Curb Your Enthusiasm: US Youth National Teams, Prospect Hype, and Youth Development Thread

Titans Bastard

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In the same spirit as breaking out Revs discussion from the MLS thread, I thought it would be worthwhile to create a dedicated space for some topics that have heretofore been dumped mostly into the USMNT thread, as well as a few other places.

I have to say, I'm feeling bullish about the US national team's player pool, even if it's not all that great right now, once you get past the new "Holy Trinity" of Pulisic, Adams, and McKennie. A big reason is that because the "Lost Generation" of players born from 1990-1994 is in its prime years now (despite being largely a non-entity), there's nowhere to go but up. We have a lot of young talent coming up and very little key talent is slated to age out of the player pool by 2022 or even 2026.

The Youth National Teams

The US has a lot of youth teams: U23, U20, U19, U18, U17, U16, and U15. These teams have different functions. The U23 team attempts to qualify for the Olympics every four years. The U20 and U17 teams are the highest-profile squads, who operate in two year cycles that culminate in the U20 and U17 World Cups, held in odd years.

The U16 and U15 teams are mostly for talent ID. The U18 is for players one year too old for the U17 team, but who will form the core of the next U20 cycle. The U19 is to keep players on the younger side of a U20 cohort involved in case one of them breaks out and is ready to move up to the full U20 team. All four of these squads just have camps and play in friendly tournaments; there's no official tournament for any of them.

The U23s (1997s and younger)

The Olympic soccer field is small, so there are fewer qualifying slots. The U23s last qualified in 2008, having failed in 2012 and 2016. As in the past two cycles, the USSF has dawdled in hiring a coach and the first U23 camp occurred over the recently concluded international break under the leadership of the recently-announced Jason Kreis.

Putting together a U23 squad is tough because so many relevant players are well into their first-team careers, making player availability a constant challenge. The dates of CONCACAF qualifiers are still unknown, but regardless Kreis will need to build a very large depth chart given that many players won't be released. The other tricky thing is integrating the best U20s into the team after the U20 World Cup this summer.

It'll never happen, but a full-strength U23 team would be pretty awesome: Pulisic, McKennie, Adams, Sargent, Weah, Carter-Vickers, Cannon, Mihailovic, a bunch of the guys heavily involved with the U20s, and so on.

The U20s (1999s and younger)

Over the years, I've learned to respect the correlation between U20 results and the quality of a particular age cohort. The 91s/92s failed to qualify in 2011, the 93s/94s looked bad in 2013, and that corresponds to the "Lost Generation" demographics. U20 fortunes improved in 2015 and 2017 when both squads reached the quarterfinals of the U20 WC. In 2017, they even did so without the services of Pulisic and McKennie. The 2017 team was also the first US team ever to win the CONCACAF U20 championship.

The current U20 cycle is strong. The team repeated as CONCACAF champions, handling Mexico bizarrely effortlessly in the final. I really think this has the chance to be our best U20 team ever, though we'll see what happens in Poland in a couple of months.

The U17s (2002s, and a few 2003s)

The U17s have some highly touted prospects like George Bello, Joe Scally, Gio Reyna, and Gianluca Busio, but there are some questions yet to be answered about the breadth and depth of talent here. I don't think this is necessarily a weak group, but 2002 doesn't seem to be as awesome as the 2000 birth year is poised to be. The U17s face qualifying in May. I expect them to qualify, but my hopes for the U17 WC in late 2019 aren't as high as my hopes for the U20 WC.

One thing to keep in mind is that developmentally, there's a much bigger gap between 16 and 17 year olds than between 19 and 20 year olds. As a result, there are a lot of younger 2000s along with the 1999s on the U20s, and even some top 2001s. On the other hand, only a handful of younger odd-birth-year players make it on the U17s. So sometimes U17 results are better or worse than the true quality of the two-year cohort depending on whether the younger birth year is particularly strong or weak.

The "Europe Route" and the "MLS Route": An Arms Race

There's been a rising interest in young American players among Euro clubs. Because the USSF doesn't do solidarity payments or transfer compensation and because the US system is producing somewhat better raw materials, American youngsters are attractive: often of decent quality and entirely free. This is particularly true in Germany, which lacks the bureaucratic red tape that makes moves to England, France, Spain, or Italy more challenging.

