The Group That You Should be Paying Attention To on the USYNT
Recently we took a look at the 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 USYNT age groups and took a look at the top 50 u20 prospects. Today, we will be looking at the top players born in 2006 and 2007. These are the players who will be the youngest potential players for the 2026 World Cup as they will be turning 19 and 20 by that time. Will any of these players become what Christian Pulisic was for the 2018 World Cup cycle or what Gio Reyna will likely be for the 2022 World Cup cycle? Only time will tell, but in this article we will highlight every top prospect that I think is worth watching over the years. These players turn 13 and 14 this year so take this list with a grain of salt, you never know which players will turn out to be solid pro’s.
The 2006 and 2007 born players will lead a new generation of USYNT prospects. This will be the group of players who will spend their high school years playing in the new league that arises out of the ashes of the Development Academy. These players will be the youngest potential players in 2026 and will help form the core of the 2030 and 2034 World Cup cycles (feel old yet?). The 2006 and 2007 age groups will have a USYNT timeline that consists of the 2023 u17 World Cup, 2025 u20 World Cup, 2027 u20 World Cup (2007’s only), 2024 Olympics (one will be in the pool based on historical data), and the 2028 Olympics. I decided to cap this list at the 2007 age group as the 2008’s are too young to highlight as they turn 12 this year (look out for Kellen LeBlanc of the Philadelphia Union).
Mostly attacking players will be highlighted in this post as center backs historically emerge at older age groups (most early bloomers do not make it to the u20 cycle) and there are no fullbacks that truly standout yet in either of these age groups. The 2025 u20 World Cup cycle is building quite the attack as the USYNT midfield and attack are getting crowded with a lot of eye popping talents both domestic and abroad already. The wingers and strikers for the 2025 cycle with the 2005’s and 2006’s by far are the most athletic and talented group that I have seen so far. The midfield is producing more and more technical maestro’s year after year and the 2035 u20 eligible age groups show this. So without further ado, let’s dive into the way too young players with notable talent.
Who is the best USYNT player of the 2006 age group currently? That title belongs to Adrian Simons-Gill for the time being. Adrian currently plays at La Masia, the famed academy of FC Barcelona which has pumped out world class players like Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, and many more. Being in the FC Barcelona system alone is a significant achievment and shows that a player has obvious talent but Adrian is going much further than just being any other player in the La Masia system. The center midfielder is one of the top 2006 talents at the club and is not only leading his age group, but is standing out in games when playing up age groups.
How good is this kid? An answer to that is very as he made the La Masia team of the year for 2019. Adrian is the center mid that fits the Barca mold as his playing style is very similar if not identical to Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez. This kid is not going to physically dominate the other team, but he is going to keep the ball and find teammates every time in a way that will disorganize the opposition. Normally the ideal situation for an American player is to move to Europe when they turn 16 with a European passport but this kid will have been in Spain for over six years by the time the domestic players with Euro passports will move abroad. Adrian has the athleticism, the skill, the IQ, and the passing to make it very far at La Masia and if I were a betting man, I would bet on this kid being the Christian Pulisic of the 2026 World Cup cycle, he is special people.
Adrian Simons Gill— ANTONI (@LaMasiAntoni) December 16, 2019
2019-20 Infantil A
Who is the most talented player in the Philadelphia Union’s stellar academy? That would be Aaron Heard, the dynamic attacking midfielder USMNT need to know about. Aaron Heard is the smooth and smart playmaking attacking midfielder that immediately will pop out when you watch a Philadelphia Union u14 or u15 game. Aaron Heard moved to the Philadelphia Union in the summer of 2019 and quickly started to stand out when he won the golden ball at the u13 Concacaf Champions League tournament in Costa Rica last August.
Aaron may be small in stature, but he quickly buzzes around the field making plays and terrorizing the other team. No matter who he is playing against, this kid will impose his style of play on the other team and take over the game. He can dribble by you, play a killer pass, and pop goals in from distance. Aaron Heard is the total attacking midfielder package and will be the focal point in the attack for the 2006 age group for the upcoming years. Expect Aaron to be moved up to the Philadelphia Union u17’s next season as the u15 level will be too easy for him.
