian on Mark’s shoulders at Old Trafford for a game. It was part of a year in which the family also saw games at Liverpool, Tottenham, Fulham and lower-league teams, as well as at Barcelona.

Christian’s soccer journey over the past several years has been remarkable. But it’s a story that has required tremendous sacrifice—from Christian, obviously, who left for Germany at age 15, entered a German-speaking school where he spoke no German at first and eventually broke through at Dortmund, one of the top clubs in Europe. 

The Pulisic family has made giant sacrifices too, including having Christian and Mark living across the ocean from the rest of the gang to pursue a dream that was never guaranteed to be realized. And so, as they watch Christian begin his new adventure in the Premier League, his parents—who both played soccer at George Mason University—will have a deep appreciation for how far their son has come and an anticipation for what lies ahead.

Mark and Christian in London in May. - Courtesy of Kelley Pulisic
Mark and Christian in London in May. Courtesy of Kelley Pulisic

“I just hope that everyone’s patient,” Kelley said. “It’s going to be a new league, and I hope everyone gives him a little time to adjust and find some success. What’s most important for me is that he’s happy, but obviously I know that playing time and success makes you happier.”

“It’s been fun,” added Mark, who also co-hosts a podcast, Soccer Unplugged, that deals a lot with the questions he gets from parents about youth development. “He seems to have really broken in well, and he’s enjoying the new challenge and the team. He’s got the weight of the soccer world on his shoulders here in this country. I’m just hoping he’s able to continue to handle that type of pressure and be able to flourish in the new league and just be himself without really thinking about any expectations and continue to enjoy the game.”

“He’s still 20 years old, and his game needs a lot of improvement. Hopefully, Chelsea and the coaching staff and just playing in that league will continue to help him be put in situations that are difficult and challenging. That’s how you grow as a player.”

The story begins on Sunday.

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