As a result, quite a few top prospects have left MLS academies for the greener pastures of the Bundesliga. In part this is because of the natural allure of the higher prestige and level of play in Germany. In part it is because MLS clubs have historically struggled to provide an ideal developmental pathway for players. In MLS, there was a big gap between the U19 Development Academy league and the first team, managers have been overly reluctant to give youth opportunities relative to the standard of play (MLS teams have good players but it ain't breaking into Man City), and clubs have historically been uninterested in even reasonable transfer offers.

Many MLS clubs were slowly moving in the right direction, but a rash of defections of top prospects to Europe seems to have been a catalyst for an acceleration. Many MLS clubs now have reserve teams that play in the USL Championship (2nd tier) or USL League One (third tier). After talking the talk, more clubs are walking the walk about giving opportunities to young players and creating a real pathway from U19 to the reserve team to MLS. Even Don Garber is openly talking about being a selling league, a concept that was anathema to the owners not too many years ago. Vancouver's sale of Alphonso Davies to Bayern for eight figures really opened a lot of eyes, I think.

I'm a firm believer that having a strong domestic developmental system is a necessity. It's not at all realistic or ideal to entirely outsource development to another country. My hope was that the outflow of prospects to Europe for free would be the right sort of kick in the ass for certain clubs and I think it's working. But...we have a long ways to go before we can declare victory.
 

Titans Bastard

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The fun thing is that between
  • the increased Euro interest in American players
  • the fact that MLS clubs are getting more sophisticated in how they handle youth development
  • the fact that the number of pro clubs in US leagues has more than doubled (from 34 to 70) since 2010
there are more opportunities for players to play than ever before. It wasn't that long ago that U20 squads were riddled with college players. There are legitimately good prospects already in the pros that won't make the team in Poland this summer.

Here's a big list of players. Not all of them are actually good, of course, but they have opportunities.

GK
Christian Herrera, 1997, Orlando City B
Jonathan Klinsmann, 1997, Hertha Berlin II (GER)
J.T. Marcinkowski, 1997, San Jose Earthquakes
Mason Stajduhar, 1997, Tulsa Roughnecks (on loan from Orlando City)
Justin Vom Steeg, 1997, LA Galaxy
Benny Diaz, 1998, Querétaro (MEX)
Matt Freese, 1998, Philadelphia Union
Matias Reynares, 1998, South Georgia Tormenta
Kevin Silva, 1998, Heart of Midlothian (SCO)
Carlos Avilez, 1999, North Texas SC
Phillip Ejimadu, 1999, FC Tucson (on loan from LAFC)
Eric Lopez, 1999, LA Galaxy II
Trey Muse, 1999, Seattle Sounders
Gabe Rosario, 1999, Huddersfield Town U23 (ENG)
Brady Scott, 1999, Köln II (GER)
C.J. dos Santos, 2000, Benfica U19 (POR)
Nicolas Defreitas-Hansen, 2001, Everton U18 (ENG)
Luca Lewis, 2001, Torino U19 (ITA)
Luca Mancuso, 2001, Orlando City B
David Ochoa, 2001, Real Salt Lake
Aaron Cervantes, 2002, Orange County SC
Jordaine Jaeger, 2002, Ingolstadt U17 (GER)
Brooks Thompson, 2002, Swope Park Rangers
Ethan Wady, 2002, Chelsea U18 (ENG)


