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PROFILE: With a family legacy to uphold, Sebastian Berhalter joins Austin FC as the club's youngest player

(Sebastian Berhalter/Instagram)

Jersey number: 6

Hometown: London, England

Position: Midfielder

Age: 19

Former club: Columbus Crew SC


Background

(Sebastian Berhalter/Twitter)

Sebastian Berhalter's life isn't like most 19 year olds.

As the youngest player on the Austin FC team, Berhalter has already clutched the MLS Cup trophy before. He's met Christiano Ronaldo and had his first professional start at 18. His name might seem familiar, too—that's because his father is none other than former Columbus Crew SC head coach and current USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter.

With the Berhalter family name to uphold, Berhalter signed with Columbus Crew SC as a Homegrown Player in 2020 after spending six seasons with Columbus Crew SC's Academy from 2014-2019. With nine appearances and four starts on the team last year, the young Berhalter helped the Crew all the way to the MLS Cup Championship.

Berhalter said it was hard to leave the MLS Cup Champions but that he was looking forward to gaining experience while he's on loan with Austin FC.

"It was certainly a tough decision, leaving the best team in the league," Berhalter said. "Me and my dad and everyone at Columbus saw it as a good opportunity to go here and get minutes and be part of a great culture and a great coaching staff."

With Austin FC

(Austin FC/Instagram)

Austin FC acquired Berhalter on loan from Columbus Crew SC with the option to trade for his rights at the end of the season.

As the team's youngest player, he likely won't crack the starting lineup. However, Berhalter will get the opportunity to play behind defensive midfielder Alex Ring, who is widely regarded as one of the top five in his position in the MLS.

Austin FC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna said the club was excited to strengthen the team's depth with Berhalter.

"Sebastian is a young and talented midfielder who will add depth to our growing roster," Reyna said. "We are excited to have him join the Club and look forward to his continued professional development with Austin FC."

Berhalter also has a history with Austin FC Head Coach Josh Wolff. Wolff, who saw Berhalter grow up in Germany and has ties to him with the Columbus Crew, said that Berhalter plays beyond his years because of the high level of play he's always been exposed to.

"He's a young player, but he doesn't look like a young player," Wolff said. "He's going to play minutes for us, and his development is continuing, and that's also our responsibility is to continue to make him better."

Berhalter said he remembers playing with Wolff and Wolff's sons, Tyler and Owen, in Germany while both fathers played in the German Bundesliga. The two families also lived just two miles apart in Columbus, deepening their bond.

Just like their fathers before them, Owen and Berhalter now grace the same field on a professional level. While Berhalter is officially signed, 16-year-old Owen has been repping Austin FC during preseason.

"It's pretty surreal," Berhalter said. "(From) just kicking the ball in my basement and now be able to share the field with him is really cool. And with my dad and Josh, it's great to be able to work with Josh since I've known him for so long."

Off the pitch

Just as Gregg Berhalter left Columbus Crew to coach the men's national team, his son stepped up to the club for his professional debut.

Gregg still got a chance to see him play for his first-ever MLS start against the New York Red Bulls in 2020 and said he was proud of his son's dedication to the family's favorite sport.

"Now I know how my parents felt all these years," Berhalter said. "We're proud of him. It shows that he's worked hard for many years and all that hard work and dedication has paid off."

Berhalter is a legacy on both sides—his mother, Rosalind Santana, was a soccer player for the Tar Heels herself.

Although he grew up in Columbus, Berhalter was born in London and lived in Germany as a child.

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