There’s a lot of talk these days about Christian Pulisic and what he brings to the USMNT. If he’s now an anchor for the team and much of the line up may likely remain the same in 2017 World Cup Qualifying. There are certainly some who are hopeful some top players in MLS will break into Arena’s team like Dax McCarty and Benny Feilhaber, along with others from around the league. Still others are hopeful in Europe who are having great seasons including teammates Perry Kitchen and Bjorn Johnsen and others like Andrew Wooten and Eric Lichaj who have long been ignored though they’ve played in Europe for years.
I’d like to look beyond 2018 though and see who are the next break out stars that could lead us to a competitive showing at the 2022 and more likely the 2026 World Cup when Pulisic is in his full prime?
Here are a few names that will be interesting to watch:
Joshua Perez, ACF Fiorentina (Series A)
Perez made his debut for ACF Fiorentina’s first team in November and continues to impress with his play. He has scored 5 goals with the second team. His uncle Hugo was a talented USMNT player in the past. Joshua signed with Fiorentina in February 2016 and scored two goals and added two assists in his first five games for the Primavera team. He’s an exciting young attacking player on a talented team.
Josh Sargent, STLFC (Development Academy)
Josh is a very young player and has a long road ahead to get in the mix, but he’s starting off on the right foot. He scored four goals in the 2016 Nike International Friendlies tournament. Sargent served as team Captain and tied two team names in finishing second in goals for the tournament. He led the team to 9 possible points with a 3-0-0 record with a strong showing in defeating Turkey 5-1, crushing Portugal 7-1 and an impressive finish of 3-0 against Brazil. These were just friendlies, but they provide great experience and exposure for a young player trying to get scooped by a strong team whether domestic or international. It was a great marketing campaign for Sargent.
Ayo Akinola, Toronto FC II (MLS)
Ayo is another U17 star to watch out for. Like Josh he scored four goals in the 2017 Nike International Friendlies tournament and had a great showing. Akinola is eligible to play for US or Canada, but will be one to watch for over the next few years. He has 18 goals in 24 appearances for the U17 team and has certainly shown signs that he should be kept an eye on.
There are tons of young Americans playing on big clubs across the world, but these couple of youngsters you’ve probably never heard of yet may be pieces in the cog that could allow USMNT to march to a World Cup final in 2022 or beyond. We will have to wait and see who discovers them and how they fair.
Learn more about how the U17 performed and who else to watch out for.