American Youth Soccer Media Survey

 Welcome to the American Youth Soccer Media Survey! 

13 analysts were tasked with the following task: Rank the top 10 players in each age from ‘01-’09. Points would be awarded on a scale of 10-1. 10 points for 1st place, 9 for 2nd place, 8 for 3rd place, 7 for 4th place, and so on. Each analyst contributed to assessing as many age groups as they felt knowledgeable for. The age groups that each analyst contributed for are listed below. The total points were tallied up for a composite ranking. The goal of this is to give a “combined rankings” of the media, yet to also show where opinions diverge from analyst to analyst.

For ties, the first tiebreaker was how high the “high” vote for the tied player was, and if still tied, the second tiebreaker was how many of that “high” vote players had. There wasn’t a need for a third tiebreaker.

The following players were deemed ineligible to be ranked having been provisionally cap-tied to another nation: Luca Koleosho, Devan Tanton, Noel Buck, Adrian Pelayo, Cole Campbell, Fidel Barajas, Alejandro Granados, and Christian McFarlane, along with plenty of others who are provisionally cap-tied to another nation. 

Analysts were asked to give some quotes to explain their views. Not all did so, but roughly half did, and their quotes will help you understand how the results ended up being what they were.

Contributors:

@chai_asc (all age groups)
USMNTrev/@Eyesandvibes (‘01-’07) 
Alex Calabrese (‘01-’08) 
Matt Hartman/@MattSHartman: (‘01-‘08)
Filippo Silva/@ManagerTactical (‘01-’03)
NoHammies/@NoHammiesJozy (‘01-‘05)
@joshua_reports (‘01-‘06)
Zach McCabe/@zjmccabe (‘01-‘07) 
Justin Moran/@kickswish (‘01-‘06)
@yscentral (‘06-’09)
Marcus O’Malley/@Chasingacup (‘01-‘06)
Lucas Aguirre
Matt Hartman/@MattSHartman: (‘01-‘08)
Filippo Silva/@ManagerTactical (‘01-’03)
NoHammies/@NoHammiesJozy (‘01-‘05)
@ProspectsUSMNT (all age groups)
@nico_ricoo (‘01-‘05)

2001 (13 ballots)

1. Folarin Balogun: 130

2. Johnny Cardoso: 108

3. Taylor Booth: 107

4. Bryan Reynolds: 80

5. Tanner Tessmann: 69

6. Duncan McGuire: 59

7. Aidan Morris: 48

8. Konrad de la Fuente: 27

9. Patrick Schulte: 18

10. Matthew Hoppe: 16

11. Aziel Jackson: 15

12. George Campbell: 10

13. Leon Flach: 5

14. Johan Gomez: 4

15. Sebastian Berhalter: 4

16. Indiana Vasillev: 3

T17. Ben Bender: 2

T17. Bryce Duke: 2

18. Cole Bassett: 1

The highest ranked player in 2001 was unanimous: Folarin Balogun. 

As one analyst put it: “I selected Balogun as a 2026er in the 2019 Scuffed Future Draft for all the same reasons the USMNT recruited him so heavily post-COVID – his talent is simply undeniable and has been for quite some time. Balogun is the type of striker the American development system simply doesn’t produce, complete footballers with positional intelligence.”

Put another: “Unquestionably the number 1 here”

The vote for second place was very close with Johnny Cardoso beating out Taylor Booth by one point. 

The case for Cardoso: “If it wasn’t for Balogun committing to the US, Johnny would be the #1 player in his year group.  People are still getting used to him because they don’t watch Brasileiro, but we have seen what he can do for us so far this year.  A bright future for Johnny and keep in mind, Brazil was looking at him before he was cap-tied.”

The case for Booth: “Very versatile and dynamic player. Been one of the top 01’s for like 7 or 8 years.”

The fourth player who made all ballots was Bryan Reynolds. He placed no higher than 3rd yet no lower than 6th. All the analysts saw him in a similar range.

Summed up one analyst: “All the tools in the world but he switched to right back relatively late and still is undergoing some growing pains as a result. He is beginning to really put it all together, but faces stiff competition for the USMNT RB spot.”

