Yesterday the Fall 2020 update of the Chasing a Cup top 50 u20 prospects was released and today we take a deep dive into the list. We will look at each player and take a look at why they made it and what we should be expecting of them. This list is not of all American players under the age of 20 but is of players who are eligible for the current u20 cycle which is players born on or after January 1st, 2001. This means that players born in 2000 like Sergino Dest, Josh Sargent, Tim Weah, Chris Richards, Richie Ledezma, Alex Mendez, Brenden Aaronson, and James Sands are not eligible for this list as they are not u20 World Cup eligible. To take a look at the last top 50 ranking click here April 2020 Rankings.
First let’s take a look at some of the notable names not on the list. The first name I want to talk about is Patrick Weah. I think Patrick is a very talented play and Patrick did nothing to get dropped from the list but when COVID cancels his season and he will not play any games for potentially the next year that will potentially impact his development in a critical year for his growth. I really hope that a USL team can pick Patrick up for the time being to get him minutes. The next players are Italo Jenkins and Nelson Pierre who are both 2005 strikers that I dropped. The 2005 striker pool is the deepest that we have ever had in an age group and I want to wait to see who truly emerges in this group before I move them into the top 50 prospects.
Here is the list of players who nearly made it but were just short: Sebastian Berhalter, Leon Flach, Rokas Pukstas, Cameron Duke, Dantouma Toure, Grayson Dettoni, Casey Walls, Quinn Sullivan, Eric Kinzner, Jack McGlynn, Paxten Aaronson, Dante Huckaby, Francis Jacobs, Christian Torres, Tayvon Gray, Caleb Wiley, Efrain Morales, Felipe Valencia, and Cole Bassett.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the ranking!
- Aethan Yohannes – Center Mid, AZ Alkmaar, 2004
Aethan is a very promising central midfielder at a club who is possibly the most underrated talent developers on the planet. AZ Alkmaar has an academy that rivals and at this rate could potentially surpass Ajax and Aethan is a player who is getting regular minutes for their u17 and consistently looks good in those minutes. A concern I had with Aethan is his speed and keeping up against bigger and faster players in the midfield and he offered a rebuttal by looking significantly more fit and faster since play has resumed post COVID. How AZ develops Aethan is something that is definitely worth watching. This upcoming season we will want to see him start to get looks with AZ’s u19 team as well as getting consistent u17 Youth National Team call ups. Aethan is a yank abroad to be monitoring over the next year.
- Cam Dunbar – Winger, LA Galaxy, 2002
Cam is an incredibly talented player who is ranked low on this list for a reason he can’t control: the coaching staff at the LA Galaxy. If you wonder why Cam is on the list, go watch his performance against the Portland Timbers in the MLS is Back tournament. If you say that Cam was not the most dangerous player on the field in that game then I will call you a liar. The problem is that even after Cam’s stellar MLS debut, he is rarely getting looks with the Galaxy first team who, to put it lightly, suck. For some unknown reason, the Galaxy are playing Julian Araujo, a right back, over Cam Dunbar at winger which makes no sense. While Guillermo Barros Schellotto is the head coach of the Galaxy, I can’t put Cam any higher because I am worried that the Galaxy will hinder his development and trajectory.
- Nico Carrera – Center Back, Holstein Kiel, 2002
Nico was one of the final snubs for the last top 50 list. I am a big fan of Nico’s game. Nico can distribute from the back, he can defend well, and he is a very physically imposing center back. The only issue I have with Nico’s game is that he often lacks composure and tries to play too quickly on offense and on defense when he has time to settle down and play his game. I left Nico off the last list because I was not confident about his club situation and thought he was going to Ingolstadt who are in a rut currently. However, Nico decided to shock everyone when he announced that he was signing for Holstein Kiel in the 2 Bundesliga which I think is the perfect level for him to break through to as a young center back. Nico will develop well at Holstein Kiel and I am optimistic about his future.
- Brandan Craig – Center Back, Philadelphia Union, 2004
Do you see what the Philadelphia Union are doing with Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie? Well I do, and it only makes me more excited for the future of Brandan Craig. As a 2004, Brandan is already starting to get USL minutes with Philadelphia Union 2 and he is doing well in those minutes. Why Brandan is low in this list is because of his athleticism and 1v1 defending. Both are in the category of needs improvement. On the athleticism side, you can tell Brandan has grown a lot in a very short amount of time because he is a giant but very skinny and has below average speed. Both of these are issues that Brandan is currently working to address and typically get fixed as a player is done growing. The issue with Brandan’s 1v1 defending stems from Brandan not being a natural center back for very long, he was just thrown into the position a year ago and lost out on key development time due to COVID. As he gets older, Brandan will develop athletically and his defending will improve so I am not concerned. Brandan is also a notable leader as he has already captained a USL match at just 16 years old.
