The MLS NEXT Cup marks the end to the 2022 MLS NEXT academy season. MLS broadcasted a selection of games from the U19, U17, U16 and U15 age groups. I watched the broadcasted games and took note of the players that caught my eye. The players below made this list because they significantly impacted the games I watched in a positive way and/or showed flashes of elite physical ability, skill and soccer intelligence. These are players that I am going to continue to monitor as they move through the ranks of academy and professional soccer. All of these players are eligible for United States Youth National Teams.
Results by Age Group:
U19 Age Group
AM, Jack Panayotou, New England Revs U19 (Born in 2004)
Jack was the driving force behind New England U19s championship run. Jack is an attack minded midfielder that has supreme ball control, vision, passing ability and is clinical in the final third. He was creating danger all tournament. He recently played with the United States U19s and is not under a professional contract with New England. If Jack does not agree to a professional contract with the Revs this summer, he has the option to play with NCAA powerhouse, Georgetown University.
Wing/ST, Tarik Scott, FC Dallas U19 (Born in 2005)
Tarik has as elite physical tools as anyone in the United States pool. He has flashed those tools and some positive dribbling ability, but still has a lot of growth opportunity in his final third decision making. Tarik recently played for the Bayern World Squad in a couple of friendlies this summer and is a likely homegrown contract candidate for Dallas.
WING, Bryce Jamison, Barca Residency Academy U19 (Born in 2006)
Whenever a player is playing multiple age groups up you have to be impressed. Bryce is a big and strong winger for his age with a powerful right foot. Bryce is a former Atlanta United product that played with a lot of confidence against Dallas. Below you will see him show good composure and a nice finish. He’s still very raw but the canvas is incredibly exciting.
U17 Age Group
ST, Marcos Zambrano-Delgado, Philly U17 (Born in 2005)
Zambrano is an Ecuadoran-American who recently played for the United States U19 team. He scored two goals in the final, one being a very nice game winner and seven goals in total for the tournament. Zambrano is the type of striker that we don’t produce a lot of in the states. He is very skilled, very good in combination and has the ability to create his own shot because of his skill and good feet. He can score in a variety of ways as evidence in the final. He had a towering header and a clinical strike after a delicious touch that set himself up in a great spot. This is a prospect to be excited about.
DM/CM, Alex Perez, Philly U17 (Born in 2006)
Alex is a player that wasn’t really on my radar until this tournament. He can play the 6 or the 8 and has a sweet left foot, like Jack McGlynn lite type of left foot. He is more athletic than McGlynn and can eliminate defenders with a great first. He has a number of different passes in his repertoire and also can strike the ball from distance. He is a player I will be keeping a closer look at next season.
WING, Owen Presthus, Crew U17 (Born in 2006)
Owen showed why he is one of the top 2006 players in the MLS academy system in this tournament. Owen is an above average athlete with quick feet and an array of dribbling moves. He attacked defenders relentlessly, but also offers good vision and off ball movement. He also strikes the ball very well. He has a very well rounded game for his age and is by far the best prospect the Crew has produced. A homegrown deal shouldn’t be too far away.
CM, Luis Moreno, Houston U17 (Born in 2006)
Luis has loads of technical ability and an incredible mind for the game. If he can develop into an at least average physical profile he is going to be a top prospect. Here is a clip of Luis flashing those quick feet.
U16 Age Group
CM/DM, Garry Zhang, DC United U16 (Born in 2006)
Garry is a little undersized but he is a great manipulator of the ball and really understands how to keep defenders off balance and keep them guessing. This ability allows him to beat defenders off the dribble and create numerical advantages in build up play. He also showed good accuracy and range as a passer.
CB, Matai Akinmboni, DC United U16 (Born in 2006)
Big, mobile left-footed center-backs don’t grow on trees, especially ones with the confidence and ability to break lines with passes. I love the way Matai is always looking down field to pick out a teammate. His timing on his tackles is pretty good too.
AM, Aaron Heard, St Louis SC U16 (Born in 2006)
Aaron flashed a couple of very bright moments in understanding how to combine with teammates to breakdown a defensive block. He had a wonderful assist in the semi-finals against eventual champions, DC United. I would like to see Aaron get on the ball more often, because when he does, good things happen. Important to remember that he is a very young 2006, born in late December.
U15 Age Group
WING, Zavier Gozo, RSL U15 (Born in 2007)
Zavier is an athletic, dynamic and confident winger that likes to attack and find his shot. He scored a bunch of big goals and was continuously getting in dangerous spots. He has one of the highest ceilings of any 2007 player I have scouted.
CB, Nicholas Almeida, Inter Miami U15 (Born in 2007)
Zavier Gozo, mentioned above, was pretty electric all tournament until the final. A big reason for that was the defense of Almeida. He picked him a few times as Gozo tried to take him 1v1. He also showed nice touch and a good ability to find and complete passes down the field.
CM, Luca Moisa, RSL U15 (Born in 2008)
Lucas Moisa did a lot of good things in this tournament and solidified himself as one of the top 2008s in the country. What really impressed me the most was his vision and ability to find teammates on challenging through balls and tough angled passes. Gozo’s highlight above starts with a beautiful long ball by Moisa. Here is another clip showing Moisa’s ability to draw defenders and release at the right time with the right weight.
AM, Omar Marquez, Sacramento Republic U15 (Born in 2008)
Scoring a hattie against a good NYRB U15 sort of speak for itself. Sacramento didn’t have a ton of the ball, but when they did, Omar knew what to do with is. He shows poise and technical ability on the ball and the ability to strike it well with both feet. Sneaky quick athlete as well.