I think I'm pretty bad at evaluating young goalkeepers, so...I don't really know what I'm talking about, I guess. A few notes nonetheless. The short version: there isn't a young gun about to suddenly appear to challenge Steffen, but there are a couple of interesting prospects a bit further out.
  • The 97-98 bracket doesn't seem especially high-upside, though Marcinkowski, Klinsmann, and Vom Steeg could all turn out to be solid pros
  • The 99-00s: Brady Scott is the current U20 keeper, though I like Trey Muse as well.
  • The 01-02s: David Ochoa played up with the U20s in qualifiers and did well. He's done some nice things for RSL's reserve team so far this year in USL; if he keeps it up, he'll have a legit shot at the starting role in 2020 since Nick Rimando is retiring. But the biggest prospect might be Damian Las '02, the starting U17 keeper. He's with Chicago's academy, though he seems deadset on going to Europe and will likely do so at the first opportunity (when he turns 18).
RB
Kyle Duncan, 1997, New York Red Bulls
Brooks Lennon, 1997, Real Salt Lake
Sean McSherry, 1997, NYRB II
Andrew Samuels, 1997, Rio Grande Valley FC
D.J. Taylor, 1997, North Carolina FC
Reggie Cannon, 1998, FC Dallas
Marlon Fossey, 1998, Fulham U23 (ENG)
Matthew Olosunde, 1998, Manchester United U23 (ENG)
Lucas Pos, 1998, Lausanne-Sport (SUI)
Corey Anton, 1999, Hoffenheim II (GER)
Shaft Brewer, 1999, Phoenix Rising (on loan from LAFC)
Jonathan Esparza, 1999, Alebrijes de Oaxaca (on loan from Tijuana) (MEX)
Harold Hanson, 1999, Portland Timbers 2
Manny Perez, 1999, North Carolina FC (on loan from Celtic)
Sergino Dest, 2000, Ajax II (NED)
Steve Jasso, 2000, Real Monarchs
Jaylin Lindsey, 2000, Sporting Kansas City
Akil Watts, 2000, Mallorca U19 (ESP)
Julian Araujo, 2001, LA Galaxy
Bryan Reynolds, 2001, FC Dallas
Joe Scally, 2002, NYCFC

Evaluating RBs in the Age of Berhalter has become trickier, at least as long as he sticks with the RB/CM hybrid. The highlights:
  • Sergino Dest of Ajax has looked really, really good for the U20s
  • Cannon and Lennon are the most experienced pros, having been starters in MLS for over a year. I like Cannon's upside a bit better.
  • Araujo and Scally are highly touted and have done well with youth NTs. Scally has grown so tall that he might eventually wind up as a CB. Araujo just made his MLS debut last week.
  • Duncan and Lindsey have already had good moments in MLS, and I think both will be good players, though I'm not sold on an NT upside for either of them.

CB
Cameron Carter-Vickers, 1997, Swansea City (on loan from Chelsea) (ENG)
Justen Glad, 1997, Real Salt Lake
Sean Nealis, 1997, New York Red Bulls
Kyle Nelson, 1997, Charleston Battery
Erik Palmer-Brown, 1997, NAC Breda (on loan from Man City) (NED)
Giles Phillips, 1997, QPR U23 (ENG)
Sam Raben, 1997, Colorado Rapids
Miles Robinson, 1997, Atlanta United
Hugo Arellano, 1998, Orange County SC (on loan from LA Galaxy)
Danny Barbir 1998, Astra Giugiu (ROU)
Lamar Batista, 1998, Phoenix Rising (on loan from LAFC)
Robert Castellanos, 1998, Rio Grande Valley FC
Hector Montalvo, 1998, North Texas SC
Donovan Pines, 1998, D.C. United
Auston Trusty, 1998, Philadelphia Union
Brecc Evans, 1999, North Texas SC
Lennard Maloney, 1999, Union Berlin (GER)
Mark McKenzie, 1999, Philadelphia Union
Sam Rogers, 1999, Tacoma Defiance
Angel Uribe, 1999, Tijuana U20 (MEX)
Michael Edwards, 2000, Wolfsburg U19 (GER)
Aboubacar Keita, 2000, Richmond Kickers (on loan from Columbus Crew)
Ben Ofeimu, 2000, Bethlehem Steel
Chris Richards, 2000, Bayern Munich U19 (GER)
Jacob Akanyirige, 2001, San Jose Earthquakes
Saulo Belmonte, 2001, Morelia U17 (MEX)
Erik McCue, 2001, Houston Dynamo
Ethan Bayer, 2002, Rayo Vallecano U17 (ESP)
Mason Judge, 2002, Eintracht Frankfurt U17 (GER)
Michael Wentzel, 2002, Borussia Mönchengladbach U17 (GER)