Brandan also possesses a European passport which means that if he wants to head over to Europe, he can leave at any time now. Brandan has trained with clubs in England before so we could see him move to Europe before signing a homegrown deal which no doubt is being prepared to be offered to him by the Union.
- Justin Che – Center Back, FC Dallas, 2003
I am a big fan of center backs who are very well rounded and can do it all. Justin may not be the biggest center back (he is around 6ft currently) but he is strong, can distribute the ball, and is solid defensively. Whether Justin rises or falls on this list all depends on what he decides to do over the next year. Justin is a guarantee to become the next FC Dallas homegrown if he chooses to but Justin can also move to Europe at any moment because he has access to a German passport. Both options would be great for Justin. I think the young center back will have a great career and should make it over to Europe but I am unsure of how high of a level Justin will get to which is why he comes in at 46 on this list.
- Zach Booth – Center Mid, Leicester City, 2004
Zach missed out on the list last time because he was at Real Salt Lake who have gone from being a homegrown factory to completely shutting out u20 players in their first team. Well, now Zach decided to follow in his older brother Taylor’s footsteps and make the trip overseas and has recently signed for Leicester City FC. At the start of 2020 I was not very impressed with Zach as a player. He was pretty average in his performances in the DA when the RSL u17’s had him playing as an attacking mid or striker and he was consistently getting passed up for the u15 Youth National Team. But everything changed at the first u17 YNT tournament in February when Zach played as an 8 and was fantastic. Zach was the best player on the team and caught the eye of numerous scouts of major European clubs. Now that Zach is at a club that is fantastic at player development and who will actually play him at his natural position. Zach should be included in every u17 YNT camp unless he has an injury. Expect to see him steadily rise up the rankings in 2021.
- Leo Torres – Winger, San Antonio FC, 2004
I’m going to be honest, I completely forgot about Leo Torres making the last list and he should have been in the top 50. Leo is a very slick winger who has every trick in his back. He loves to play on the left and is a menace for opposing right backs. Leo is at one of the best clubs for youth development in the country, San Antonio FC, who will quickly integrate him and hope to sell him to Europe when he turns 18. Leo should be a lock for the u17 YNT and is a contender to start for them. Leo hasn’t quite got as many minutes as I was hoping he would in USL this season which is why he is not higher on this list.
- Leo Sepulveda – Center Back, UD Salamanca, 2001
Leo has fallen a from 29 to 42 mostly because other players are moving up, not because my opinion of Leo has fallen. The biggest downside to Leo’s game is he still has not learned when to make the bone crunching tackles and is a yellow card machine which could potentially keep him off the field at his club. Leo being at UD Salamanca is a positive and negative for me. The positive is that he is not at the LA Galaxy who would most likely be playing him in the USL, the negative is that he is playing for a team in a league below the level of MLS. If Leo can hit the ground running at the start of the season and get a winter move to a bigger club in Spain then USA fans can start to really consider this kid a serious USMNT prospect. If Gregg Berhalter wants the u20 YNT to emulate the USMNT and build out of the back then Leo is almost guaranteed to be in the plans because he is the best distributing center back in the u20 pool currently. Although, a new left footed center back has emerged who we will get to later who could steal Leo’s current spot.
- George Bello – Left Back, Atlanta United, 2002
George is someone who a year ago would have been a lock for the top 15 in this list but had a 2019 filled with injury issues and looked bad in any games he was playing in. The reason George was not in the last top 50 list was because I had not seen any improvement from him from when he was 15 dominating the DA to when he was 17 playing in the u17 World Cup. He looked like the exact same player. Someone who was pretty good on the ball and very athletic but had some serious tactical deficiencies and concentration issues. The last three weeks have been very kind to George. He has been playing better in games and has shown signs of improvement. George is starting to revive the player who scouts and youth soccer fans were obsessed about which is very promising. If George can polish up his 1v1 defending and can work on his positioning defensively then we are looking at a fullback who could play at a very, very high level in Europe. But, the concern does not so much lie with George, it is with his club. Atlanta United do not have the best track record with homegrown players which is why I did not rank George higher in this list.
- Daniel Leyva – Defensive Mid, Seattle Sounders, 2003
Danny has taken a tumble from 24 to 41 in this update simply because he is not playing any soccer. Danny is barely getting minutes for the Sounders or Tacoma defiance which is a concern. Danny does have serious athletic limitations which hurts his chances of getting on the field but in his second year as a pro he should be building on the foundation but instead has only seen 56 minutes in 2 appearances this season. In one of those games he came off as a sub in the 45th minute. We need to see Danny get on the field more often and make an impact to stay on the list as other players in the 2003 age group start to break in as professionals.