One player that had some volatility in how the analysts viewed him was Konrad de la Fuente. He only made 7 of the 13 ballots, but 2 of the ballots had him in the top 4. 

One of his proponents sold him this way: “One of the most, if not the most, promising player in this year before his move to Marseille. He has had a difficult time since that 1st season ended with Marseille where he may never live up to the hype, but if can sort things out, he can be a top LW option for the future.”

2002 (13 ballots):

1. Gio Reyna: 129

2. Yunus Musah: 117

3. Malik Tillman: 102

4. Joe Scally: 90

5. John Tolkin: 58

6. Ted Ku-DiPietro: 52

7. Kristoffer Lund: 50

8. Gianluca Busio: 45

9. Bernard Kamungo: 29

10. Damian Las: 14

11. Max Dietz: 6

12. Nico Carrera: 5

13. Agustin Anello: 4

14. Josh Atencio: 3

15. Jonathan Tomkinson: 2

T16. George Bello: 1

T16. Peter Stroud: 1

T16. Julian Gaines: 1

It was nearly unanimous for Gio Reyna. 12 of 13 ballots had him #1. 1 ballot didn’t. 

The analyst who didn’t said: “Controversial opinion, Musah over Reyna. Will get 100+ caps without major off-field/injury questions. Can’t question Reyna’s ability. We don’t produce many as good. For various reasons, can he be trusted long-term?”

The many Reyna proponents had this to say: “Another unquestioned #1 and the highest ceiling in our national team pool currently.”

“Most talented player the U.S. has ever produced to this point, full stop.”

“The player with the highest ceiling of all the players right now. Injuries have sadly limited his minutes, but whenever he plays, he is one of the best if not the best player on the pitch.”

The other four player to be on every ballot were Malik Tillman, Joe Scally, John Tolkin, and Kristoffer Lund. The analysts had the following to say about them.

Tillman: “Has beaten out Saibari at PSV as a loanee. That should tell you what the coach sees in him.

Scally: “He’ll get 100+ caps without ever being one of our 5 best players. He’s reliable. I’ll take it.”

Tolkin: “The question with Tolkin was always if he’d be able to hold his own on the defensive side of the game. Tolkin spend 2021 and 2022 proving he could before exploding as an offensive contributor for the Red Bulls in 2023. The Red Bulls won’t let him go cheap.”

Lund: “After just a few matches, he has become a starter for Palermo, who are in position for promotion to the Serie A. He has looked good so far in the 2 matches for the US, best so far for the #2 LB spot. Only time will tell if he retains that spot, goes up to #1, or falls down.”

2003 (13 ballots):

1. Ricardo Pepi: 130

2. Kevin Paredes: 99

3. Paxten Aaronson: 88

4. Brian Gutierrez: 82

5. Jalen Neal: 75

6. Jack McGlynn: 61

7. Jonathan Gomez: 47

8. Diego Luna: 47

9. Alex Alvarado: 28

10. Cade Cowell: 24

11. Justin Che: 13

12. Daniel Edelman: 8

13. Caden Clark: 6

14. Dante Sealy: 5

15. Danny Leyva: 3

Ricardo Pepi got first place votes from every voter in the 2003 category. One of only 3 to be the unanimous 1st place in their age group.

Put one analyst: “Best ‘03 by some distance.”

Kevin Paredes got second place. He made every ballot, was 2nd on seven ballots, and wasn’t lower than 7th on any of them.

Said one analyst: “Technically good enough, but needs to match his competitors physically. Ceiling just as high as anyone in the pool.”

Paxten Aaronson got third place. He also made every ballot. He placed no higher than 3rd, but no lower than 8th.

One analyst stated: “Already showing more promise than his older brother, but he does need to bulk up if he wants to improve his game. We might see a situation where Paxten makes it on the 2026 World Cup roster and not Brenden.”

Brian Gutierrez finished 4th. He placed on 12 of 13 ballots, and had two votes for 2nd place.

One analyst was a huge fan: “One of my favorite MLS guys to watch and an absolute mystery as to why he’s still in MLS. A European move should be coming.”

