The Next Generation
Hear from David Kerr breaking down the list with Marcus O’Malley (@chasingacup) & Matty Knips (@underdogsp)
We have taken a look at the 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 youth national team age groups. This group will lead the u20 World Cup and u17 World Cup squads. We looked at the players with high potential, the best-23 for each age group, as well as a top 25 ranking for each age group. All of these age groups comprise the core of the u20 World Cup (2001, 2002, 2003) and u17 World Cup (2004, 2005) cycles. These five age groups will also comprise the 2024 Olympic cycle where the United States could be a dark horse tournament favorite.
FIFA U20 World Cup rules require eligible players to be born on or after January 1, 2001 to be considered for the U20 tournament.
In this article we are going to rank the top 50 prospects among these five age groups. We will also take a look at the 5 string depth chart for these players. These players are not ranked on their current skill level but their overall potential so these rankings may be different than the previous rankings we saw in the age group breakdowns. There will also be a separate ranking for the goalkeepers because goalkeepers progress on a different timeline than field players and can not be accurately compared in a ranking like this.
What is significant about this group of players is how much quality there is. The majority of players in this list have the talent to play in Europe someday. There are players lower in this list who have debuted in a European league or have been sold by their MLS club to Europe already! As Bob Morocco mentioned in his article here, there are lots of factors that affects whether a prospect reaches their ceiling or not but I personally am very optimistic about their group. The level of American players is rising and it is apparent with this list.
Personally, I am expecting more than 20 players in this list to end up playing in a top Europe at some point in their career.
The top 50 field players
Honorable mentions: Nico Carerra, Thomas Williams, Aethan Yohannes, George Bello, John Tolkin, Jonathan Tomkinson, and Darren Yapi
Dual-nationals that I did not consider for the ranking: Folarin Balogun, Efrain Alvarez, Bryan Okoh, and Patrick Leal
50. Bobby Pierre: Center Back (Real Salt Lake)
Bobby Pierre is ranked last in this list because center backs often peak at older age groups similar to goalkeepers. Bobby was the left center back that the 2019 u17 World Cup team needed but Bobby instead represented Haiti at the World Cup instead. Bobby has since been the only 2002 center back to be called up to the u20’s this cycle and may file a one time switch to move to the USA setup. Over the years Bobby is a player who could fly up this list.
49. Marcelo Palomino: Attacking Mid (Houston Dynamo)
If this list was written two years ago, Marcelo would nearly be at the top of the list. However, Marcelo tried to find a European club over seas and was not as successful as he may have hoped so he is now back with the Houston Dynamo. But are Marcelo’s European chances over? Not at all because Marcelo is now under Tab Ramos’ tutelage and will develop well in Houston. Marcelo’s chances of breaking back into the u20 World Cup national team are not great but it is not out of the picture just yet. If Marcelo can regain his old form then he will find minutes in Houston and likely a club in Europe who will give him another shot.
48. Chris Garcia: Winger (Real Salt Lake)
Chris has limitless potential but is also fairly inconsistent. Since arriving at Real Salt Lake, Chris has found success at the DA level but needs to become more productive against players his age to move further up the list. When Chris is on his game he is hard to stop but he can switch off in games and go missing for a while. Once he fixes this habit he will become an elite winger prospect.
47. Cam Dunbar: Winger (LA Galaxy)
Cam Dunbar is one of the largest snubs from the 2019 u17 YNT cycle. People were always skeptical about the depth out wide for the last u17 cycle and many wanted to see Dunbar be given a larger chance but it never happened. I don’t think that Dunbar will ever be a youth national team player but his performances with the LA Galaxy DA teams and the Galaxy II have shown that he is a very promising player. Cam is a player who is currently trending up and at the rate he is going, MLS minutes will be coming soon and hopefully a move abroad can follow assuming the LA Galaxy do not sabotage his development.