- Cade Cowell – Winger, San Jose Earthquakes, 2003
When Matheius Almedya uses a young player consistently you have no choice but to take notice. Cade backed up his coach’s confidence in him by scoring a banger this past weekend against the LA Galaxy. The positives for Cade are obvious, he is a player who has the build of an in prime 26-year-old and is very good on the ball. The cons are that Cade was not as dominant as you would hope for a prospect of his caliber to be in the Development Academy or the USL. With only one appearance in the MLS Cade really had not earned his place as a top 50 prospect in April but it is impossible to deny Cade a spot in this list. The next step for Cade to progress up the list in 2021 is to get it done with the u18 YNT. The 2003’s are loaded on the wings so if Cade wants to prove that he deserves to be in this list, he has to show that he is a top 3 winger in his age group and beat out guys like Dante Sealy, Kevin Paredes, Chris Garcia, Patrick Leal, Samuel Sarver, and Fabrizio Bernal.
- Federico Oliva – Winger, Athletico Madrid, 2004
Fede has all the tools that Gio Reyna has with slightly less athleticism. Fede is also getting it done over in Europe at the u17 level for Athletico Madrid. Fede is a lock for the u17 YNT but really needs to show that he can take over games at the international level if he wants to progress up this list. This kid has game but has to elevate it even further to show the very talented Athletico Madrid first team that he belongs.
- Allan Rodriguez – Defensive Mid, Chicago Fire, 2004
Allan is one of my favorite players in this list but that is not because of anything he does on the field. It is because he is from the South Bend area and is the only hope my hometown has for a top tier professional soccer player. But with that being said, Allan rightfully deserves a place in this list. He is one of the tidiest 6’s on the ball that you can find anywhere and he is a pitbull defensively who always wins challenges he is involved in. Allan’s style of play translates well to almost any level and should break into MLS very early because of how good he truly is. The major hole in Allan’s game is that he does not create chances offensively and plays it safe too much. If he wants to move up this list, he has to start being a 6 who can progress the ball consistently instead of playing the easy pass.
- 37. Brooklyn Raines – Center Mid, Barca AZ, 2005
I rated Brooklyn too high in the last list and came down to Earth for this update. Brooklyn has to show that he is the same player at the u17 academy level and move to a professional club who can provide him first team opportunities. Brooklyn’s ceiling is very high and he is a very good player but we have to see the type of player he is after he goes through a growth spurt and starts playing against older players consistently. If he dominates the u17 level like he has the u15 level then he will move right back up the list. Brooklyn should be in every 2005 YNT camp possible as he is easily one of the best center mids in the pool.
- Matteo Ritaccio – Center Mid, Liverpool, 2001
Matteo Ritaccio is one of the most talented center mids in one of the worse club situations. Matteo is at Liverpool and to be blunt, he has absolutely no chance of ever being a first team player for them. Should he ever be expected to? No, Liverpool’s midfield is too deep and will never rely upon academy players and instead will solve depth chart holes with transfers of top 20 players in the world. Matteo should go on loan to get first team minutes wherever he can but it is unknown of if that is currently in the plans for him as no rumors are being made about a potential loan. This is a crucial year for Matteo and if he wants to stay on the list as a top 50 prospect he has to move to a club who will actually play him and not just move on a loan, but get a permanent transfer.
- Kevin Paredes – Winger, DC United, 2003
Kevin is one of the first players previously on the list who saw a big jump from 44 to 35. If Kevin did not have Ben Olsen as a coach he would be even higher in this list. Kevin is very athletic and has the skill on the ball to match his athleticism. What worries me is that his coach is not playing him on the right wing which is by far his best position. Kevin is being played as a left wing back and a center mid for DC United which is a complete waste of his talents. Kevin is a lock for the 2003 YNT and has earned the first team minutes he is getting. Unless Kevin has a severe injury, he will never get dropped from this list and he can only get higher from here.
- Bryce Duke – Center Mid, LAFC, 2001
Is Bryce at a club which has been notable stellar at everything they do? Yes. Does Bryce play for one of the best American coaches of all time who is great at developing young players? Yes. The combination of both of those factors are why Bryce has made this list. Bryce is a very skilled player who has a very bright future and is in a better position to succeed than most of the players on this list. Bryce needs to get a chance with the u20’s and show that he is a top player in his positon to move further up this list. Like Kevin Paredes, it will be nearly impossible for Bryce to get dropped from the top 50 in the future.
- Mauricio Cuevas – Right Back, LA Galaxy, 2003
Remember all of the things I said about what is keeping Cam Dunbar from being higher in this list? Well, all of that applies to Mauricio Cuevas as well. Mauricio Cuevas is a magical player and without a doubt is one of the three most talented right backs in the youth national team pool. Mauricio has been fantastic in his USL appearances and is carved in stone into the starting lineup for the 2003 YNT. Another reason Mauricio is so low on this list for a player of his talent is that he has an even more talented u20 player on this list who also plays his position at his club in Julian Araujo. One of Julian Araujo or Mauricio Cuevas needs to be sold within the next 12 months or LA Galaxy will risk ruining the development of one of these players who are both incredibly talented.