2004 (12 ballots):

1. Chris Brady: 106

2. Gaga Slonina: 94

3. Caleb Wiley: 87

4. Rokas Pukstas: 86

5. Brandan Craig: 51

6. Owen Wolff: 41

7. Noah Allen: 37

8. Antonio Carrera: 35

9. Quinn Sullivan: 25

10. Alex Freeman: 22

11. Zach Booth: 18

12. Damion Downs: 17

13. Darren Yapi: 14

14. Jackson Hopkins: 7

15. Jack Panayotou: 7

16. Kobi Henry: 4

17. Korede Osundina: 4

18. Cody Baker: 3

19. Thomas Williams: 2

20. Joel Imasuen: 1

Chris Brady finished in 1st place. He placed on all 12 ballots, was 1st on 6 of them, and no lower than 5th on any.

One analyst was very enthused about Brady’s potential: “His upside is as high as any young American. Not unreasonable he’s a top 10 Goalkeeper in the world eventually.”

Another who was just as enthusiastic said: Best goalkeeper in the pipeline, dramatically underrated at this point. One of the better goalkeepers in MLS, and should be close to the senior National Team picture. 

However, not everyone agreed Brady was the best ‘04, let alone the best GK in the age group. Finishing second was Gaga Slonina. He placed on every ballot, had three first place votes, and finished no lower than 8th.

Said one analyst who ranked him first: “Our highest-rated GK in the youth pool and perhaps the one to succeed Tim Howard. He does have great competition in Diego Kochen. The race for the future #1 GK for the USMNT will be exciting.”

Placing in third was Caleb Wiley. He placed on 11 of 12 ballots, including one first place vote.

Put one analyst about Wiley: “Look, his defense is a major work in progress, but he’s very athletic and has technical quality.”

The last to place on all ballots in this age group who placed on all 12 ballots was Rokas Pukstas. He placed no lower than 9th on any, had a first place vote, and overall finished 4th.

His first place voter stated: “I believe he stands a shot of making our 2026 World Cup roster as a midfielder. That’s how high I am on this kid’s potential.” Another high on him stated: “Stillwater, Oklahoma’s Pukstas flashes fearlessness and crafty play from the 8 that reminds me of a young Weston McKennie. A strong second half to his year at Hajduk Split and Pukstas should have plenty of suitors in bigger leagues.” 

Two players who had some big proponents, although not everyone, were Brandan Craig and Alex Freeman. Each had a second place vote, although they only finished 5th and 10th respectively.

One analyst on Craig: “Passing is a difference maker. Very good defender. Just needs his chance in MLS.

One analyst on Freeman: “Amazing athlete and he’s technical. He has so much potential. Can do things going forward at RB no other American fullback can.”

2005 (12 ballots):

1. Benja Cremaschi: 97

2. Josh Wynder: 84

3. Obed Vargas: 82

4. Reed Baker-Whiting: 79

5. Esmir Bajraktarevic: 71

6. Kristian Fletcher: 56

7. Niko Tsakiris: 55

8. Rodrigo Neri: 39

9. Serge Ngoma: 25

T10. Marcos Zambrano: 9

T10. Grayson Dettoni: 9

12. Miggy Perez: 9

13. Brooklyn Raines: 7

14. Brandon Marshall: 6

15. Nolan Norris: 6

16. Santiago Suarez: 5

T17. Gavin Beavers: 3

T17. Emi Ochoa: 3

19. Wyatt Nelson: 2

20. Sergio Oregel: 1

21. Chris Thaggard: 1

Finishing first was Benja Cremaschi. He placed on every ballot, had 5 first place votes, and was no lower 7th on any ballot.

Said one of his first place voters: “The first touch is rough, but man can he play. Work rate and off-ball-movement is special.”

2nd through 4th was extremely close, separated by only 5 total points. Josh Wynder finished second. He placed on every ballot, including two first place votes, and placed no lower than 7th on any ballot.

Said one of his first place voters: ““Doing well in Benfica from the games I’ve seen. Just awaiting his opportunity with the first team, which will come eventually.” 

Obed Vargas finished third. He had 3 first place votes, and was no lower than 9th on any ballot.