46. Thomas Roberts: Attacking Mid (FC Dallas)
Thomas Roberts is a player who gets more shade than any other youth national team prospect that I know of. Thomas is a classic number 10 who consistently creates something out of nothing at every level that he has played at. Once Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira move on from FC Dallas, Thomas will be quickly moved in and will blossom under pressure. Thomas may not have a European ceiling but if FC Dallas is looking for a solid prospect to become the long term face of their franchise, they have it in Thomas.
45. Nelson Pierre: Striker (Philadelphia Union)
To be ranked in the top 50 as a 2005 speaks to the quality of Nelson Pierre. The 2005 striker depth is the best of any age group and Nelson is one of the standouts in this position (another will be mentioned later). In the next two years this list will start to see more 2005’s rise as they begin to emerge as high ceiling prospects and Nelson Pierre is a player who I am expecting to skyrocket up this list. He has not shown anything yet to be ranked any higher but he is also one of the only 2005’s who is playing up with the Philadelphia Union u17’s which should show just how good he really is.
44. Kevin Paredes: Winger/Attacking Mid (DC United)
To actually be given a chance with the DC United first team by Ben Olsen means that you are a special talent. Kevin Paredes fits that description. In the first two games of the season, Paredes was in the team sheet for DC United after having a very good season with Loundon United in the USL last year. Kevin is also one of the standout wingers from the 2003 age group who is loaded with talent in every position. Whether Kevin is a player with a European future is yet to be determined but he is the best winger prospect in the DC United system currently.
43. Brandan Craig: Center Back (Philadelphia Union)
Here is where the players who have serious potential to play in Europe long term start to emerge. The first one is Brandan Craig. Brandan is a player who’s best position is debated constantly by the youth national team die hards. In my opinion, I like Brandan best as a 6 but he is currently being groomed as a center back in the Philadelphia Union academy. Brandan on the ball is special and has a tremendous soccer IQ. The reason Brandan is ranked so low is because his defending still needs work and he has some very good center back prospects ahead of him at the Union to beat out. Brandan is the best defensive prospect in the Union system and will break into the first team sooner rather than later in my opinion.
42. Joseph Scally: Right Back (New York City FC)
Joe Scally is a unique prospect because unlike almost every other homegrown prospect in the MLS, Scally has already been sold for $2 million to Borussia Monchengladbach for a deal that could actually end up netting $7 million for NYCFC. For a team to spend that much on Scally means that he must be very talented. Scally was also sold after the u17 World Cup where he was one of the few players who actually had their stock rise after they u17’s crashed out of the tournament. Scally’s long term position is to be determined as I think he has a higher ceiling as a right center back but because both NYCFC and Gladbach are determined on playing Joe as a right back he sits at number 40.
41. Travian Sousa: Left Back (Hamburger SV)
If you were someone not from the Sacramento area or related to Travian Sousa who highly rated him before the year of 2019 then I solute you. Travian’s stock has increased at a rate that few other prospects can achieve and it is still going up. Moving from Sacramento over to Hamburger, Travian has flourished and has steadily moved up the ladder and is now being involved in first team training sessions. If Hamburger are allowed to move up to the Bundesliga next season then Travian may get his Bundesliga debut next season. Travian was brought into the first team with Hamburger for their winter break and did very well. Travian looks to be locked in for Anthony Hudson’s u20 World Cup rosters and will likely back up Kobe Hernandez-Foster but Travian has a very bright future.
40. Kenan Hot: Defensive Mid/Center Mid (New York Red Bulls)
Kenan Hot is one of my favorite defensive mid prospects out there. He has the size, the skill, the athleticism, and the IQ. What worries me about Kenny is the club that he is currently at. Yes, the New York Red Bulls have done well with prospects in the past but they have taken a very quick turn in the opposite direction over the last year and a half. Kenny should be getting USL minutes this year and if he does not then he should be weighing his options for a move to a German youth side. The Red Bulls waited too long to move Kenny up to the u19’s when he was ready. Kenny is a lock starter for the current u17 cycle in my opinion and his game translates really well to the senior level. If I had faith in the Red Bulls for how they will handle this high end player, Kenny would be much higher in this list.