- Jonathan Perez – Attacking Mid, LA Galaxy, 2003
Do I need to say it again? The LA Galaxy are not exactly the best at developing talent and from a ceiling perspective Johnny Perez is the second-best prospect in their system after Mexican youth international Efrain Alvarez. The Galaxy have a history of filling their attacking position with brand name DP’s at the expense of their youth prospects which has a direct negative effect on someone like Johnny Perez. If the Galaxy can bring in a youth friendly head coach then Johnny, Mauricio, and Cam will all shoot up the list immediately.
- Chris Thaggard – Winger, Charlotte FC, 2005
I will bet my life savings that Chris Thaggard becomes the first homegrown for Charlotte FC. Chris is a physical freak who is great on the ball and a great goal scorer as well. In the DA Chris managed to score a whopping 132 goals in 98 games over 3.5 seasons. Stats do not give the full picture but Chris also stands out on the field as the most technical player in any game he plays in. Don’t believe me? Then go watch his dominant performance at the GA Cup Qualifiers when he guest played with the very talented Atlanta United 2005’s and was their best player by far. If Charlotte are seriously planning on leaning on youth academy players in their first team then this is a player that fans need to get used to hearing about because he will be around for a very, very long time.
- Hayden Sargis – Center Back, Sacramento Republic, 2002
Hayden Sargis is showing all signs of being the current u20 cycle’s Chris Richards, a center back completely unknown during his u17 cycle who becomes a key player in the u20’s a cycle later. Hayden has burst onto the scene with very consistently great performances for Sacramento Republic. Hayden plays alongside former MAC Hermann award winner Tomas Hilliard-Arce and noticeably looks the better of the two rich is ridiculously impressive for an 18-year-old center back. I will riot if Hayden is not on the team sheet for the next u20 camp because he has been playing that good. This is a player who we could potentially see rise up the list in 2021 and start for the current u20 cycle as a much-valued left footed center back.
- Reed Baker-Whiting – Defensive Mid, Seattle Sounders, 2005
Reed Baker-Whiting has been one of the more consistently hyped prospects among the 2005 age group over the last year. He recently proved why he deserved the hype when he became the first American 2005 (and potentially the first 2005 on the planet) to make a professional debut when he came on as a substitute and put in a very good 15-minute performance against the Sacramento Republic who field a team of players almost all at least 10 years older than him. Both Daniel Leyva and Joshua Atencio have to be grinding every day or Reed will surpass both of them in the next two years, this kid is legit.
- Kenan Hot – Defensive Mid, New York Red Bulls, 2004
Kenan is one of the 2004’s who has recently made his professional debut in the USL for the NYRB2. Kenny looked like a completely different kid when he stepped on the field because he is no longer the tall and lanky kid he used to be. Kenny has put on a good amount of muscle and has not lost any speed either. Kenny has not been playing as consistently in USL as I would like to see but I am not worried about this at all because he is so young and has looked good in the games he has played in. Kenny is a player who will not take long to transition to the men’s game because of how he plays and the physical tools he already possesses. Kenny should be a starter for the u17 YNT and with the ability to acquire a Euro Passport, Kenny will be the subject of numerous European rumors the more minutes he gets at the USL and international levels. As long as Kenny gets more minutes in the USL his spot on this list is safe.
- Evan Rotundo – Attacking Mid, Schalke 04, 2004
Evan was a player who I was actually expecting to slide when I made the original top 50 list in April. Then I found out in May that he was going to Schalke instead of Borussia Dortmund and I was extremely satisfied with the move. Evan has the highest soccer IQ, vision, and perhaps even the best passing ability out of any player in the u20 pool. The reason Evan is so low at 27 is because of his athleticism. Evan is not a fast or strong player and has to prove that he can handle playing against bigger and faster players before he can finally be anointed as a can’t miss prospect. Evan has moved to Schalke and quickly made an impact for their u17’s by having a goal or an assist in every single game he is involved in but this should be expected of a player of his caliber. Evan has not done as well against bigger and stronger players and needs to show that he can handle that and then he could potentially shoot into the top 10 in this list. Schalke are very good at physical development so USMNT fans should have hope. Evan does have the potential to be the 10 who takes the USMNT into the promised land.
- Matko Milejevic – Winger, Argentinos Juniors, 2001
Matko is one of the most technically gifted players in this pool and has the physical tools to go along with it. So, if he has that combination then why is he only ranked at 27? The answer is because he is very inconsistent. Numerous reports about the u20 YNT camp in January said that Matko was unbelievable in practices and then was not the same player in games. Matko has had very good games at his club and very bad games as well. Being one of the older players in this list, the allowable margin for error is thinner for Matko than it is for other players who have shown inconsistency like the next player we will talk about. If Matko can show consistency in games then he could become a key player for the u20’s and even potentially get looks for the USMNT in the future.
