Series Overview

This is this fifth article in a series of articles that looks at the landscape of United States eligible youth soccer players. US eligible players have the ability to play for the United States and have not yet been cap-tied at the senior level. This means there will be some players on this list that might surprise you and may never play for the United States, but they could, and isn’t that possibility what makes tracking all of these guys fun?

In this series I will be reporting on players born in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 — the U19 to U15 levels from the 2022 season. The first part of this series will focus on who I grade as the top 20 prospects for the 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 class and then it will commence with a youth talent ranking of all the United States MLS clubs, specifically looking at the talent that each club has within their 2003 to 2007 classes. 

Youth Grading Framework

Let’s start by saying it is really difficult to scout and grade youth soccer players and it gets even harder the younger you go, which is why I don’t typically scout players below the U15 level. My grading system consists of three categories: physical profile, technical ability and soccer intelligence / intangibles. There are a lot of sub-categories within each, but I won’t go that deep here. The grades that I give are based on where the player is at relative to their age level, not where I project them to be. With this framework, it’s possible that a player grades out as an elite U17 player, but doesn’t progress in any of the aspects of the game and turns out to be a very average player. 

2007 Class — Top 20

The 2007 class is officially now identified as the U16 group with the 08s now being considered the U15 group. This is the youngest age group that I have graded and the most likely to end up being wrong, so please forgive me. There is so much development time left for these players that this list is bound to end up very wrong in the future. As of right now I would say this is an average to above average group talent wise, but that can change in either direction. There are not any keepers on the list as it is hard to identify top keeper talent this young. There are a few high potential full-backs that can also play on the wing and there is some decent depth at both left and right full-back spots. The center-back spot might be the deepest at the moment. There might not be any elite center-back talents right now, but there are quite a few in the top 20 and right outside the top 20. The midfield group is pretty good, with the most quality at the 8 position. There is one elite 10 by my measure and not a single 6 in the top 20. The winger group has top talent as well, but not as deep as you’d like to see. Center-forward is one of the bright spots of the group, with both high end talent and good depth with a diversity of skill sets. This is the most likely position where the 2007 class will impact the U17 tournaments, especially if Bryan Destin is not eligible to play. 

The U16 Youth National Team is led by Tom Heinemann and I have not been overly impressed with him so far. I have not been a big fan of the squad selections and the team has looked a bit tight when they have played. Compared to the other age groups that have been playing with joy and confidence, I have not seen that as much from the 2007s. I think they have the talent, but I have not seen it come together on the pitch yet. This group has been called the U15s up until this point and they have played four official matches. They tied Slovenia, beat Belgium and then lost to Italy and Portugal. This group recently got together for a camp, but I am not aware of any tournaments coming up but they will likely get together again during the September International Break. This group could possibly impact the Concacaf U17 Championships, but it will be hard for guys to break through because that is a very talented group. 

#1 | AM, Axel Perez, Olympique Lyon 

Axel Perez is an electric Spanish-American attacking-mid that plays at one of the top Academies in the world: Olympique Lyon. Axel currently plays at the U17 level, which is a level up from his age group. Axel is from Miami, Florida and started at the Weston Academy before moving to Inter Miami’s Academy. IMCF lost him to Lyon, which will likely be looked back on as a huge loss, but with a Spanish passport and Axel being a top, top talent, it’s no surprise he left for one of the biggest Academies in the world. 

Axel has appeared three times for the United States U17, playing a year up on the International level as well. He scored a world class goal in one of those appearances which you can find here. Axel has not yet featured for Spain, but I expect this recruiting battle to heat up if Axel continues to develop at his current rate. Axel has a very good chance of being one of the few 2007s that compete with the United States U17s at the Concacaf Championships, he is that good. 

Quick scouting report 

Axel is a small but mighty attacker that has loads of skill. He thrives when taking on players one on one and has the dynamic ability to create opportunities for himself and others. He has advanced final product for a player his age. 