39. Charlie Kelman: Striker (Southend United)
Does Charlie have what it takes to make it in Europe? Yes, but how high can he go in Europe is what I am skeptical about. Charlie is showing that he is a Championship level player already but as a very undersize striker, Charlie will have to constantly produce in front of the net and if he does not then he will be quickly casted aside for the next prospect who can. Charlie is the best 2001 forward prospect that actually wants to represent the United States (if you’re reading this Folarin Balogun…please give us a chance) but he will have to improve quickly if he wants to start over Ricardo Pepi for the u20’s.
38. Reed Baker-Whiting: Defensive Mid (Seattle Sounders)
The other defensive midfield prospect who will constantly be compared to Kenan Hot for a very long time is Reed Baker-Whiting. Reed is the player that should keep Danny Leyva awake at night knowing his spot in the Sounders first team is not safe. Reed is the Michael Bradley type center mid but actually has enough athleticism to cover ground and be an asset defensively… sort of like a young Michael Bradley. Reed may want to start considering options abroad because above him on the 6 depth chart is Danny Leyva (needs no explanation) and Joshua Atencio (already the Tacoma Defiance captain at 18) who both will be very hard to beat out as a prospect who is younger than both of them.
37. Cole Bassett: Center Mid (Colorado Rapids)
Cole Bassett is the winner of Anthony Hudson being named the coach of the u20’s because Cole will now likely be included in all u20 camps and u20 Wolrd Cup in a center midfield position that is loaded with talent. Cole is one of the many bright talents at the Colorado Rapids that USMNT fans forget about because he is at the Colorado Rapids. With European teams circling, Cole could be a big winner this u20 cycle and earn a move over to Germany where he could blossom as a very legit USMNT prospect if he can find the right system.
36. Federico Oliva: Winger (Athletico Madrid)
Now that fans are seeing Gio Reyna break out let’s try to make the exact same player and see if he can make it in Spain, that player is Fede Oliva. Fede is one of the 2004’s that many believe will play a role in the 2023 u20 World Cup cycle who will be carried by the 2003’s. Fede is currently tearing it up in the Athletico Madrid academy and is rising quickly. Will Fede be talented enough to break through with the Athletico Madrid first team? Probably not, but he is definitely good enough to play for a mid table team in La Liga which is an outstanding accomplishment considering how many American prospects have sunk in Spain.
35. Evan Rotundo: Attacking Mid (Unattached)
Evan Rotundo is the player that almost every American soccer fan immediately thinks about when they think of the current u17 national team cycle. Evan’s ceiling depends on which club he decides to play for as he is heavily linked with both Borussia Dortmund and Schalke. Evan has the vision, passing, and soccer IQ but Evan needs to develop his ability to beat players on the dribble. To put it lightly, Evan is miles ahead of literally every other player in this list when it comes to his vision and creativity on the ball. The largest concern with Evan is how he will physically develop as he is an undersized player but if the strength coaches in Germany do their job then Evan will quickly become a player who will go from USMNT prospect to USMNT player.
34. Dante Sealy: Winger (FC Dallas)
Old school FC Dallas fans will immediately recognize the last name Sealy but American fans will quickly recognize the last name because of Dante and not his father Scott who also played for FC Dallas. Dante is the best winger in the 2003 age group and was the standout for me at the 2019 Nike International Friendlies. Dante’s ability to beat players on the dribble in rare and he also is phenomenal at hold up play and has great vision (like a player who’s father was a pro and now runs his own soccer training organization). If the current u20 World Cup cycle was not so deep at winger than Dante would be the 2003 that would be playing up a cycle, he is a special player who will go overseas.
33. Casey Walls: Center Back (San Jose Earthquakes)
Casey Walls is the best 2003 center back in the system (Bryan Okoh could change this statement if he accepts a USA call up) and will be the staple in the backline for this age group for the next three years. Casey is an elite defender and is one of the best ball playing center backs in the entire youth national team pool. The San Jose Earthquakes rate Casey very highly and should integrate him with the first team soon enough, Casey will be playing overseas at some point in his career.
