I did it for you all. I watched every broadcasted U17 match that featured an American MLS team. That means I was able to watch these clubs, some multiple times: Atlanta, LAFC, NYCFC, Seattle, Minnesota, LA Galaxy, NYRB, San Jose, Philadelphia, Columbus, Austin, Charlotte, Cincinnati, DC United, Miami, Houston and Real Salt Lake.
The following clubs did not get a broadcast at the U17 level: New England, Dallas, Orlando, KC, Portland, St. Louis, Colorado, Nashville or Chicago.
The U17 level consists of players born in 2005, 2006 and there were numerous players born in 2007 that were playing up a level. The 2005 age group has been a bit of a forgotten one from a Youth National Team (YNT) perspective, though the USSF just announced the hiring of Marko Mitrovic to lead the U19 group, which will focus on the 2005 age group. The reason they have been a bit of an afterthought is because the 2023 U20 World Cup will mostly feature 2003s and 2004s and the 2023 U17 World Cup will feature 2006s and 2007s.
Scouting players at this level is challenging. It can be messy. I rate players based on three categories: physical ability (strength, speed, quickness, explosiveness), technical ability (touch, dribbling, passing, shooting, tackling) and tactical/intellectual ability (creativity, mental processing, toughness).
At this age, I am looking for peaks and am not necessarily too concerned about valleys. I am looking for elite traits, even if they show up inconsistently. Obviously the players that do it more consistently get noted, but the key at this level is identify what a player could be and hope that through development, physical and mental maturation, and luck; the consistency will come and the areas of weakness can become strengths.
I’ve gone position by position to identify players that caught my eye:
Emmy Ochoa, San Jose Earthquakes (2005)
Emmy Ochoa is a Mexican-American that has played for Mexico at the U18 level, but is eligible to play for the US and is a likely target for the 2005 group. He signed as a homegrown player with San Jose as a 14 year old and currently starts for Earthquake II in MLS Next Pro. He’s the best 2005 US-eligible keeper that I have scouted. What stood out to me in the match I watched Emmy play vs River Plate was his ability with the ball at his feet and his intensity.
Jonathan Munteanu, Houston Dynamo (2005)
Jonathan has not played as a Youth International and is not on a pro contract, nor has he played for Dynamo 2. Jonathan caught my eye because of the explosiveness and demanding presence he showed between the pipes.
Brian Alanis, Houston Dynamo (2006)
Brian Alanis is a youth international that has most recently joined a U17 camp in January. I liked Brian’s ability to maneuver in tight spaces and he has a really nice touch. He showed the ability to both initiate positive transitions and get on the end of transitional play by flying up the left sideline.
Christian McFarlane, NYCFC (2007)
Christian was one of the few standout 2007s playing up a level. He is a British-American that signed a homegrown contract with NYCFC as a 14 year old, but has not yet featured for NYCFC or NYCFC II in MLS Next Pro, though I’d expect that to happen at some point this year. Christian is big for his age, already standing at 6-0 tall. That also makes him bigger than you typically see at the full-back position, but I really like him out there. He’s really smooth on the ball and does a really nice job with his first touch. He showed a good ability to progress the ball forward and place passes right where they needed to be.
Oscar Verhoeven, San Jose Earthquakes (2006)
Oscar is one of my favorite youth players to watch because he is so creative with the ball at his feet. Oscar has been called to the last couple U17 YNT camps and I expect him to be a fixture in that team. He has not signed a professional contract and has not played for Earthquakes II, but I think he will at some point this year. I saw more of what I had seen from Oscar, lightning quick feet, highly creative and good long passing and crosses. His defenses isn’t quite at the level of his offense, but he puts in a shift and he’s plenty fine physically at this level.
Izzy Boatwright, Inter Miami (2005)
Izzy played both Center-back and Right-back for Inter Miami, but played more so at RB, so I am placing him here. How Izzy develops physically will likely determine where he ends up. I first saw him play CB and loved his quickness and skill on the ball and as a passer. When I saw him play RB I was very intrigued, because he is a bigger guy. He showed even more creativity on the ball and was a monster in 1v1 defense. He was an absolute lock down 1v1 defender against the eventual championship side, Seattle.
Diego Rossi, NYCFC (2005)
Diego was recently called into the U19 camp and has appeared for NYCFC II. I was impressed with Diego’s quick feet, pace and ability to connect play up the right side.
Francis Westfield, Philadelphia Union (2005)
Francis has appeared in two matches for Union II, starting one. He, like Izzy Boatwright, plays both RB and CB. He played RCB in a back three in the match I saw against Flamengo, maybe one of the most impressive performances I saw by a MLS academy team against a giant like Flamengo. Westfield showed an incredible feel for the game, he was intercepting everything. He isn’t the tallest CB, but he moves well and is plenty comfortable with the ball at his feet, but for sure his most impressive trait was the way he reads the game and disrupts the opponent’s attack.