#2 | LB/LW, Christian McFarlane, NYCFC

Christian McFarlane is a British-American that signed with NYCFC as a 14 year old in September 2021, making him the youngest homegrown signing at the time. Christian was recovering from injury last year but came back really strong, initially playing with the U17s, two age groups up, and also getting time with NYCFC II in MLS Next Pro, appearing five times so far. Christian recently received his first United States call up with an invitation to the last U16 camp and I would not be surprised if he eventually got a callup to the U17s because left-back is a position of need and I think he’d be the most talented player available for that level. 

Quick scouting report 

Christian is a tall and smooth left-sided player that can play both as a left-back, left wing-back and left-winger. Christian is very comfortable and secure on the ball, instinctual defensively and passes the ball very well. Christian looks like a center-back or a striker, but moves like an outside player. It will be very interesting to see how he develops physically and how that impacts where he ends up on the pitch. Right now, he does not look like a full-back, but he has the skills for it. 

#3 | RB/RW, Kaka Scabin, FC Dallas

Caua “Kaka” Scabin is likely a name most have not heard before and a name most to turn heads in that I doubt many people rate him this high, but I do. Kaka is a Brazilian-American if you couldn’t tell by the name and a player that can play right-back, right wing-back and right-wing. Kaka just moved from the Inter Miami Academy to FC Dallas and I believe this could lead to a huge breakout year. At IMCF he was behind well thought of Tyler Austin ar right-back, though I think Kaka is the more talented player with higher upside. So how did a U15 backup player make it this high? Well, sometimes you have to just believe your eyes and expect the potential to round out and develop more consistently. Kaka has not been called to an International camp, which is expected considered he was not starting for IMCF, but if he can get more of an opportunity at FCD, I think he’ll become a household name. 

Here are some highlights: 

Quick scouting report 

Kaka Scabin is a highly skilled and dynamic player in one on one situations. He is creative and can maneuver incredibly well in tight spaces. His final product can be improved, but he gets into really dangerous spots and he is a very smooth athlete. He is not a dominant defensive player, but he times his tackles very well. 

#4 | CF, Axel Kei, Real Salt Lake

Axel Kei is a player I get asked about a lot. He, along with Christian McFarlane are the two players in this age group who have inked a homegrown contract. Axel signed with RSL at the age of 14 in January of 2022. On October 8th, 2021, he debuted with the Real Monarchs. Kei’s appearance at the age of 13 years, 9 months, and 9 days old, made him the youngest professional athlete in American team sports history. Axel is an Ivorian-American born in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. Axel has played at the highest level of any 2007 player. He has played over 800 minutes, 2 goals and 1 assist with the Real Monarchs in MLS Next Pro, by far the most minutes in MLS Next Pro of anyone in the 2007 class, which speaks to how developed he is physically. 

Axel has not yet featured for the United States national team and I don’t think that has anything to do with his talent. I have been told that there are maturity concerns, which is understandable for a kid who is still only 14. He does not turn 15 until December, meaning he is almost a 2008 player. I believe that once Axel shows a bit more maturity off the pitch, he will eventually get an opportunity with the USYNT, he is certainly talented enough. 

Quick scouting report 

Axel Kei is incredibly advanced physically and is an absolute monster in the open field. He’s got an explosive and strong frame that allows him to stretch defenses and get behind backlines. He needs work on build up and connection play, but he is improving. He also strikes the ball clean and with a lot of power with his left foot. 

#5 | WING, Zavier Gozo, Real Salt Lake

Zavier Gozo is another Ivorian-American from the ZBR Academy. Zavier was one of the best players on the highly talented RSL U15 team this past year, making it to the MLS Next Cup final and losing to Inter Miami. Zavier has appeared three times for the United States U15s.  

Quick scouting report 

Zavier Gozo is a creative and confident winger with a similar style to Tajon Buchanan. He attacks defenses relentlessly and while not always the most polished, he continues to attack and keeps defenses on their heels. His final product is also pretty good for his age. 