Every u15 USYNT cycle has that kid who is an early bloomer and literally looks like a man among boys playing against his own age group. In the past there was Alfred Koroma, Wesley Wade, Haji Wright, Ayo Akinola, and Dantouma Toure. This cycle’s edition is Bajung Darboe. To put it lightly, this kid is an absolute physical freak. While playing three years up with the Minnesota United u17’s, Bajung is still one of the most athletically dominant players on the field (the other being Patrick Weah). Typically, when you see these athletically dominant players move up to older age groups they tend to sink instead of swim because they do not have the necessary skills on the ball needed to succeed against older competition but Bajung Darboe is not like most kids. Bajung even at 13 years old is still able to physically and technically stand out on the field.
Bajung is a highly technical and pacy winger who excels in 1v1 situations and can create chances at will against players of any age. If Minnesota know what is best for them, they will sign Bajung in August when he becomes eligible for a homegrown deal making him the first 2006 homegrown signing in the MLS. Bajung is so good that he not only plays up one level in the DA, but two and still manages to stand out. It won’t be long until the hype train starts building once this kid starts to release highlights, he is truly amazing to watch if I am going to be honest. If Bajung was allowed to play against kids his own age, he would most likely score a hat trick within 15 minutes, he is that much better than other kids his age. Barring a knee injury (RIP Dantouma Toure’s hype train) Bajung is on track to start getting MLS minutes by the time he turns 15.
Like your token athletic kid, every USYNT age group also has their token Michael Bradley style center mid. This age group’s version is Matthew Cochoran. Like a young Michael Bradley, Matt is a patrolling center mid who can do it all. He has a fantastic passing range, he is calm and collected on the ball, he has incredible vision, he has the ability to create danger at will, and he can run around the field breaking up plays. Out of all of the center mid/defensive mids that the US has produced in recent years, this kid is the best one in my opinion.
Matt is yet another high level USYNT player to come out of the FC Dallas academy. While FC Dallas is currently experiencing their first homegrown takeover with the first team, the next group of homegrowns that will take the MLS by storm is on the way. The FC Dallas u15’s are incredible and have breezed through team’s in the DA and Matthew is the standout in this team while also playing a year up. How good is this team? Do you remember the Seattle Sounders 2002 team that won the GA Cup? Well, this group of players is even better. For Matt to be the clear standout in a team full of YNT level players in literally every position, it is a real testament for just how good this kid is. Big clubs in Europe are already circling and this kid will be getting paid when he turns 18. Matt should be the chiseled in stone starter at the 6 for the 2006’s u17 World Cup cycle unless the next player to be mentioned has something to say about it.
For fans of Allan Rodriguez, imagine if Allan was a phenomenal deep lying distributor, that is Mark Cajamarca. After the first wave of standout academy players for NYCFC the club has a little bit to wait for their next gem to break into the first team but once this kid is ready, the wait will be worth it. Here’s to hoping that NYCFC launch a USL affiliate and build a soccer stadium to welcome this kid to the professional level because if they don’t, Mark should head over to Germany instead.
Mark is by far the best USYNT distributor that I have ever seen at the u15 level. This kid sprays the ball around with the confidence and ease that is typically seen of a teenage 6 that is playing in the USL. Mark will have to become faster and stronger to make it to the professional level but at the rate he is progressing, this kid will quickly become too good for MLS and will be Europe bound before he turns 20, he is one of those players that is that talented. If I wasn’t so high on Matthew Cochoran’s game, I would lock in Mark as the starting 6 for the 2006 age group.
Unless you are someone who actively uses bigsoccer, there is a very small chance that you have heard of this kid before. Alex currently plays for Slavia Prague, the best team in the Czech first division. This kid has the starter pack of an elite 8 who can go far in his career. A good academy where he can develop, physically elite, cool on the ball, a great passer, creative in the attack, and knows how to use his body language to disguise his moves on and off the ball which is a rare trait at this age. Alex is one of those kids where he makes the game look easy.
