DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, May 3, 2016
The approach of summer also means that promotion races across Europe are in their final stretch.
Several Americans see their teams nearing the goal of jumping to the next level or in a final struggle to make up ground on their rivals. Here's a short breakdown of the remaining promotion races for Yanks in Germany and Denmark. Bob Bradley's fight to bring Le Havre to France's top flight will be covered in a separate article.
Germany - 2. Bundesliga
In Germany's second tier, the top three is mathematically set, with the only remaining question being who will enter the third-place promotion play-off.
The likely scenario will see RB Leipzig gain automatic promotion, with the team five points ahead of Nürnberg with two games left to play. Whether Terrence Boyd, who has missed the last two seasons due to repeated knee injuries, will play a role in the team's likely inaugural top-flight season is in the air.
Likewise, the top-flight future of Caleb Stanko, whose employers Freiburg are guaranteed of automatic promotion to the Bundesliga, could be called into question. The 22 year-old defensive midfielder does have one more year on his contract, however has only played a bit role for the first-team this season.
The promotion hopes of Fafa Picault and St. Pauli were mathematically ended after a loss in last weekend's game left them with an insurmountable nine-point gap to third place. The New York native came on strong for the team during their final push, and recently signed a contract extension that guarantees he will be around for the team's promotion push next season. Watch this space.
Germany - 3. Liga
The picture is less clear one level down in Germany, where either an American coach or player will likely see their team finish third and enter the promotion playoff.
Würzburg Kickers currently hold a four-point edge over fourth-place Osnabrück, with Royal-Dominique Fennell's weekend winning-goal heroics largely responsible for their strong advantage. A home win over Kiel in the coming weekend can secure their spot, and victories in their final two games could give them an outside chance of catching Aue for an automatic promotion spot.
Things are not so rosy for Joe Enochs, who assumed head coaching duties of long-time team Osnabrück earlier this season. The team essentially needs to win their last two games against mid-table Chemnitz and Cologne, and hope that Würzburg suffers a collapse in their final two.
Coincidentally, Enochs is intimately familiar with the promotion/relegation playoff between Germany's second and third level, having briefly led the team as interim coach at the end of the 2010-11 season when they made the drop following a two-legged loss to Dynamo Dresden.
Denmark - 1. Division
Conor O'Brien joined AC Horsens at the beginning of the current season, and has quietly anchored the team's midfield to what looks like a near certain return to Denmark's Superliga.
Currently, Horsens are sitting pretty with a ten-point cushion to protect over their final five games. They can already clinch their return to the Superliga on Sunday afternoon should they win and fourth-place Vendsyssel lose.
Even if they have to wait past next weekend, it is almost unfathomable to see them missing out on promotion, and their current focus is likely on making up the three-point gap to first-place Lyngby for the honor of being crowned league champions.
O'Brien has extensive experience in Denmark's top-flight, having spent three seasons split between SønderjyskE, Nordsjælland and Odense.