- Dante Sealy – Winger, FC Dallas, 2003
Dante Sealy has even more talent and is even more inconsistent than Matko Milijevic is. Dante has had games in the DA where he has been one of the best players that I have ever seen and then he will follow it up by getting locked down by an average fullback in his own age group the next game. Dante has also not had many impressive performances in the USL with North Texas SC. But when the time came for Dante to show why he is a highly regarded prospect, he showed up and performed. Dante was the clear best American player at the Nike Friendlies in November 2019 where he ran the u16 YNT’s offense and terrorized whoever was in his path. Dante looked like he was not even being challenged and was calmly destroying the other team while having an impact on the scoresheet. He then followed that tournament up with a training stint at PSV where he played up an age group with their u19’s and reportedly stood out and then followed up that by having a 4-goal performance in his very first game at the winter DA showcase in December. Like Matko, if Dante can find consistency in his performances then the sky is the limit and Dante could even end up becoming a Champions League level player, he has the potential for it.
- Elton Chifamba – Center Mid, Columbus Crew, 2003
Hey USMNT fans, do you get upset with how Darlington Nagbe rarely progresses the ball and is not a good defender but are happy with how he always keeps possession? Do you want someone who can do all three? Well that is Elton Chifamba. Elton is a tidy player who keeps possession, is an excellent passer, and is rock solid defensively. The only reason that Elton is not higher is because he plays for the Columbus Crew. If Elton was at almost any other club he would be receiving a pay check every single week by now and even potentially getting minutes in MLS. But sadly, in Columbus he has Darlington Nagbe and now Sebastian Berhalter to beat out now which will be very difficult… especially with a manager like Caleb Porter who does not like to rely on younger players. If Elton can get minutes in the next 12 months then he will show why many YNT super fans rate him so highly.
- Gage Akalu – Winger, Sporting Kansas City, 2005
Who is the most talented attacker in the 2005 age group? In my opinion, that player is Gage Akalu. Gage is one of the most skilled players on the ball that I have seen in thousands of hours of watching the DA. Gage can play with both feet, he rarely loses the ball, and he is a constant fixture in the score sheet. Once Gage hits his growth spurt he should turn into a player that should terrify defenders who even have to think about going up against him. Gage may be good enough to play up with the 2004’s for the u17 YNT. This is a kid that Sporting Kansas City should have offered a homegrown deal to already or will be before the end of 2020, he’s that good. The only reason he is not in the top 20 is because we have to see how he performs as he physically matures over the years. This is an elite talent.
- Indiana Vassilev – Striker, Aston Villa, 2001
Indiana Vassilev was a player four months ago that I had a lot of questions about. The very first question was if he was a player who got a first team look because of a lack of depth and would never get another shot or was he a player who they would consistently bring up to the first team? Well, since the Premier League resumed we got our answer. Indy made the bench numerous times and in almost every bench for Aston Villa. On top of that the games that I have seen Vassilev play more than 5 minutes he has been very good. Whether Indy becomes a Premier League player or not long term is still unknown. We still need to see him play a full game against men and get more data before we can confidently project that and move Indiana up into the top 20. But it is a big deal when a player consistently makes the roster for a Premier League team that didn’t get relegated. We should see more of him next season and I can’t wait for it.
- Gianluca Busio – Defensive Mid, Sporting Kansas City, 2002
This was the most unexpected player to make the top 50 for me but I certainly am not sad about it. Plain and simple, Gianluca Busio the 10/winger was not good enough. Gianluca did not create chances, he struggled to get on the ball, and he only affected the scoresheet after meme worthy terrible defenses. It just was not good enough and he had 2000+ minutes of minimal improvement which was seriously concerning.
Well, Gianluca Busio the 6 is completely different. Busio has been fantastic playing as a deep lying playmaker. He has been getting on the ball, leading the team in touches and passing percentage, creating chances, breaking lines, asking consistent questions of the backline and goalkeeper, and he also has shown that he is a goal threat from deep. This is a player who is deserving of the rumors of getting looked at by Juventus, Inter Milan, Fiorentina, and Feyenoord. Busio was a player who struggled but this looks like a thing of the past. This is one of the best renaissances that I have seen from a youth player and I could not be happier to see it. This is a player to watch and if he keeps improving, a top 10-15 prospect.
- 20. Cameron Harper – Winger, Celtic, 2001
Cam Harper is one of the most underrated player in the entire youth national team pool. When people think of promising wingers they often say Gio Reyna, Uly Llanez, and Konrad De La Fuente but never include Cam in that group and that is a crime in my opinion. Cam showed at the January u20 camp that he is one of the best attackers in the YNT pool. Cam is one of the fastest attackers we have and can glide with the ball which makes him almost impossible to defend. At u20 World Cup qualifying he should be one of our best players and truly emerge onto the scene in a similar fashion that Alex Mendez broke out a year ago. Currently Cam Harper has been receiving bench appearances for Celtic as they looked to qualify for Champions League as well as the early games in their season. This is a special talent.