  • 97-98s: a lot of solid pros already, but who will take the step forward to NT level? CCV is a stout defender, but passing is a weakness. I like Glad's game, but he has a certain softness that he needs to shake. EPB is immensely talented, but I'm getting worried he's one of those guys that lacks a certain level of drive. Robinson has really stepped it up for Atlanta so far in 2019, but is another who needs to work on his passing. Trusty played every minute in 2018 and got a call to January camp.
  • 99-00s: not much depth here, but the high end is good. Bayern took Chris Richards on loan, then paid a transfer fee for him. Mark McKenzie won a starting job for Philly and has done well, though he had a crappy preseason and is on the bench again. Keita, Ofeimu, and Edwards are somewhat interesting, but are all new to the pro scene so their ceilings are rather unclear
  • 01-02s: who really knows

LB
Danny Acosta, 1997, Orlando City (on loan from RSL)
Yosimar Hernandez, 1997, Reno 1868
Aaron Herrera, 1997, Real Salt Lake
Niall Mason, 1997, Doncaster Rovers (ENG)
Antonee Robinson, 1997, Wigan Athletic (on loan from Everton) (ENG)
Marco Farfan, 1998, Portland Timbers
John Nelson, 1998, FC Dallas
Matt Real, 1999, Philadelphia Union
Sam Vines, 1999, Colorado Rapids
Chris Gloster, 2000, Hannover II (GER)
Sebastian Medina, 2001, Atlas U17 (MEX)
A.J. Reynolds, 2001, Chicago Fire
Stuart Ritchie, 2001, Groningen U19 (GER)
Michael Barragan, 2002, Atlas U17 (MEX)
George Bello, 2002, Atlanta United
Rickson van Hees, 2002, NEC Nijmegen U17 (NED)

Left back, always a problem...
  • Acosta is a talented player, but is a headcase who got run out of RSL for his unprofessionalism. If he can stay focused, he could be a NT-level player
  • Robinson has gotten some reps for the NT under Sarachan, but I'm not sure that he's good. He can be exciting going forward, but he also makes a lot of basic mistakes.
  • Herrera has been starting at LB for RSL for a while now, but I don't see him as a high upside player.
  • The best hopes on the list: Chris Gloster has started training with the first team at Hannover and is our U20 starter. George Bello is the U17 starter and has showed a very complete game at a young age.
  • One more name to keep in mind: Kobe Hernandez-Foster, who is a '02 LB for LA Galaxy. He's been playing some CB for the U17 and has been in Bello's shadow, but he has a lot of potential in his own right.
 