#6 | CF, Justin Ellis, Inter Miami FC

Justin Ellis is a Uruguayan-American that played for the MLS Next Cup U15 champion Inter Miami team. Justin was injured a lot last season, but when he played, he was a handful. Like the majority of these players, Justin will likely be playing at the U17 level in MLS Next this year and he will hopefully have more fortune from a healthy perspective. Justin attended the first U15 identification camp, but has not been back with the group, most likely due to injuries. He is another candidate to play up with the United States U17s as they are in need of number 9 players. 

Quick scouting report 

Justin Ellis is a big, strong and skillful striker. He has the rare combination of being ball secure, being able to create his own shot and gets into great positions for high probability scoring situations. He’s had trouble staying on the field with injuries, but when he is on, he is as good of a 9 prospect as there is in the pool. 

#7 | AM, Gavin Turner, DC United

Gavin Turner is a DC United Academy product that played with the MLS Next Cup U16 championship team last year, playing up an age level. Gavin has also been reportedly training with DC United’s first team and is likely to be next in line for a homegrown deal.  Gavin has appeared twice for Loudoun United this year as well, getting lots of experience up and down the system. Gavin has also been a mainstay with the United States U15/U16s, appearing in four games and scoring one goal.  

Quick scouting report 

Gavin Turner is a 8/10/Winger type that does a lot of things really well, but nothing at an elite level. He has a great instinct for the game and gets himself in good spots. He has a good feel for space and connects well with his teammates. He isn’t the most dynamic athlete, but he isn’t bad either. Not a lot of holes in his game for his age. 

#8 | CM, Jonathan Shore, NYCFC

Jonathan Shore is one of the many very talented 2007 players for NYCFC, one of the most talented groups in the country. Jonathan played for the U15s last year and has also appeared twice for NYCFC II in MLS Next Pro, one of the few 2007s who have played in MLS Next Pro. Shore also recently was invited to the United States U16 camp. 

Quick scouting report 

Jonathan Shore is a versatile and very well rounded player. He is an above average athlete with decent size and good short area quickness. He is very ball secure and can progress the ball both by dribbling and passing. He is a willing defender with good awareness and shows consistent ability to win back the ball. His final product is decent, but will get better. 

#9 | RB, Drew Baiera, NYCFC

Drew Baiera is an Italian-American that also plays within the NYCFC Academy. Drew is one of the top full-backs in this class. Drew also played for the U15s last year, but has not yet appeared in a MLS Next Pro game. Drew was invited to the first U15 camp last year, but has not been back with the group. I am not sure if Drew holds an Italian passport, but if he does that does open up the possibility of him leaving for Europe before he turns 18. 

Quick scouting report 

Drew is slightly undersized, but super quick and very skilled. Drew flies up and down the flanks and is both a sticky defender and a useful offensive weapon that can win through the dribble and as a crosser. 

#10 | CM, Kyrome Lumsden, LAFC

Kyrome Lumsden is a Jamaican-American that plays within the LAFC Academy. Last year he played for their U15s on one of the most talented U15 teams in North America. He is a pure box to box 8 and has been a key fixture for the U.S. U15/U16 teams, appearing four times with one goal and multiple assists.  

Quick scouting report 

Kyrome is a true box to box midfielder with a similar profile to Yunus Musah. He is incredibly ball secure, very smooth on the half turn and incredibly tough. He is a ball winner that really controls his area of the pitch. His passing is improving, but he needs to be more of a threat in the final third. 

#11 | CB, Davi Alexandre, NYRB

Davi Alexandre is a Brazilian-American within the Red Bulls Academy. He is a right-footed center-back that has played with the U15s, U17s and has recently been seeing time in USL with Red Bulls II. He is very well thought of within the RB organization. The Red Bulls plucked him from the NYCFC Academy. Davi has also played for the U16/15 national team, appearing four times.  