One of his first place voters made the case for him as the best ‘05: “One of the highest, if not the highest-rated 8 the US has for a U20 player. He can become a very important player for the US. The only thing stopping us from having him for the senior team is Mexico.”

Finishing fourth was Baker-Whiting.

Said one analyst high on Baker-Whiting: “A two footed outside back with the strength to muscle off veteran players and the skill to play devastating crosses. It’s no wonder he’s watched from Europe.”

The last 2005 to place on all ballots was Kristian Fletcher. While he placed no higher than 3rd on any ballot, all analyst were fans of him.

Said one: “We have so few quality wingers. He’s one of the better ones. 

Another player that had a few big proponents was Serge Ngoma.

Said one: “Has looked bright but injuries held him back in 2023. 

Said another: Athleticism and a sneaky good right foot. That’s Ngoma’s game in a nutshell and like is the case with Cade Cowell, it’s often enough to cause nightmares for MLS defenders. He’ll have to round out his game to get into the Men’s National Team picture.”

2006 (11 ballots):

1. Pedro Soma: 104

2. Diego Kochen: 95

3. Keyrol Figueroa: 65

4. Noahkai Banks: 61

5. Matai Akinmboni: 60

6. CJ Olney: 42

7. Matthew Corcoran: 31

8. Adrian Gill: 22

9. Taha Habroune: 21

10. Oscar Verhoeven: 14

11. Owen Presthus: 9

12. Cruz Medina: 11

13. Aiden Harangi: 9

14. Byce Jamison: 9

15. Jude Wellings: 7

16. David Vazquez: 6

T17. Chris Aquino: 5

T17. Adem Sipic: 5

T19. Dylan Borso: 5

20. Tyler Hall: 4

T21. Shakir Nixon: 3

T21. Julian Eyestone: 3

T21. Paulo Rudisill: 3

T24. Micah Burton: 1

T24. Tahir Reid-Brown: 1

T24. Bajung Darboe: 1

T24. Lalito Moreno: 1

Finishing 1st in 2006 was Pedro Soma. He was the only player in the 2006 age group to place on every ballot. 5 ballots had him 1st, and 6 had him 2nd. The other player garnering first place votes was Diego Kochen. He also got 6 place votes, yet he was 3rd on one ballot, and left off another altogether. 

Third place through fifth place was very close. Keyrol Figueroa finished 3rd. Other than Soma and Kochen, he was the only player to get a 2nd place vote. He was however left off two ballots. CB’s Noahkai Banks and Matai Akinmboni and Noahkai Banks finished a point apart, with Banks edging it. Both were featured on 10 of 11 ballots, and had a high finish of 3rd.

2007 (8 ballots):

1. Peyton Miller: 60

2. Caden Glover: 59

3. Nate Worth: 50

4. Santi Morales: 27

5. Axel Perez: 24

6. Adyn Torres: 22

7. Axel Kei: 17

8. Justin Ellis: 12

9. Zack Campagnolo: 12

10. Zavier Gozo: 11

11. Kyrome Lumsden: 10

12. Neil Pierre: 9

13. Ben Manfroy: 7

14. Nelson Hernandez: 6

15. Jonathan Shore: 6

T16. Brady Boulanger: 5

T16. Ruben Ramos: 5

17. Davi Alexandre: 5

T18. Luis Rivera: 4

T18. Drew Baiera: 4

T21. Stiven Jimenez: 3

T21. Zeke Soto: 3

T23. Gavin Turner: 2

We had a very close race for first place. Peyton Miller and Caden Glover finished one point apart. Miller placed on all ballots, had 3 first place votes, and a low of 8th place. Glover also placed on all eight ballots, with a low of 6th and 1 first vote. 

Close behind them in 3rd place was Nate Worth. He was placed on 7 of 8 ballots, and had two 2nd place votes. 

Interestingly, Justin Ellis was able to finish in 8th place from only placing on two of eight ballots. That’s because those analysts placed him 3rd and 7th.