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Titans Bastard

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CM
Emil Cuello, 1997, LA Galaxy
Hassani Dotson, 1997, Minnesota United
Collin Fernandez, 1997, Phoenix Rising
Sami Guediri, 1997, Greenville Triumph
Jeremiah Gutjahr, 1997, Chicago Fire
Morgan Hackworth, 1997, Memphis 901
Derrick Jones, 1997, Philadelphia Union
Zach Kobayashi, 1997, Portland Timbers 2
Cam Lindley, 1997, Orlando City
Tommy Madden, 1997, New Mexico United
Abuchi Obinwa, 1997, Lusitano FCV (POR)
Fito Ovalle, 1997, Toronto FC II
Keaton Parks, 1997, NYCFC (on loan from Benfica)
Amirgy Pineda, 1997, Chattanooga Red Wolves
Kyle Scott, 1997, Chelsea U23 (ENG)
Eryk Williamson, 1997, Portland Timbers
Jackson Yueill, 1997, San Jose Earthquakes
Kyle Zajec, 1997, NYRB II
Gedion Zelalem, 1997, Sporting Kansas City
Eric Calvillo, 1998, San Jose Earthquakes
Sebastien Des Pres, 1998, Orange County SC
Sidney Friede, 1998, Mouscron (BEL)
Felipe Hernandez, 1998, Swope Park Rangers
Wan Kuzain, 1998, Sporting Kansas City
Tommy McCabe, 1998, North Carolina FC (on loan from FC Cincinnati)
Weston McKennie, 1998, Schalke (GER)
Johnny Reynolds, 1998, ADO Den Haag U21 (NED)
Tyler Adams, 1999, RB Leipzig (GER)
Jens Cajuste, 1999, Midtjylland II (DEN)
Christian Cappis, 1999, Hobro (DEN)
Anthony Fontana, 1999, Philadelphia Union
Brandon Servania, 1999, FC Dallas
Juan Pablo Torres, 1999, NYCFC
Isaac Angking, 2000, New England Revolution
Edwin Cerrillo, 2000, FC Dallas
Chris Durkin, 2000, D.C. United
Blaine Ferri, 2000, Greuther Fürth U19 (GER)
Chris Goslin, 2000, Atlanta United
Rafael Iacovelli, 2000, Carpi U19 (ITA)
Andres Jimenez, 2000, Envigado (COL)
Ben Lederman, 2000, Gent U19 (BEL)
Rayshaun McGann, 2000, Getafe U19 (ESP)
Alex Mendez, 2000, Freiburg U19 (GER)
Gennaro Nigro, 2000, Roma U19 (ITA)
Jordan Pena, 2000, Real Monarchs
Jared Romero, 2000, Tijuana U20 (MEX)
James Sands, 2000, NYCFC
Cole Bassett, 2001, Colorado Rapids
Justin Bender, 2001, Orlando City B
Taylor Booth, 2001, Bayern Munich U19 (GER)
Leon Flach, 2001, St. Pauli U19 (GER)
Justin Haak, 2001, NYCFC
Jaheim Headley, 2001, Huddersfield Town U18 (ENG)
Ian Hoffmann, 2001, Karlsruhe U19 (GER)
Mateja Milasinovic, 2001, Partizan U19 (SRB)
Theodoros Motsios, 2001, AEL Larissa U19 (GRE)
Owen Otasowie, 2001, Wolverhampton Wanderers U18 (ENG)
Matteo Ritaccio, 2001, Liverpool (ENG)
Lawson Sunderland, 2001, Sabadell U19 (ESP)
Joshua Atencio, 2002, Tacoma Defiance
Maximilian Dietz, 2002, Freiburg U17 (GER)
Andre Queiroz, 2002, Rayo Vallecano U18 (ESP)
Pablo Soares, 2002, Borussia Mönchengladbach U17 (GER)
Peter Stroud, 2002, West Ham United U18 (ENG)
Malik Tillman, 2002, Bayern Munich U19 (GER)
Danny Robles, 2003, Tacoma Defiance

So many central midfielders. Adams and McKennie are already core members of the NT. We have a lot of irons in the fire here. Some of the big ones:
  • Chris Durkin, who I hope continues to develop because his skillset is a good fit for the deep-lying "QB" midfielder role that Trapp and Bradley have played under Berhalter. He's never going to be an Adams-bot destroying machine because he's not as mobile, but he's technical, slick under pressure, and a good passer.
  • Alex Mendez. The standout player in U20 qualifying, he's a classy, smart box-to-box midfielder
  • Danny Robles is really young but Seattle seems to be very high on him.
  • Bassett and Sands have won starting jobs in MLS this season and have room to grow
  • Parks and Zelalem are similar players (with very different statures) who could be really amazing if they add a bit of defensive bite to their game.

