Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Dabo Swinney's godson Tanner Tessmann makes debut for U.S. men's national team

The United States men’s national team’s 7-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday night was significant for more reason than one. It was the second time the two countries had met since the USMNT’s shocking 2-1 defeat on the final day of qualifying that kept the U.S. out of the 2018 World Cup.

It also featured the national team debut of six players, including FC Dallas midfielder Tanner Tessmann. Tessmann, who just finished his first season in Major League Soccer, is the godson of Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney. P.J. Tessmann, Tanner’s father, is a close friend of Swinney’s who runs his All in Team foundation.

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Swinney and his wife, Kathleen, were in attendance in Orlando to watch Tessmann enter the game in the 78th minute.

Originally committed to play soccer and football at Clemson, Tessmann jumped at the opportunity when FC Dallas offered him a homegrown contract. The decision meant passing up an opportunity to play for a national power and the man he calls “Uncle Bo.”

“Dadgummit, I should have kept my mouth shut,” Swinney joked after losing his prized kicking recruit. “It’s pretty special. [Tessmann has] been working since he was in diapers to be a pro and the culture of soccer is a little different from a lot of these sports. Very few people get the opportunity to go be a pro right out of school.”

It paid off in a big way as the 19-year-old made 19 regular-season appearances for FC Dallas, starting nine times. Tessmann came off the bench and converted a penalty kick in Dallas’ shootout win over the Portland Timbers in the first round of the MLS playoffs. He got the start and played 81 minutes in the next game, a season-ending 1-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders.

His lone assist of the season came in the team’s 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union to open the campaign. After the game, Tessmann — who has “g2G” (glory 2 God) in his Twitter bio — gave thanks to God for the opportunity to make his professional debut.

“It was just amazing, just an amazing experience,” Tessmann told The Athletic after the game. “I have to thank God for the opportunity to do that. I had a great time, we got the win and that was the most important thing.”

With an extended break between national team duty and the start of the 2021 MLS season, Tessmann is reportedly headed to Germany to train with Champions League winners and perennial European power Bayern Munich. The two clubs have built a strong relationship in recent years, allowing FC Dallas’ young players like Tessmann the opportunity to get experience at the sport’s highest level.

He is expected to be back for the beginning of the MLS season on April 3. The league has yet to announce the full regular-season schedule.

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