Quick scouting report 

Davi Alexandre is an ascending prospect that is maturing really well physically and he is showing he has advanced feel for the game during his minutes at NYRB II. Davi reads the game well, is rarely out of position and does a job in his duels. He is also pretty good on the ball, showing a good touch and decent accuracy to different parts of the pitch. 

#12 | WING, Ashton Gordon, Atlanta United

Ashton Gordon is a winger / attacking-mid within the Atlanta United Academy, playing for their U15s last season. Ashton is a Jamaican-American and he has not yet been invited to a US Youth National team camp, but that should change in the near future. 

Quick scouting report 

Ashton is a strong and explosive winger that is effective on and off the ball. He attacks 1v1 pretty well, though his ball control can improve and he moves extremely well off the ball, providing verticality akin to a Tim Weah. Final product is quite good for his age. 

#13 | CM, Nate Worth, NYRB

Nate Worth is an extremely well thought of center-mid prospect within the New York Red Bulls Academy. The RB org thinks the world of him and I would bet he is close to signing a homegrown deal. He has also trained and played recently with RB Leipzig and reportedly performed very well. Nate played with both the U15s and U17s last year for RB and has appeared twice for Red Bulls II in USL. Nate has also appeared four times for the U15/U16 national team and has scored once.  

Quick scouting report 

Nate Worth is an extremely well rounded and intelligent player. He finds space well, connects and can pick out a pass with the best of them in this age group. He is a willing and instinctual defender, but is average physically which could catch up to him at some point. His superpower is his ability on set pieces where he is thought of as one of the best in the youth pool. 

#14 | CB, Scott Cheevers, Nashville SC

Scott Cheevers is the first only player that made a top 20 list from the Nashville Academy. He played with Nashville’s U15s last year. He is a right-footed center-back. He has been invited to a U15 camp, but has not yet appeared in a game. 

Quick scouting report 

Scott Cheevers is a monstrous center-back that dominates his area of the pitch. He is physical and commanding and moves really well and dominates in the air. He is not just a bruiser as he is also decent on the ball. His instinct and awareness need to improve, but there is a really good ceiling here. 

#15 | CB, Ben Manfroy, FC Cincinnati 

Ben Manfroy is a left-footed center-back that plays within the FC Cincinnati Academy, one of the few players from that academy to make a top 20 list. Ben played with the U15s last year and has not been invited to a USYNT camp yet.  

Quick scouting report 

Ben Manfroy is a very well rounded left-footed center-back that is very confident on the ball. Ben’s awareness is above average, he is good in duels and he is very comfortable on the ball and taking his space into the midfield. He isn’t the most physical player, but there is room to grow in this area. 

#16 | CB, Nicholas Almeida, Inter Miami FC

Nicholas Almeida is a Brazilian-American, right-footed center-back that plays on the left side for IMCFs Academy. He was part of the U15 championship team in the MLS Next Cup and played a key role in locking down #5 prospect on this list, Zavier Gozo. Almeida was invited to his first USYNT camp recently with the U16s.  

Quick scouting report 

Nicholas caught my eye when he locked down Zavier Gozo in the MLS Next Cup U15 final. Nicholas shows incredible patience, technique and timing in 1v1 defense and he is a smooth mover. He isn’t the tallest or the strongest, but he is incredibly smart. His positioning is very good and he reads the game well. He is also quite good on the ball and uses smart touches to get himself out of pressure. He keeps his head up and can find teammates through the lines. 

#17 | LB/CB, Luis Rivera, Real Salt Lake

Luis Rivera is a left-footed player that can play as a center-back, left-back and defensive-mid. He played for the RSL U15s that went to the MLS Next Cup final. He has also spent a little bit of time with the Real Monarchs in MLS Next Pro. Luis has appeared for the US U15/U16 group three times.  