AM
Mukwelle Akale, 1997, Villarreal B (ESP)
Antonio Bustamante, 1997, D.C. United
Coy Craft, 1997, Nykopings BIS (SWE)
Jesus Enriquez, 1997, Rio Grande Valley FC
DeJuan Jones, 1997, New England Revolution
Gillian Jurcher, 1997, Saarbrücken (GER)
Jonathan Lewis, 1997, NYCFC
Christian Lucatero, 1997, Necaxa reserves (MEX)
Isidro Martinez, 1997, Rio Grande Valley FC
Lucas Mendes, 1997, Richmond Kickers
Stephen Payne, 1997, Varzim (POR)
Yosef Samuel, 1997, Atlanta United 2
Sebastian Saucedo, 1997, Real Salt Lake
Ryan Sierakowski, 1997, Portland Timbers 2
Jonathan Suarez, 1997, Querétaro (MEX)
Adrian Vera, 1997, LA Galaxy II
Edson Alvarado, 1998, Tijuana U20 (MEX)
Hayden Canizalez, 1998, Sabadell B (ESP)
Pierre da Silva, 1998, Orlando City
Luca de la Torre, 1998, Fulham U23 (ENG)
McKinze Gaines, 1998, Zwickau (on loan from Darmstadt) (GER)
Shandon Hopeau, 1998, Tacoma Defiance
Lagos Kunga, 1998, Atlanta United
Kevin Lankford, 1998, St. Pauli
Will Little, 1998, Swope Park Rangers
Djordje Mihailovic, 1998, Chicago Fire
Josh Perez, 1998, Phoenix Rising (on loan from LAFC)
Connor Presley, 1998, Loudoun United
Christian Pulisic, 1998, Borussia Dortmund (on loan from Chelsea) (GER)
Arturo Rodriguez, 1998, North Texas SC
Devin Vega, 1998, Phoenix Rising
Isaiah Young, 1998, Werder Bremen II (GER)
Alejandro Zendejas, 1998, Chivas (MEX)
Jonathan Amon, 1999, Nordsjælland (DEN)
Christopher Bermudez, 1999, Greenville Triumph
Cenk Blom, 1999, Göztepe II (TUR)
Sandor Bustamante, 1999, Loudoun United
Jose Carranza, 1999, Louisville City
Griffin Dorsey, 1999, Toronto FC
Ernesto Espinoza, 1999, Tijuana U20 (MEX)
Omir Fernandez, 1999, New York Red Bulls
Siad Haji, 1999, San Jose Earthquakes
Antonio Nava, 1999, Tijuana (MEX)
Paxton Pomykal, 1999, FC Dallas
Pedro Santos, 1999, Querétaro U20 (MEX)
Nick Taitague, 1999, Schalke II (GER)
Alex Vedamanikam, 1999, Eintracht Braunschweig II (GER)
Brenden Aaronson, 2000, Philadelphia Union
George Acosta, 2000, Boca Juniors U19 (ARG)
Frankie Amaya, 2000, FC Cincinnati
Andrew Carleton, 2000, Atlanta United
Matt Hundley, 2000, Colorado Springs Switchbacks (on loan from Colorado Rapids)
Richie Ledezma, 2000, PSV Eindhoven U19 (NED)
Giona Leibold, 2000, Wehen Wiesbaden U19 (GER)
Ben Mines, 2000, New York Red Bulls
Issa Rayyan, 2000, Bethlehem Steel
Jacobo Reyes, 2000, Monterrey U20 (MEX)
Amos Shapiro-Thompson, 2000, Legia Warsaw II (POL)
Armando Shashoua, 2000, Tottenham Hotspur U18 (ENG)
Luis Arriaga, 2001, Real Salt Lake
Konrad de la Fuente, 2001, Barcelona U19 (ESP)
Azriel Gonzalez, 2001, Tacoma Defiance
Emmanuel Haro, 2001, Tijuana U17 (MEX)
Cameron Harper, 2001, Celtic U18 (SCO)
Roberto Hategan, 2001, Sacramento Republic
Jalen Hawkins, 2001, Ingolstadt U19 (GER)
Manuel Mendoza, 2001, Veracruz U17 (MEX)
Matko Miljevic, 2001, Argentinos Juniors U19 (ARG)
Thomas Roberts, 2001, FC Dallas
Teun van der Donk, 2001, Basel U17 (SUI)
Marlon Vargas, 2001, Tacoma Defiance
Indiana Vassilev, 2001, Aston Villa U18 (ENG)
Efrain Alvarez, 2002, LA Galaxy
Timo Bosselman, 2002, Kaiserslautern U17 (GER)
Gianluca Busio, 2002, Sporting Kansas City
Jamie Dunning, 2002, Feyenoord U17 (NED)
Gilbert Fuentes, 2002, San Jose Earthquakes
Jack Imperato, 2002, Villarreal U17 (ESP)
Mario Lopez, 2002, Tijuana U17 (MEX)
Joshua Pynadath, 2002, Ajax U17 (NED)
Giovanni Reyna, 2002, Borussia Dortmund U17 (GER)
Danny Robles, 2002, Tacoma Defiance
David Rodriguez, 2002, North Texas SC
Ray Serrano, 2002, Tacoma Defiance
Griffin Yow, 2002, D.C. United
Cade Cowell, 2003, San Jose Earthquakes
Selmir Miscic, 2003, Bethlehem Steel


This is another area where we have a pleasing number of prospects in the pipeline.