2008 (6 ballots):

1. Maximo Carrizo: 54

2. Nimfasha Berchimas: 53

3. Jude Terry: 41

4. Julian Hall: 40

5. Luca Moisa: 21

6. Jamir Johnson: 21

7. Ramiz Hamouda: 17

8. DeCarlo Guerra: 17

9. Jack Mize: 17

10. Pedro Guimaraes: 15

11. Chris Cupps: 11

12. Gio Villa: 7

T13. Tanner Rosborough: 3

T13. Camron Estala: 3

14. Aidan Stokes: 3

T15. Tanner Adams: 2

T15. Ollie Tan: 2

17. Dylan Judelson: 2

18. Isaac Tortola: 1

First place in 2008 went to Maximo Carrizo. He placed on all 6 ballots, including two first place votes. No ballot had him lower than 3rd. 

Second place in 2008 went to Nimfasha Berchimas. He only finished one point behind Carrizo. He placed first on 4 ballots, was featured on every ballot, and had a low placing of 6th. 

Third place went to Jude Terry. He had a second place vote, and no ballot had him lower than 7th.

Fourth place went to Julian Hall. He placed on 5 of 6 ballots, and had two second place votes. 

Finishing fifth was Luca Moisa, in a tiebreaker over Jamir Johnson. Moisa placed on 4 of 6 ballots, and had a high finish of 2nd place. Johnson placed on 4 of 6 ballots, and a high finish of 5th place.

2009 (4 ballots):

1. Cavan Sullivan: 40

2. KK Spivey: 33

3. Linkon Ream: 27

4. Omar Hassan: 21

5. Adri Mehmeti: 20

6. Chelo Avalos: 19

7. Mathis Albert: 16

8. Ethan Degny: 9

9. Tobias Szewczyk: 6

10. Nick Morella: 6

T11. Javier Martinez: 4

T11. Warren Boyce: 4

T13. Van Parker: 3

T13. Peter Molinari: 3

T13. Daniel Wright: 3

T17. Tyson Espy: 2

T17. Jakob Garcia: 2

T19. Duncan Green: 1

T19. August Nystrom: 1

Cavan Sullivan joined Folarin Balogun and Ricardo Pepi as the only players to win their age group unanimously. Sullivan placed first on all four ballots for 2009. 

Second place was KK Spivey. He finished second on three of four ballots, and 5th on the other. 

Linkon Ream finished third. He finished 3rd on three of four ballots, and 8th on the other.

Fourth through sixth was separated by two points. Omar Hassan finished fourth. He placed on all four ballots. He placed no higher than 4th, but no lower than 9th. Adri Mehmeti finished fifth. He placed on only three of the four ballots, but that included a second place vote. Sixth place was Chelo Avalos. He placed on only three of the four ballots, but that included a 3rd and a 4th place vote. 

The following players made every ballot sent in for their age group: Balogun, Johnny, Booth, Reynolds, Reyna, Musah, Scally, Tillman, Tolkin, Lund, Pepi, Paredes, Aaronson, Brady, Slonina, Pukstas, Cremaschi, Vargas, Wynder, Baker-Whiting, Fletcher, Soma, Miller, Glover, Carrizo, Berchimas, Terry, Sullivan, Spivey, Ream

Highest Ranked Per Vote: This shows how high each player was ranked per vote for their age group. Of course, the initial comparison was to players in their own age group, not to players in any age group, yet it does give you an idea, on average, of who the absolute highest-rated players were. There was a statistical tie for the first two players, but the rest where tied tiebreakers were capable of breaking the tie.

T1. Folarin Balogun: 10

T1. Ricardo Pepi: 10

3. Cavan Sullivan: 10

4. Gio Reyna: 9.92

5. Pedro Soma: 9.45

6. Maximo Carrizo: 9

7. Yunus Musah: 9

8. Chris Brady: 8.83

9. Nimfasha Berchimas: 8.83

10. Diego Kochen: 8.64

11. Johnny Cardoso: 8.31

12. KK Spivey: 8.25

13. Taylor Booth: 8.24

14. Benja Cremaschi: 8.08

15. Malik Tillman: 7.85

16. Gaga Slonina: 7.83

17. Kevin Paredes: 7.62

18. Peyton Miller: 7.5

19. Caden Glover: 7.38

20. Caleb Wiley: 7.25

21. Rokas Pukstas: 7.17

22. Josh Wynder: 7