This is a player who USsoccer needs to give a look at the first opportunity as the Czech national team has expressed interest in Alex. Alex will turn the 2006’s USYNT midfield from being very good to being great and giving USYNT depth. Alex could very quickly become a target of even larger academies in Europe as he is a standout in his age group at Slavia Prague. Alex should quickly standout if invited to a USA camp because he will be physically superior to most of the midfielders in his age group and will also standout for his skills on the ball as well. This kid is a very good prospect at a club where he has a chance to earn first team minutes as he progresses, his progress should be closely monitored.
Imagine being told by David Beckham that you are an incredibly talented USYNT player. That is exactly what happened to Myles when he was welcomed into the Inter Miami FC academy. Myles is your USYNT box to box midfielder who knows how to keep possession, command space, and be the physical presence needed to dominate the other team’s midfield. Inter Miami over the next two or three years should be expected to go on a rapid homegrown signing spree and Myles Perkovich will be one of the numerous talents that will be signed to the Inter Miami first team.
Every time I went to go watch an Inter Miami u14 or u15 game to observe Axel Perez (he will be highlighted later on) I was constantly blown away by Myles. Myles takes over and truly dominates a game like very few that I have ever seen at this age group and I think he is a truly special talent. David Beckham is keen on making homegrowns the face of the club and Myles is currently on track to become the start of the Miami soccer scene.
The Seattle Sounders have been steadily ramping up their academy and the latest mega talent to emerge in their system is Michael Luande. Michael burst onto the scene when he lit up the Development Academy scoring 48 goals in 35 games over two seasons. Michael’s goal scoring prowess earned him a call up to the u14 USYNT ID combine for the 2005 age group where he was one of the standout players. Luande was quickly moved from the Sounder’s feeder club to the home base where he has been playing up an age group with the Sounder’s u15’s this season.
Michael Luande is a physically imposing striker who is skilled on the ball, has pace, and is great at hold up play. Michael is physically advanced for his age so it is very likely that he will never play a game in his own age group in a Sounders jersey unless it is at GA Cup. Michael is currently the top striker prospect for the 2006 age group and stands out among the crowd. If the 2006’s had a must win game, this kid would be a guarantee to suit up at the 9. Being in the Sounders system where players are thrown into the USL at incredibly young ages will benefit Michael greatly and will lead to him establishing a gap in his level compared to the other strikers in his age group.
Bento Estrela is yet another incredibly talented center mid in the 2006 age group. Bento is so good that the New York Red Bulls were rumored to be moving him up to the u17 level. Bento is an incredibly athletic center mid who oozes skill on the ball, has a good passing range, and has a very large frame. Bento is a more skilled version of both Weston McKennie and Bryang Kayo. The New York Red Bulls lately have been hesitant to play kids up when they are ready (I am still upset with how long it to Kenan Hot to be played with the u19’s and be brought into the USL team…the kid is good Red Bulls…use him) so when a player is not only played up one age group, but two age groups then people should take notice.
If I chose my ideal USYNT roster for the 2006’s then Bento would be the last midfielder cut from the team and for one main reason: his soccer IQ. Bento right now displays elite athleticism and skill on the ball in games with the Red Bulls but off the ball is where he needs some work. Whether it is not making the correct movements to show for the ball or constantly being out of position defensively, there is a lot of room for improvement. In games that I have watched, I have seen him walk around and lose focus when the Red Bulls are on defense when the ball is in the defensive third, this can’t happen at higher levels. When Bento irons out this issue (not if, when) then Bento will be a top tier prospect who will be hyped by literally every USMNT die hard fan across the nation.
What is the first thing that you should look for in a very young player for the USYNT? Eye popping soccer IQ should be your answer every time. This is why I highly rate Luis Moreno. Luis is not the most athletic kid on the field, he does not have the best passing range for a center mid on the field. What this kid does have is a demonstrated high level knowledge of how to move off the ball and how to connect with teammates and progress up the field. Luis is the standout young prospect in the Houston Dynamo academy and is the big winner of being at a club who has brought in the best coach for developing young talent.