  • Pulisic. Enough said.
  • We've seen a few others from this group already with the NT: Lewis, Mihailovic, both of whom seem to have some good qualities
  • Paxton Pomykal is the 2019 breakout pick among this group. He's been well regarded for quite some time, but in 2018 he was alternately injured and stuck behind some other players. He's pulled it all together quite suddenly, was one of the best U20s at qualifiers, and has been fantastic early in MLS. He is very much on the trajectory to challenge for one of the #8/#10 midfield positions in Berhalter's system.
  • At the U17 level, Reyna and Busio are two of the biggest names. Still not sure what Reyna's best position is, but BVB just signed him. Busio looks creative and good in tight spaces for KC.
  • Efra Alvarez is an amazing talent, and I've generously listed him even though he's been playing for Mexican teams lately. It would be a huge get if he switches.
  • A lot of people really like Richie Ledezma's game. It's always eye-raising when an American kid without a passport from Euope signs with a Dutch club; there is a high salary floor for non-EU players, so that means PSV rates him highly.
  • The U20s have two wingers playing up an age bracket who look really dynamic. One is Barcelona winger Konrad de la Fuente, the other is 2001 Uly Llanez. Llanez hasn't signed a pro deal yet, but he's probably going to sign in Germany when he turns 18. Otherwise, he'll turn up with the LA Galaxy.
  • Other players who could be good if they can beat their flaws: Amon (extremely explosive winger with no interest in defending), Carleton (really creative, high-flair player with questionable athleticism and questionable professionalism),
  • Also keeping an eye on: Saucedo, Aaronson, Roberts, Yow, Cowell

FW
Rashawn Dally, 1997, Memphis 901 (on loan from FC Cincinnati)
Jeremy Ebobisse, 1997, Portland Timbers
Sebastian Elney, 1997, NYRB II
Victor Mansaray, 1997, Binh Duong (VIE)
Benji Michel, 1997, Orlando City
Santiago Patino, 1997, Orlando City
Emmanuel Sabbi, 1997, Hobro (DEN)
Tate Schmitt, 1997, Real Salt Lake
Augustine Williams, 1997, LA Galaxy II
Kevin Coleman, 1998, Orange County SC
D.J. Dean, 1998, Tulsa Roughnecks
Joe Gallardo, 1998, Richmond Kickers
Kai Koreniuk, 1998, LA Galaxy II
Mason Toye, 1998, Minnesota United
Brandon Vazquez, 1998, Atlanta United
J.J. Williams, 1998, Columbus Crew
Haji Wright, 1998, Schalke (GER)
Ethan Zubak, 1998, LA Galaxy
Wilson Harris, 1999, Swope Park Rangers
Will Inalien, 1999, Jaro (FIN)
Darius Lewis, 1999, KI Klaksvik (FAR)
Nebiyou Perry, 1999, Trelleborg (on loan from Köln) (SWE)
Justin Rennicks, 1999, New England Revolution
Ayo Akinola, 2000, Toronto FC
Brian Correa, 2000, Pumas U20 (MEX)
Jesus Ferreira, 2000, FC Dallas
Nicholas Gioacchini, 2000, Caen II (FRA)
Zyen Jones, 2000, Schalke U19 (GER)
Aidan Liu, 2000, Køge U19 (DEN)
Manuel Lopez, 2000, Santos Laguna U20 (MEX)
Anthony McCutchen, 2000, Cittadella U19 (ITA)
Max Rugova, 2000, Nürnberg U19 (GER)
Luis Salazer, 2000, Cruz Azul U20 (MEX)
Josh Sargent, 2000, Werder Bremen (GER)
Sebastian Soto, 2000, Hannover U19 (GER)
Timothy Weah, 2000, Celtic (on loan from PSG) (SCO)
Jordan Adebayo-Smith, 2000, Lincoln City U23 (ENG)
Justin Butler, 2001, Bayern Munich U19 (GER)
Jackson Conway, 2001, Atlanta United 2
Alec Diaz, 2001, Tacoma Defiance
Reese Jahoo, 2001, Grimsby Town U18 (ENG)
Dillon Keane, 2001, Stoke City U18 (ENG)
Charlie Kelman, 2001, Southend United (ENG)
Joao Lucas, 2001, Internacional U17 (BRA)
Nicholas Mendonca, 2001, Vasco da Gama U17 (BRA)
Julian Vazquez, 2001, Real Salt Lake
Sagir Arce, 2002, Morelia U17 (MEX)
Domingo Contreras, 2002, Tijuana U17 (MEX)
Nasuhi-Noah Jones, 2002, RB Leipzig U17 (GER)
Diego Lopez, 2002, Atlanta United 2
Cesar Mata, 2002, Santos Laguna U17 (MEX)
Santiago Munoz, 2002, Santos Laguna U17 (MEX)
Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, 2002, Tacoma Defiance
Fernando Sanchez, 2002, Toluca U17 (MEX)
Vaughn Covil, 2003, Southampton U18 (ENG)
Tyler Freeman, 2003, Sporting Kansas City
Luc Granitur, 2003, Orlando City B
Ricardo Pepi, 2003, North Texas SC
Dante Sealy, 2003, FC Dallas