32. Indiana Vassilev: Winger/Striker (Aston Villa)
Indiana Vassilev is an interesting player because he has already made his Premier League debut which in the mind of eurosnobs should cement him in the top 10 prospects because they do not remember what happened with Johan Smith. If Vassilev was an 8 I would rate him much higher but since he moved to Aston Villa he has been moved further up the field and has found himself playing as a winger or striker. Indiana has an endless ceiling as an 8 but as a 7, 11, or 9 I think his ceiling will be in the English Championship.
31. Leo Sepulveda: Center Back (Salmanaca CF UDS)
So far in the current u20 World Cup cycle, Leo Sepulveda has been one of the revelations that many were not expecting. Leo Sepulveda is a left footed center back who comes from the LA Galaxy where he was one of the many highly talented prospects to play under Brian Kleiban. Leo should start as the left center back for the u20’s this cycle and is overall a very good center back but his ceiling may not be much higher than a lower table La Liga side. Leo is a player who will turn heads at televised u20 World Cup matches and is someone who I’m very excited to track over the next few years because I think he can turn into a very good player and potentially even break into the USMNT in the 2026 and 2030 World Cup cycles.
30. Caden Clark: Attacking Mid (New York Red Bulls)
Caden Clark is the best thing to happen to the New York Red Bulls because the club will have another young player success story even though Caden Clark did not develop at the Red Bulls for his youth career. Caden emerged as a top prospect when he lit up the DA playoffs last summer playing up with the Barca Academy u19’s. Caden is an elite number 10 who can completely change the game with the slightest of chances. Many believe that Caden will be the 2003 prospect that progresses the most in the next two years and locks down a starting role for the 2023 u20 World Cup cycle and if that happened I would not be shocked at all. If Caden can emerge as a starter with that group then it will only be a matter of time before the Red Bulls ship him off to Europe.
29. Matteo Ritaccio: Attacking Mid/Winger (Liverpool FC)
Matteo Rittacio is the most slept on prospect that will be covered in this list. Most prospects that end up moving to England are often not covered as much as they should be and Matteo is one of these prospects. Matteo is a physically imposing player who can play as a winger or a 10. Matteo can pull strings, beat players 1v1, and pop in goals on his own. Matteo will compete with Jose Gallegos for the starting 10 in the current u20 World Cup cycle assuming that Gio Reyna is withheld from the group.
28. Mauricio Cuevas: Right Back (LA Galaxy)
Mauricio Cuevas was robbed of a spot on the u17 World Cup team last fall and I am still salty about it because he could have made a difference for that team. Mauricio is one of the more technically gifted attacking fullbacks in the pool and is already a lock to start for his age group’s YNT. Mauricio could jump both Joe Scally and Ian Hoffman in the u20 World Cup depth chart this cycle if he retains the form that he had at the Nike International Friendlies last fall and his early USL minutes this year. Mauricio is an elite right back prospect who should be weighing his European interest heavily right now as he will soon be ready for the move abroad when he turns 18.
27. Patrick Weah: Striker (Minnesota United)
Yes you were correct when you recognized that last name, Patrick Weah is the cousin of Timothy Weah and the nephew of George Weah. Like his family, Patrick is an incredible soccer player with a very high ceiling. Patrick literally bullies other players his age and looks like a man among boys at every level he has played at so far. Patrick will most likely be the first field player to sign a homegrown deal with Minnesota United and could very quickly see first team minutes as he is already ready for the MLS physically. If Patrick can work on his soccer IQ and be tested at a level that he can’t overpower other kids then he could become the best striker prospect in the pool and even potentially surpass his cousin. Patrick’s talent is undeniable and if Minnesota does him well then Patrick will end up in Europe and will become a USMNT striker in the 2026 cycle.
26. Elton Chifamba: Center Mid/Defensive Mid (Columbus Crew)
Take Tyler Adams and Darlington Nagbe and combine them, the result of this is Elton Chifamba. Elton is a press resistant center mid who is feisty on defense and creative on offense. Elton is another prospect that is slept on by many casual USMNT fans who do not take the time to watch DA games but every person who does watch the DA all agree that Elton is a special talent. If Elton was at a club that gave me confidence for developing young talent then he may be a top 10 prospect but the Columbus Crew make me nervous. Elton needs to consider moving abroad as he will not push Darlington Nagbe out of the Crew’s lineup no matter how hard he tries.