For Luis to keep progressing and retain his elite prospect status he will have to become faster and stronger as he goes through puberty. When playing at the u15 DA level he sometimes looked a little over his head because he was smaller and slower than the players around him. However, at the u15 level he by far looked like the most technically advanced and smartest player on the field. Luis is an amazing long term prospect who may have breaking into the YNT for his age group because of the previously mentioned players. I think that Tab will do wonders with this kid so he is on this list because I am so excited about his future as a professional soccer player.
Axel Perez is the only 2007 USYNT that I see get continuously thrown in with the top prospects in the country and for very good reason. Even though Axel is tiny, he is almost never played at his own age group because he is better than most of the players 1-2 years older than him on the field. Every single age group has that special attacking playmaker who quickly jumps off the screen because of his ability to constantly make plays. Axel Perez is one of those players. Other players who were similar in level to Axel Perez at this age were Andrew Carleton and Evan Rotundo.
As Axel goes through puberty and becomes faster and stronger he will become an elite prospect that should light the youth soccer circuit on fire. Next season, Axel will likely be playing up with the Inter Miami u17’s even though he will be severely outmatched physically. He will be able to keep up at that level because his soccer IQ is so high and his movement off the ball is so good. Axel is the most talented player in the Inter Miami academy and it is not even close. David Beckham will have his work cut out for him trying to convince this kid to stay stateside when he turns 18.
Yes, you assumed correctly USYNT fans, Joah is the son of Claudio and younger brother of Gio Reyna. I saw Gio play when he was Joah’s age and Joah may actually be the more talented of the two. Joah is actually a much better player in front of goal than Gio was at 13 years old and may be more skilled on the ball as well. Joah is the clear and obvious standout for the NYCFC u13 and u14’s and is the most talented player in their academy that will likely never sign for the NYCFC first team like Gio. In 14 games this season, Joah banged in 18 goals and was on pace to score over 30 goals if the pandemic did not cut the season short.
Joah’s playing style is very unsurprisingly similar to his older brother’s and is more efficient at Joah’s age as if he watched Gio play all the time and learned from him big brother. Joah may move down to the Austin FC academy where Claudio is currently working his magic. If watching Gio develop under the tutelage of a USMNT legend then watching Joah develop will likely be just as exciting as he will have a father and older brother who have both walked the walk and will show him the way. Joah has all the tools his brother has and is in an even better situation for success than Gio was. Obviously nothing is guaranteed, but I am officially starting the Joah Reyna hype train.
Other notable 2006 USYNT players
- Kelvin Da Costa: Center Back (NYCFC)
- Gabrial Brandon: Center Back (FC Dallas)
- Kimbikula Mbula: Right Back (San Antonio FC)
- Zen Franco: Striker (LAFC)
- Diego Bravo-Acosta: Striker (Total Futbol Academy)
- Patrick Shaw: Striker (New York Red Bulls)
- Diego Kochen: Goalkeeper (FC Barcelona)
- Henry Canizales: Left Back (FC Dallas)
- Solomon Straub: Center Mid (Minnesota United)
- Owen Presthus: Winger (Columbus Crew)
Other notable 2007 USYNT players
- Din Klapija: Striker (NYCFC)
- Henry Bornstein: Midfielder (Philadelphia Union)
- Brice Miller: Center Mid (FC Dallas)
- Gavin Turner: Center Mid (DC United)
- Jaime Vega Espinosa: Midfielder (New England Revolution)
Notable 2008 USYNT players
- Kellen LeBlanc: Winger (Philadelphia Union)
- Marius Aiyenero: Forward (Chicago Fire)
- Christopher Cupps: Midfielder (Chicago Fire)
- Jack Kortkamp: (Minnesota United)
- Ryland Vue: (Minnesota United)
- DeCarlo Guerra: Midfielder (LAFC)