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Salzburg’s Marsch to become first American to coach in Champions League

FC Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch will become the first head coach from the United States to coach in the UEFA Champions League.

This fall, FC Salzburg head coach Jesse Marsch will become the first head coach from the United States to coach in the UEFA Champions League.

On Thursday, his club was drawn into Group E and will face Belgium side Genk, the Italian club Napoli and last season’s Champions League winners, Liverpool, in the competition.

“It is very special for us,” Marsch said in an official press release by the club. “We have two absolutely top opponents ahead of us and Genk are champions of the Belgian league, which I regard very highly.”

“We are happy with our group,” FC Salzburg CEO Stefan Reiter said. “When we were drawn, it was definitely the loudest I had ever heard the Taxham training center. We are looking forward to the challenge.” 

Without a doubt, the biggest challenge will be English Premier League giants Liverpool. But it is a challenge that the club relishes.

“Every player has a smile on their face,” defender Andreas Ulmer said. 

It will be the first time that Salzburg plays in the Champions League since the club came under the Red Bull umbrella in 2005. Formerly known as Austria Salzburg, the club plays as Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga, but UEFA rules do not allow ownership of more than one club in one UEFA competition.

With Red Bulls’ other European club RB Leipzig also regularly competing in Europe — the two faced each other in the Europa League last season — Red Bull has officially sold the club in Salzburg and is only a premium sponsorship partner. UEFA rules, however, do not allow sponsorship names in club names, which results in Salzburg playing as FC Salzburg in Europe. 

Nonetheless, the partnership between the different Red Bull affiliated clubs in New York, Brazil, Salzburg and Leipzig remains strong. Marsch, for example, joined Salzburg after stints as the New York Red Bulls head coach and working as an assistant to Ralf Rangnick in Leipzig last season

Rangnick, however, was replaced by Julian Nagelsmann this summer and Marsch moved to replace Marco Rose in Salzburg. They are big shoes to fill considering that Salzburg has won the last seven championships in the Austrian Bundesliga. 

Marsch, however, started the season in style. Salzburg’s 5-0 victory over Admira on Aug. 25, meant that Marsch became the first coach in the history of the Austrian Bundesliga to win his first five games.

Marsch, 45, was born in Wisconsin and played his college soccer at Princeton. A midfielder, he played for D.C. United, the Chicago Fire and Chivas USA in MLS, where he netted 31 goals in more than 300 appearances. He made two appearances for the U.S. national team, and began his coaching career as a national team assistant to Bob Bradley in 2010.

This is Salzburg’s first appearance in Champions League since the 1994-95 season. Despite the strong start in Austria, Marsch is aware of the difficulties of playing in one of the sport’s toughest tournaments.

“It is not going to be easy,” Marsch said. “It shouldn’t be about me, of course, it will be interesting to face two of the most successful coaches in the game in Jürgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti.”

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