- Caden Clark – Attacking Mid, New York Red Bulls 2, 2003
Do you see how everyone raves about Brenden Aaronson? Well imagine a player who is 3 years younger and almost just as good and you get Caden Clark. Caden is a playmaking 10 who buzzes around the field dissecting the team and creating chances. Caden is one of the leaders for assists in MLS despite only being 17 years old. He plays so much like Brendan Aaronson that he even is terrible finishing in front of the net. If Caden can work on putting the ball into the corner of the net when he pulls the trigger then he can be the best attacking mid that we have in the pool. Caden also has access to a Euro Passport so when the right offer comes he is gone to Europe. I am expecting to see Caden either in the Bundesliga or in the Champions League.
- Bryang Kayo – Center Mid, Wolfsburg, 2002
Bryang is a player who is loved or hated by fans. I am a player who loves his potential. When seeing how Weston McKennie just got a move to Juventus then expectations should be very high for Bryang who’s playing style is very similar to Weston’s except he is much better on the ball than an 18-year-old Weston McKennie was. Bryang dominates the midfield with ease and drives by defenders at will. He makes the game look easy. Bryang also is consistently highly rated by his coaches. DC United, the u17 YNT, Orange County SC, Wolfsburg, or Gregg Berhalter all have publicly spoke about how high of potential Bryang has and that is very significant. Bryang should be involved with the u20’s but has a tough midfield to break into but I have no doubt that he will find a way.
- Antonio Leone – Center Back, LAFC, 2004
The American Virgil Van Dijk, Antonio Leone is a beast in the back. Antonio bullies attackers and makes it seem easy. He rarely gets beat on the dribble, he is strong, and he can distribute out of the back. Tony is your prototypical future center back that teams want who is an elite defender and can distribute out of the back. Tony is a commanding leader as well and makes it a point to be a leader in whatever team he is in. Most importantly, Tony is at LAFC coached by Bob Bradley and will be in the best environment for development that can be offered stateside while he goes up against elite players like Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, and Bryan Rodriguez every single day. Tony is a guaranteed starter for the u17 YNT and is a top priority dual national for us.
- Taylor Booth – Center Mid, Bayern Munich, 2001
While Zach Booth is more of an attacking center mid, Taylor is a center mid who is a good connector and a good defender. Taylor has been under the microscope of American fans for years now and consistently has shown that he deserves the to be one of the consistently hypes players in the pool. Taylor Is progressing well at Bayern and should have a good year with their reserves in the 3 Liga. Taylor will be a commanding presence in the u20 locker room and is a player that everyone should be excited about. Taylor can be the deep-lying distributor who can hit 40-50 yard passes with ease while being a solid defensive presence and Taylor can also be the connecting midfielder who creates in the final third. I am expecting Taylor to become a player who is a consistent starter for a top 10 Bundesliga team.
- 15. Tanner Tessmann – Center Mid, FC Dallas, 2001
Remember the kid who Dabo Swinney said was athletic enough to start as a wide receiver for Clemson? That kid he was talking about is Tanner Tessmann. When a player has the combination of a massive frame, quick feet, and a very high IQ then you know they are going to be special. Tanner stepped up filling in for an injured Paxton Pomykal and immediately became a difference maker in MLS in his very first game. He can hang with anyone his age and could very quickly become a standout in MLS and get a move to Europe after a good showing with the u20’s. Tanner will have a great career in Europe and I am expecting no less.
- Julian Araujo – Right Back, LA Galaxy, 2001
Let me tell you, it is frustrating to watch our best right back prospect played as a winger in MLS. Julian is one of the best defenders we have and is one of the best natural leaders in the pool as well. This kid does everything right. Julian can attack well, defend 1v1 well, win 50/50’s consistently, and dominate forwards all games. It is only a matter of time until Julian is moved off to Europe and becomes a very high level right back.
- Jose Gallegos – Attacking Mid, San Antonio FC 2001
Jose Gallegos is something of an anomaly now, he is a player who had no involvement in the DA or in a European academy but has become a prominent figure in the youth soccer landscape. Every other player in this list and in my top 100 prospects either has played in the DA or has played in an academy abroad. Jose is by far the best teenage attacking prospect in the USL and is an obvious standout every time he steps on the field. Jose would also standout in MLS as shown when he dismantled FC Dallas in a preseason friendly where he was incredible. Jose is going to quickly be Europe bound and once he has a standout performance at the u20 World Cup he should be the first major USL developed product to get sold to Europe. Jose is going to be a baller and wherever he lands in Europe will be lucky to have him.