25. Italo Jenkins: Striker (Atlanta United)
Do you remember when Dabo Swinney said that Tanner Tessmann is athletic enough to play wide receiver at Clemson? Well, Italo Jenkins is a player who I would actually agree with if Dabo made that claim. When USMNT fans want a striker prospect that is big, physical, athletic, great at hold up play, and great at putting the ball in the back of the net then they will be pleased when they look Italo’s way. If you have watched the Atlanta United u15’s you have probably seen a striker who literally looks like a man out of the field, that is Italo. Italo has the highest potential out of the 2005 strikers and is a player who should give USMNT fans hope for a position that is getting more and more depressing every day.
24. Daniel Leyva: Defensive Mid (Seattle Sounders)
I should not have to go too far in depth on Danny Leyva as every person who has read this far knows who he is by now. Danny broke into the Seattle Sounders first team as a 2003 and did not look out of place at all during his MLS minutes last year. Danny’s ceiling is very high but it all depends on if Danny can become a little bit faster. The recent u17 World Cup exposed Danny’s weakness which is that he is very, very slow. Danny has bite, he can dictate the game with the ball at his feet, and he can spray the ball all over the pitch at will but unless you have an athletically imposing player partnered with Danny, your midfield will get bulldozed. Danny has to improve his athleticism quickly or Reed Baker-Whiting will take his place but if Danny does improve that then he will be quickly on a plane to the Bundesliga where he will break through like Tyler Adams did.
23. Allan Rodriguez: Defensive Mid (Chicago Fire)
Do you want a player like Danny Leyva who is quicker off of the ball? Well, look no further because that is Allan Rodriguez. Allan is a dominant defensive mid who can literally do it all. Allan was the standout and captain at the Concafaf u15 Championship last Summer and may be the first Fire homegrown that will go from the academy to Europe. Allan is a lock starter for the u17’s and if Rafa Wicky is smart then Allan will also be receiving MLS minutes later this year.
22. Gage Akalu: Winger (Sporting Kansas City)
Gage Akalu is the American Neymar. Gage is the most dynamic player on the ball that you will be able to find in any youth national team. However, very silky smooth players often struggle as they move up age groups (ahem…Andrew Carleton) so until Gage breaks this trend I am hesitant to rank him any higher. If I am Sporting Kansas City then I am offering Gage a contract tomorrow and immediately moving him into the Swope Park Rangers game day rosters to push Gage and develop him so he can push for SKC minutes next season. Gage is a young player who has the talent to push to be involved for the 2026 World Cup cycle even in a position which is ridiculously loaded.
21. Matko Milijevic: Winger/Attacking Mid (Argentinos Juniors)
To make it in South America you have to be skilled and strong mentally. Matko is both and is an electrifying prospect. Matko is currently playing in the Argentina first division and is a high profile dual-national battle as Argentina want him just as bad as we do. Matko is creative out wide, aggressive, and finds new ways to attack a defender the entire game. Matko should be heavily involved for the u20’s and if he is not then there is something wrong with the scouting the USA currently have because Matko is an elite prospect.
20. Bryang Kayo: Center Mid (Wolfsburg)
Bryang Kayo is a name many will recognize because he took part in the recent January Camp. Kayo was also among a group of prospects (including Kobe Hernandez-Foster and Johnny Cardoso) who have been rumored to be called up for the USMNT friendlies that were supposed to have taken place in March. Kayo is heading over to Wolfsburg where he may actually jump the u19 level and be moved directly into their reserve team. Kayo is a younger version of Weston McKennie with more technical prowess. Kayo could break into the Wolfsburg first team in the next two years and has a chance to become a USMNT pool member for this cycle (a small chance…but still a chance nonetheless).