Ángel Martínez, Seattle Sounders (2005)
Ángel has played for the USYNT at the U15 level. Ángel might not be the most physically gifted CB in this age group, but he is so smart and reads the game so well. He and Stuart Hawkins were the most solid CB pairing I saw and was a big reason why Seattle one the U17 cup. Ángel showed some good long balls and good ability to dribble out of trouble, but his mental processing was what really stood out to me.
Tyler Hall, Inter Miami (2006)
I only saw Tyler for a half, but you only need to see Tyler play a little to see that he is special. Tyler captained the USYNT U17s in the last camp and he has been a starter for Inter Miami II. I think it is only a matter of time before Tyler gets a homegrown deal with Miami. He’s clearly very well thought of within that organization and within the USSF. He has all the makings of an elite CB prospect, especially if he hits a little bit of growth spurt. He’s extremely mobile, physical, smart and is very comfortable with the ball at his feet. Unfortunately Tyler got a knock and missed the quarter-finals and semi-finals. I thought Miami really missed his presence in the backline and was a big reason they did not go through to the finals. Hopefully he gets fit soon and can get back on the field for Inter Miami II. Tyler is one of the best 2006 prospects I’ve scouted in the USYNT pool.
Matai Akinmboni, DC United (2006)
Matai is a tall, left-footed Center-back that has played for DC United’s USL side, Loudoun United. He and Jace Clark are two highly regarded CBs within the DC program at the U17 level. These two had the tough task of taking on a high powered River Plate side in VERY windy conditions. It wasn’t a standout game from Matai, but there were enough flashes of his ability as a ball playing CB, and his ambition to break lines with his passes, to get me excited. Tyler and Matai would make a very exciting CB pairing at the U17 level.
Ethan Kohler, San Jose Earthquakes (2005)
You can’t miss Ethan on the pitch because he rocks the short shorts. Ethan has not played at the youth international level and is not on any sort of pro contract, but he did make his debut with Earthquakes II last weekend, starting at RCB. Ethan caught my eye at the GA Cup because he covers a lot of ground and is fearless going into tackles and challenges. He showed a lot of leadership qualities on the pitch and was also solid in possession and distribution.
Bryan Moyada, LAFC (2005)
Bryan is more of a deep lying, playmaking 6 in the mold of a Danny Leyva. I watched LAFC U17 play Flamengo in a match where LAFC looked a bit over matched, however Flamengo struggled to put together any big time chances and I think that was in large part because of Bryan’s pitch control and his ability to minimize momentum through craft possession and passing.
Niko Tsakiris, San Jose Earthquakes (2005)
Niko signed his homegrown contract with San Jose earlier this year and has been getting some minutes with the first team and he’s looked good. Niko has the looks of being one of the top 2005s in the USYNT pool and with more success in the MLS, he could start getting looks with the U20s, otherwise he will be a staple with the 2005 group. Niko was very strong against River, showing good body control and an ability to progress the ball into the final third. He was a menace all match and looked exactly how you’d want a professional to look in a youth tournament.
Benjamin Cremaschi, Inter Miami (2005)
Cremaschi is an Argentinian-American who signed with the Miami academy recently from Weston. Benjamin actually first caught my eye in a MLS Next Pro match against Philly where he scored a nice header goal against McGlynn and Paxten. He played really well all tournament as both an 8 and a 6. He’s physically advanced and plays very strong and aggressive. He reads the game well and breaks up a lot of plays defensively. He is also a good ball progressor and connects well with wings and strikers. He’s definitely one to keep an eye on. I think his future is as a 6.
Daniel Ordonez, Austin FC (2005)
Daniel is a super smart and crafty midfielder. He’s tidy with the ball at his feet and he reads the game super well. He showed many different ways to progress the ball and help get the ball in dangerous positions.
Brandon Tellez, LA Galaxy (2005)
I thought Brandon played really well against a very good Manchester United side. He was dangerous in attack, creative with the dribble and had very good ideas in getting out of tight situations. He was one of the bright players in a match where LAG went toe to toe with one of the best academies in the world.
Caleb Borneo, Columbus Crew (2005)
Caleb has not signed a homegrown contract nor has he played internationally, but he has made the bench for Crew 2 and his debut should be around the corner. I really loved Caleb’s versatility in the match I watched. In the first half he played more as a playmaking 6 and in the second half he played more as an attacking 10 and he was effective at both.