- Nati Clarke – Center Back, Sporting Kansas City, 2005
The only reason that Nati Clarke fell out of the top 10 is because he is so young. A lot will happen in between now and when Nati turns 18 and becomes a consistent first team player. Once I see that Sporting Kansas City is really pushing to get him first team minutes he will move right back into the top 10. But the talent of Nati can’t be understated, this is the most dominant defender I have ever seen at the academy level. Nati is a physical freak who in normal situations in America would be getting offers from every SEC school for football because he is so athletically gifted. But just being athletic is not why Nati stands out, Nati also has the best feet in his age group as well. Nati dribbles by players with ease and connects passes often that very few u20 players even want to attempt. The biggest question is whether Nati ends up becoming a right back or center back because it looks like Nati may not be very tall once he is done growing and already possesses speed that would be elite in the professional game. No matter where he plays, he will be a standout player and at the rate he is going he will be playing in the Champions League.
- Owen Otasowie – Center Back, Wolverhapton, 2001
Owen Otasowie is yet another physically dominating player in our youth player pool. In England being physically gifted always helps you advance through the ranks. Owen is a monster at 6’2 200lbs (likely taller and bigger than that) and is very quick as well. Owen is very good on the ball as someone has to be to even get considered for the first team of a club that manages to qualify for the Europa League via the Premier League. Owen should look to go on a loan to get consistent first team minutes but if he chooses the USA he is a guaranteed starter for our u20’s at right center back. The only reason Owen does not break the top 10 is that he could be better on the ball and the margins between players above him are very thin and ultra-competitive as we have that much top end talent rising.
- Ricardo Pepi – Striker, FC Dallas, 2003
Ever since Ricardo Pepi stepped into the FC Dallas u17’s and scored 19 goals in 8 games he has been regarded as one of the top striker prospects in the country. Those 8 games were the last time that we have seen Ricardo Pepi play against players in his own age group. Ever since he has played up in the USL, the u17 national team with the 2002’s, currently the MLS, and soon the u20 national team where he will start while playing 2 years up. Ricardo Pepi has every tool a striker could possibly dream of being fast, strong, a good dribbler, a wicked accurate shot from anywhere within 30 yards, and is tall at 6’1. His weakness is that he struggles with his back to goal against pro’s because he has not filled out yet because he is only 17 but as he gets older the muscle will come. I would be genuinely surprised if this kid does not end up playing in the Champions League at some point in the future, he is that talented. Ricardo will compete along with Josh Sargent and Malick Sanogo to become the 9 of the future for the USMNT. Ricardo Pepi has the chance to play himself into consideration for the 2022 World Cup and could be involved in the USMNT all the way until the 2034 World Cup.
- Jonathan Gomez – Left Back, Louisville City FC, 2003
Jonathan Gomez is the first of two insanely talented left backs that the youth national team system has currently. JoGo is the perfect modern attacking the fullback who is just as skilled as a winger and a very good defender. Jonathan still is growing and putting on muscle and can get pushed around in the USL but this won’t happen for very long and once he fills out he is going to be one of the best, if not the best, left backs this country has ever had. Jonathan turned 17 on Tuesday and the countdown is on until he turns 18 and will immediately sign for a club in Germany and quickly break into the team by winter 2022 priming him to be in USMNT consideration for the 2022 World Cup in November that year. Jonathan may be one of the best left prospects in the world for the 2003 age group, he is that special.
- Johnny Cardoso – Defensive Mid, Internacionale, 2001
Johnny Cardoso (aka Johnny Soccer) is one of the very few American dual nationals to successfully rise out of a Brazilian big 12 academy in Internacionale. As someone who has trained at both Cruzeiro and Botafogo I have seen firsthand what it takes to make it in potentially the most competitive environment that exists on the planet. Johnny has the grit that you see so often in aspiring Brazilian academy prospects who are fighting for their livelihood and he shows it every time on the field. Johnny is a 6 who will break bones going into tackles if necessary and he can also pick out a pass anywhere on the field. Johnny also has the ability to play anywhere on the field as he has experience as a 9 and winger from his academy days. Johnny’s best game is playing as a destroying 6 who can keep possession and break up plays and he is excellent at this role. Johnny Soccer is so good at this that Gregg Berhalter has stated numerous times that this is the young player to watch for to potentially break into the USMNT next which is a huge deal. If Johnny can get good exposure from the USMNT then it will only be a matter of time before European teams come sniffing and move him abroad.