19. Cameron Harper: Winger (Celtic FC)
Cameron Harper is the winger that is known by few but rated highly by those who are aware of his game. Harper is quickly rising at Celtic and could break into their game day rosters in the fall. Harper is a lightning fast winger who can beat defenders at will. Harper has been the standout so far in the u20 World Cup camps and if Uly Llanez is withheld from the u20’s then Harper will be inserted into the starting lineup and will be the breakout player in this group.
18. Brooklyn Raines: Center Mid (Barca Academy AZ)
The Barca Academy in Casa Grande, Arizona has produced some very talented players recently, Brooklyn Raines is the most talented player of the bunch. Brooklyn is a more dangerous version of Tyler Adams. Brooklyn is very sound positionally and can make good in field tackles to win back and retain possession. Brooklyn is on the fast track to Europe where he should break into a team in Tyler Adams like fashion where he immediately becomes a valuable player for a team’s midfield. Brooklyn will be in the youth national team pool for another 8 years and will be the first player in the team for his entire youth national team tenure.
17. Tanner Tessmann: Center Mid (FC Dallas)
Tanner Tessmann has shot up the charts higher than any other prospect recently and it is because he decided to sign with the FC Dallas first team instead of wasting his time kicking at Clemson. As Dabo Swinney said, Tanner is athletically gifted and his game shows it on the field. Tanner stepped into the FC Dallas starting lineup with ease which is something Paxton Pomykal was not able to do at 18 years old which shows the potential that Tessmann has. Tanner should be the big winner of the u20 World Cup and should book a ticket into a European first team for it.
16. Antonio Leone: Center Back (LAFC)
It is rare when there is a center back prospect that stands out from the crowd when his age group is 16 years old but Tony has managed to do this. Tony is a elite center back prospect who has the size, ball control, IQ, and aggressive play to be elite as a center back. Right now Leone is in danger of switching to Mexico which would be a massive loss for the USA as Leone was benched in the last USA u17 camp where the goal of the camp was to evaluate the new player being brought into the pool. Hopefully for the sake of the long term center back pool, Tony realizes that the last camp was not meant to evaluate the age group locks and sticks with the good guys.
15. Jonathan Perez: Winger/Attacking Mid (LA Galaxy)
Johnny Perez is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the pool. Johnny is the dynamic playmaking prospect that the LA Galaxy were actually able to retain after Uly Llanez left for Germany. Johnny most often plays as a right winger but he is best as a 10 where he truly separates from the pack. Johnny constantly makes plays and changes the game no matter who he plays against. Earlier this year Johnny made his USL debut and picked up an assist within 10 minutes of stepping onto the field and clearly stood out from all of the other very talented prospects on the field. Perez is the biggest dual national battle that the United States currently has with Mexico as Johnny currently plays for the bad guys and is the best player for the Mexico 03’s who are significantly less talented than the USA 2003’s.
14. Jose Gallegos: Attacking Mid (San Antonio FC)
Jose will be the first major prospect to come out of a USL academy. Jose is a classic number 10 who can dissect a defense and facilitate his team’s offense. Jose is by far the best player on San Antonio already and he is still a senior in high school. With Gio Reyna likely being withheld from the u20 World Cup cycle Jose should be the starter at the 10. Anthony Hudson was recently on the BSI Podcast where he raved about Gallegos’ skill and potential.
13. Taylor Booth: Defensive Mid (FC Bayern Munich)
Taylor Booth is one of the very few prospects who is not from California (he may be the literal only one) that the 343 crew actually rate. Taylor Booth is a press resistant defensive mid who is valuable in the attack and is not a turnstyle defensively. Taylor is currently at Bayern Munich but his time there is closing as he does not have the potential to break into their first team (it’s unrealistic to expect him to). Taylor has the ability to move to a mid table Bundesliga table and can break in over the next year. Taylor will fight with Johnny Cardoso for a very long time to be the 6 in the u20 World Cup cycle and the 2024 Olympic cycle.