Nate Worth, NYRB (2007)
Nate is one of the four 2007s on this list. He has not signed a homegrown contract, but he is on loan to NYRB II in the USL and he has been with the USYNT U15s. It’s rumored that Nate is the best free kick taker in the USYNT pool, but we didn’t get to see too much of it. He did score a goal in the match I saw on a bit of a broken play. He looked a little bit overmatched physically, he’s not the biggest kid, but overall I thought he showed toughness and hung in well for someone playing up a level.
Cruz Medina, San Jose Earthquakes (2006)
Cruz is a premier 2006 player in the USYNT pool. He has not yet signed a homegrown contract, but he has trained with clubs like Bayern Munich. I expect the homegrown deal to happen this year and I also expect him to play with Earthquakes II at some point soon. He has been a consistent call up to the USYNT U17s. Cruz has more of a 10 profile, but plays the 8 for SJ and USMNT. In San Jose’s match against River, I saw more of what I have seen from Cruz. He’s got a rare and special ability with the ball at his feet. He’s so creative in tight spaces and has some sneaky acceleration to get by people. He’s not the biggest or fastest, but his technical ability is remarkable.
Christopher Aquino, Seattle Sounders (2006)
Mr. Aquino was one of the stars of the tournament and the championship team’s best attacking player. He came off the bench in the three matches I watched and played a false 9 type of role. He scored a goal in both the semi-finals and the finals. The goal in the finals was from about 25 to 30 yards out. He has a smooth left foot and is crafty in creating space in tight areas. Just when you thought the 2006 USYNT midfield couldn’t get anymore stacked, now you can throw Aquino in the mix.
Álex Alcalá, LA Galaxy (2005)
Álex is on LA Galaxy II, but has not yet played for the USL side. He is eligible to play for the US and Mexico. He’s undersized, but boy did he put on a show in the round of 16 against Manchester United. He nutmegged the MU left-back four or five times. His dribbling and creative problem solving in tight spaces was a joy to watch.
Justin Knighton, LA Galaxy (2005)
Justin is a pacey, aggressive winger who was up for the challenge against Manchester United. He was relentless in running at defenders and created a lot of problems. He scored the first goal in that match and it was a nice one.
Andre Gitau, Houston Dynamo (2006)
Andre is another top 2006 and recently played with the USYNT U17s. Andre has a rare blend of athleticism and skill. He was a handful in the match I watched. He loves attacking players 1v1 and is able to have success with speed, power and skill.
Micah Burton, Austin FC (2006)
Micah recently played false 9 for the USYNT U17s, but he is better suited as a 10 or a winger. He’s undersized, but has a wonderful feel for the game and good technical ability. He scored on a very nice goal in the match I watched and was active all match long. I loved the different ways he got out of tight situations and he moved incredibly well without the ball.
Miles Perkovich, Inter Miami (2006)
The 2006 group has the looks of a historic one. Miles is another attacking player from that class that I am high on and he had some really nice moments in the GA Cup. He’s ambitious and creative with the dribble and loves to attack 1v1. I thought he held onto the ball a little too long in some instances and he wasn’t a major factor in the semi-final loss to Seattle, but there were tough circumstances in that match. Miles is more quick than fast and is very strong. I’d expect him to get a homegrown deal in the near future and also get a call from the USYNT.
Etienne Veillard, Seattle Sounders (2007)
Etienne is another 2007 that played up in this tournament. He scored the second goal for Seattle in the U17 finals. He’s a pacey and hard working winger that was a nuisance all tournament long
Nelson Pierre, Philadelphia Union (2005)
I only saw Nelson for about 30 minutes vs Flamengo, but he was super impressive and an absolute load for the Brazilian side to handle. He has a rare blend of power and speed, reminiscent of Daryl Dike. He also had a goal that was Dike like with nice off ball movement and a killer finish from a tricky angle. Pierre is playing consistently with Union II and is a striker that the USMNT community should be excited about.
Bryan Destin, Inter Miami (2006)
Destin is a player I knew little about before the tournament, but I was left impressed. He scored a beautiful goal against River in a match where he had a brace. In that match he also showed some of the best hold up play you will see at this level. He knows how to use his strong frame to hold off defenders and keep the ball in a position that the defender cannot disrupt. From there he was effective in buying time for his teammates to enter the attack and find them in good positions. I’d love to see Destin with the USYNT U17s in the next camp. They need a target striker like Destin.
Diego Rodriguez, Austin FC (2006)
Diego isn’t typically a starter for Austin’s U17s, but with Cruz Mesa out with an injury, he saw a lot of minutes in this tournament. I was impressed with his skill on the ball and his ability to make plays for his teammates.
Axel Kei, Real Salt Lake (2007)
I didn’t see much of Axel in the match I watched, but his physical profile at his age is undeniable. He and Christian McFarlane are the only two 2007s on homegrown deals.