Quick scouting report 

Luis is an undersized, but highly versatile and intelligent player with a lot of skill on the ball. He is a left-footed player that at times is overly confident with the ball, which can get himself into trouble. He times his tackles incredibly well and plays bigger than he is because of his fearlessness and relentlessness. I like him better at left-back or potentially as a 6 in the future because of his ball skills and lack of height. 

#18 | CM, Nelson Hernandez, DC United

Nelson Hernandez is a center-mid prospect within the DC United Academy. He played for the U15s last year. He has not yet attended a USYNT camp.  

Quick scouting report 

Nelson is a do it all midfielder with an above average physical profile. He is quick in tight spaces and has decent size. He has good balance dribbling through contact and shows good skill with the ball. His passing is quick, smart and decisive which is very encouraging at his age. In the games that I have watched I haven’t seen a ton of final product, but that just could be my sample size. He is not a defensive juggernaut, but he gets the job done. 

#19 | CF, Noah Santos, Portland Timbers

Noah Santos was the golden boot winner for the U15 level at the Generation Adidas Cup and was the best player on that team that won the U15 tournament. Noah is a Mexican-American that played for Portland’s U15s last season. He was recently invited to his first USYNT camp with the U16s.  

Quick scouting report 

Noah is a striker that likes the ball at his feet where he can either combine with teammates, slip a through ball or create his own opportunity. Noah has good box movement and is very comfortable with the ball at his feet. He profiles similarly to 2005 Marcos Zambrano, but with less physical attributes at this time. He isn’t the tallest or the fastest, but he is smart with his movement and can still create space for himself. 

#20 | CM, Adyn Torres, Atlanta United

Adyn Torres is a center-mid prospect within the Atlanta United Academy. He played last season for the U15s and he has yet to attend a USYNT camp.  

Quick scouting report 

Adyn is a player that I think could really rise in the next few years. He is a good athlete and has very good dribbling skills. He has the unique ability to break down a press with the ball at his feet and carry the ball into the final third. I have also seen him deliver a nice through ball for big opportunities. I haven’t seen many shots on goal, so not sure how well he can strike it and I haven’t seen a ton of ball winning, but he should be competent in this area because he has a good physical profile and instincts. 

Other Top 20 Lists

2003 Class Top 20 Rankings >>>

2004 Class Top 20 Rankings >>>

2005 Class Top 20 Rankings >>> 

2006 Class Top 20 Rankings >>> 

Honorable Mentions

CF, Din Klapija, NYCFC / WING, Dempsey Resich, LAFC / WING, Diego Rocio, Philadelphia Union / LB, Tyler Bush, IMCF / CB, Nicholas Nobles, RSL / CF, ​​Pipeloore Olanrewaju, NYRB / CB, Andrew Craig, Philadelphia Union / CF, Ruben Ramos, LA Galaxy / CB, Shawn Platts, Orlando City / DM, Ubau Ibeanu, Austin / CF, Tomo Allen, SJ Quakes / CB, Jeffery Lopez, NYCFC / RB, Jayden Quezada, Chicago Fire / CF, Ezekiel Soto, Houston Dynamo / AM, James Arteaga, LAFC / Etienne Vaillard, Seattle Sounders / AM, Leo Orejarena, Barca Residency 

Need to see more of…

AM, Caleb Swann, FC Dallas / WING, Conrad Sweatman, Barca Residency / CM, Ervin Torres Jr, Austin / CB, James Nyandjo, Charlotte FC / WING, Leo Christiano, Sporting KC / DM, Jose Magana, LA Galaxy / WING, Harbor Miller, LA Galaxy / WING, Christian Coreas, LA Galaxy / AM, Peyton Miller, New England Revs / Michael Bresser, PSV / LB, Isaac Brown, Sassuolo / CM, Montrell Culbreath, FC Kaiserslautern / CB, Tyler Meiser, Borussia Dortmund / CM, Franz Bleicher, FC Augsburg / DM, Benjamin Nagel, FC Twente