12. Julian Araujo: Right Back (LA Galaxy)
Julian Araujo should captain the current u20 World Cup cycle and will be a right back that should be involved in USMNT rosters for a very long time. Because of Mauricio Cuevas also being in the Galaxy system, Araujo should be moved over to Europe sooner rather than later where he will thrive. Araujo is one of the safest bets to make to become Sergino Dest’s backup long term.
11. Owen Otasowie: Center Back/Defensive Mid (Wolverhampton FC)
Owen Otasowie is a beast of a player who is currently playing his trade at Wolverhampton in the Premier League. Owen has already made his Premier League debut and has attracted interested from multiple top clubs in Europe and Wolverhampton had to move him into the first team to show how highly rated he is at the club. Owen is the best center back prospect that the USA has in the u20 World Cup pool. Owen should be considered for the current Olympic cycle and should be a key player for the next cycle. Owen will be a player to watch for the 2026 World Cup Cycle.
10. Konrad De La Fuente: Winger (FC Barcelona)
Konrad is the most underrated winger in the youth national team pool. Konrad is lighting it up for FC Barcelona’s youth teams and yet is never talked about as a top tier USMNT prospect by most fans which I don’t understand. Konrad had a rough u20 World Cup but was also the youngest player on the team and still managed to start every game for a team that upset France and also had Uly Llanez. Konrad will stay at FC Barcelona for the next year but fans should be expecting him to move over to Germany and break into a Bundesliga side after next Summer’s u20 World Cup.
9. Ricardo Pepi: Striker (FC Dallas)
Ricardo Pepi is a striker who can do it all. He can combine with teammates, he can stretch a backline, and he can bang in goals. Pepi scored 18 goals in 7 games at the u17 DA level which is absurd and followed it up by walking into the USL League 1 and scoring a hattrick in his first game. Pepi has to improve his back to goal ability but when he does he will be an elite forward. Pepi should be the starter for the u20 World Cup national team and will be a hot European target after the u20 World Cup in 2021.
8. Jonathan Gomez: Left Back (Louisville City FC)
FC Dallas is a super talent factory and Jonathan Gomez is the best talent to come out of their academy. Gomez is a left back who can do it all. Gomez has the IQ, skill, and mentality needed to go far in the game. Jonathan has moved from FC Dallas to Louisville City FC where he will play under John Hackworth who saw multiple American prospects thrive. Gomez will move to Europe next year and will go far. Look out for this kid because he is one of the two answers to the left back crisis the USMNT has had over the last decade.
7. Johnny Cardoso: Defensive Mid (Internacional)
Many fans often complain that Gregg Berhalter does not pay attention to players outside of the MLS. Gregg has quickly shot that assumption down by recruiting Johnny Cardoso into the USA system. Cardoso has been name checked by Gregg multiple times as a can’t miss prospect. Cardoso has broken into the Internacional first team in Brazil and it takes superior technical ability and mental strength to do that in a country where prospects are fighting to escape a life of poverty in the favelas. Cardoso is a lock at the 6 for the current u20 cycle and will be a constant figure in USA team sheets after that.
6. Uly Llanez: Winger (Wolfsburg)
Uly Llanez is the player that literally every USMNT fan is begging Gregg Berhalter to integrate into the USMNT as soon as possible and for good reason, Uly can ball. Uly has every single tool that you look for in a winger and should break into the Wolfsburg first team as soon as the Bundesliga resumes. While there are a lot of great prospects in this list, Uly is one of the only locks to be a USMNT contributor in the short term.
5. Nati Clarke: Right Back/Center Back (Sporting Kansas City)
Right now people are locking Sergino Dest into the starting right back spot for the next decade but they shouldn’t because of Nati Clarke. Nati may be the most athletically gifted player in this entire list but being athletically gifted does not get you a top 5 spot. Nati has all the technical tools in his game and if Sporting Kansas City can develop his soccer IQ then Nati will quickly be Europe bound and locked into a starting lineup for whoever can sign him. When looking for a young player to break into the USMNT for the 2026 World Cup cycle, Nati Clarke has the highest chance of them all as he will be 21 in 2026.