- Konrad De La Fuente – Winger, FC Barcelona, 2001
When I created the top 50 list back in April I had no idea the next couple of months that awaited Konrad. If a player who is not getting first team looks at the biggest club on planet Earth then that should speak volumes for the potential that I think the other players have. Just because Konrad is ranked 7th does not mean I don’t rate him, I fully expect to see Konrad playing Champions League soccer someday. On the ball Konrad has the sauce and can play with both feet. The only reason Konrad does not beat out any of the players above him is his athleticism. Konrad has average speed and average strength which hurts his game as a winger who has to beat fullbacks 1v1 down the touchline. Konrad is a u20 player currently but at the rate he is going he will be a USMNT player by the time qualifying starts. Kudos to Konrad for being the first American to potentially breakthrough at FC Barcelona and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here.
- 6. Uly Llanez – Winger, Wolfsburg, 2001
Imagine if Neymar was Mexican-American and that is Uly Llanez. Uly is a truly gifted left winger who can filet a player by cutting in or beating him to the end line. Uly can play with both feet but has a right foot that can create magic. Uly also is very quick and strong which makes him very hard to dispossess as he runs at you with the ball. It is mind blowing thinking about how Uly is not playing in every game for the Wolfsburg first team and makes me worried for the other prospects we also have there. Once Uly breakthrough then he’ll finally become the consistent USMNT call up that we’ve begged the last year for.
- Moses Nyeman – Center Mid, DC United, 2003
Moses Nyeman is my favorite prospect in the u20 pool. Moses can literally do it all, he can create in the final third, he can hit long passes, he can play with both feet, he has an incredibly high IQ, and he goes into challenges with all of his body. The only red flag for Moses is that he is only 5’5 120, he is tiny. This will turn away coaches, like Ben Olsen, who favor athletically gifted players. Once Moses puts on muscle it is over for other teams in the MLS because he will dominate games in a ifashion that will make fans ask why they even rated players like Brenden Aaronson and Paxton Pomykal, Moses has that much potential. At the minimum Moses will be a Bundesliga player.
- Malick Sanogo – Striker, Union Berlin, 2004
Malick is the best striker prospect in the youth national team system currently. Malick was the second most productive player among all u17 eligible players in Germany last season (2003 & 2004) in goals and assists among all levels in Germany. The only player who led him was ahead of him was Youssofa Moukoko who is the most talented youth prospect among all age groups in the world currently. To be that productive in Germany is a massive deal. Malick is so good that Union Berlin even went and hired his father as a striker’s coach at the club which is evidence for how well rated Malick is. Union Berlin do not have a u19 team which means that in the next 2-3 years it is either first team or bust for Malick and at the rate he is going he is going to be a first team player in the next two years. Malick is a good bet to be the early Bundesliga breakout for the 2004 age group. Malick is also eligible for both Germany (he will be soon) and Nigeria so Ussoccer has to be on their game to get him to play for us.
- Kobe Hernandez-Foster – Left Back, Wolfsburg, 2002
The perfect left back prospect. Kobe is an elite attacker (he grew up as a winger), he is very athletic, he is one of the best passers in the entire pool, he can play a ball 60-70 yards on a dime, he can score from distance, he can defend 1v1, and there really is not much that Kobe can’t do. The only negative aspect of Kobe’s game is that he is 5’6-5’7 and that really isn’t a deal breaker because he’ll be playing left back. Kobe is such a good player that the u17 YNT had to play him out of position at center back and he still was the best defender on the time by a country mile. It should not take long for Kobe to be ready for the Wolfsburg first team and hopefully Oliver Glasner integrated Kobe into the team better than he has Uly Llanez. I expect Kobe to start for the USMNT in the 2022, 2026, and 2030 World Cups. Anything less than that will honestly be a letdown for me. I would not be shocked to see Kobe starting for the USMNT in 2034 as well because he will be 32 by then and still potentially in the pool just like Demarcus Beasley who was 32 for the 2014 World Cup.
- Bryan Okoh – Center Back, Red Bull Salzburg, 2003
This is the best center back prospect that I have ever seen ever since Cameron Carter-Vickers started for the u23 national team at 16 years old. Bryan is playing at one of the best youth development clubs in all of Europe and is arguable the best prospect at the club. Bryan regularly plays with FC Leifering which is Salzburg’s reserve team in the Austrian second division. Bryan is a left footed center back who is an absolute tank who bulldozes any player in his path to win the ball. Bryan is capable of making major last-ditch tackles and can then pick up the ball and accurately find a teammate 30-40 yards away. Bryan is on track to become a Red Bull Salzburg first team player in the next 2 years and on track to play under the lights for a major Champions League team. Bryan’s game is a little raw and still has moments that could be better but so does every other center back his age and in this list. The only red flag for Bryan is not anything to do with his on the field play, Brian is a quad-national. Bryan is eligible to represented the USA, Nigeria, Congo, and Switzerland who he has captained their u16’s in the past. It is really going to be a battle between the USA and Switzerland to convince Bryan to play for us. This is the biggest dual national who I think we could actually convince to represent the red, white, and blue.
- Gio Reyna – Winger, Borussia Dortmund, 2002
Who else would be number one? I don’t even need to explain myself on this one.