4. Moses Nyeman: Center Mid/Attacking Mid (DC United)
Moses Nyeman will be a late bloomer but when he blooms it will be big. Moses can literally do it all. Moses is exceptional at every aspect of the game and is MLS ready despite being the smallest player that you will see on the field. Moses does not have star potential, he has superstar potential. The only thing separating Moses from being a star on the field is his physical attributes. Once Moses bulks up, he will be electrifying on the field and will terrorize whoever steps in his way.
3. Malick Sanogo: Striker/Winger (FC Union Berlin)
Malick Sanogo is the best striker prospect that the United States has not named Josh Sargent. Soccer runs in Sanogo’s veins as his father was hired as a striker coach at Union Berlin. Sanogo currently is second among all 2004’s in the German youth leagues for goals and assists, the player leading him is Youssoufa Moukoko who is a generational talent. To be out producing every other player his age in Germany speaks volume’s about Malick’s talent. With no second team at Union Berlin, Malick’s integration into the first team will be sooner rather than later. Malick could break through into their first team before the 2022 World Cup and is the highest priority dual-national player that the United States have.
2. Kobe Hernandez-Foster: Left Back (Wolfsburg)
Kobe is the best left back prospect that the United States has ever had. Kobe was so valuable for the 2019 u17 World Cup team that they had to start him as a center back because he was the best center back on the team even though it was not his natural position. Kobe will most likely break into the Wolfsburg first team within the next year and become the left back that the USMNT has been missing. Gregg Berhalter should carve Kobe’s name into the starting lineup at left back because Kobe will be in the pool barring a critical injury.
1. Gio Reyna: Winger/Attacking Mid (Borussia Dortmund)
This was an obvious choice for the top American prospect. Gio is the most talented American to play the game and it is not really even close. Many at Dortmund are saying that he has even more talent than Christian Pulisic. I think that Gio will surpass Christian and that it will be quicker than people are expecting. While Christian is the next Landon Donovan, Gio is the next Clint Dempsey. Gio will be the best player on the team for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups and will likely be a starter for the 2022 World Cup.
The top 5 goalkeepers
5. Chris Brady (Chicago Fire)
4. Luca Lewis (Torino FC)
3. Damian Las (Fulham FC)
2. Chituru Odunze (Leicester FC)
1. David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake)
The prospect depth chart
The u20 World Cup & u17 World Cup Leaders
Here is what the depth chart looks like after you add the players in according to where they were ranked. The overall depth and quality of these prospects can’t be understated, this is the brightest group of players that the United States has ever produced. This also is a very early depth chart for the 2024 Olympics as all of these players are age eligible for that. This list is missing dual nationals like Folarin Balogun, Efrain Alvarez, and Bryan Okoh who I am not sure will represent the United States at the youth levels but I would welcome them with open arms.
When you add the standouts from this group to the promising players from the older age groups including Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Sergino Dest, Josh Sargent, Timothy Weah, Chris Richards, Paxton Pomykal, Richie Ledezma, Miles Robinson, Antonee Robinson, Chris Gloster, Jesus Ferreira, Nicolas Gioaccini, Brendan Aaronson, James Sands, Chris Durkin, Erik Palmer-Brown, Michael Edwards, and Alex Mendez then you have a group that could actually make a deep run in the 2026 and 2030 World Cups. What’s even more exciting is that the 2006 and younger age groups are starting to emerge and they’re looking to potentially be even more talented.
So where should fans draw the line on who is a top tier prospect currently? Personally, I believe that barring injury the top 14 players listed have the talent to play for top table teams in big European leagues. players ranked from 15 to 43 I also think have the talent to be able to make it in Europe at a high level but have a flaw in their game that separates them from being in that top tier. After that there is a tier with players who I think are very good but are too young to determine yet or they play in a position with a significant amount of depth (6, 8, and CB’s apply to this).
Are any of the players who were ranked lower or listed as an honorable mention being written off as a USMNT prospect yet? Absolutely not, if the 2000’s did not serve as an indicator, new prospects will appear out of no where and prospects with little hype will progress very well. I have few players in mind who I think will surprise people down the line.
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