  • The 97-99 span isn't that great. Ebobisse is the best bet, but he's always struck me as someone who could be at most a decent contributor to the USMNT, not a mainstay.
  • It gets good in the 2000 birth year. Sargent and Weah are among our better prospects, with Weah also able to play on the wing. I put my eggs in this basket.
  • Decent secondary bets are Ferreira, Soto, Rennicks, Kelman, and Diaz, all players worth tracking.
  • In the U17 bucket, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez is well-regarded. I have been particularly impressed with Ricardo Pepi, a target forward who is one of the few '03s to make inroads with the U17 NT. From what I've read and the highlights I've seen, he's very much a high-upside player.
 

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Hell of a night for FC Dallas. With Luchi Gonzalez now at the helm, a bunch of prospects starting to hit, and a USL team, it really feels like FCD is finally starting to realize their potential as a developmental powerhouse. Even having a handful of real developmental powerhouses in MLS would be so, so good for the USMNT.

Paxton Pomykal, 1999, FC Dallas
Scored two goals in a 4-2 win over RSL. Good passer, good technique, smart player, good defensive work rate.


Jesus Ferreira, 2000, FC Dallas
Goal and an assist, plus a really slick secondary assist on the first goal.

Edwin Cerrillo, 2000, FC Dallas
Started again despite limited preseason expectations

Ricardo Pepi, 2003, North Texas SC
Hat trick in his first ever pro game for FCD's reserve team.

This is from a preseason game last week, but I had to watch this highlight 10 times.


Also:

Gianluca Busio, 2002, Sporting Kansas City
Came off the bench and scored his first goal of the season

Brenden Aaronson, 2000, Philadelphia Union
Marco Fabian is back, but Jim Curtin still found a way to keep him in the lineup; Philly wins again.
 

67YAZ

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I’m really bummed about Carelton’s maturity & very related stalled development. Following on Titan’s note, I don’t think a player can overcome both poor athleticism and poor professionalism. Maybe one, but certainly not both.

I’m just charmed by his game, which could be such a fantastic complement to the USMNT. Carleton can do things we don’t see Americans do with any regularity.

I don’t follow MLS closely, but Atlanta seems like a club that is doing a great job with youth development. Benching Carleton for the MLS Cup and making him earn minutes this season despite the slow start look like the right approach for dealing with a talented knucklehead. Hope Carleton gets the message.
 

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I don’t follow MLS closely, but Atlanta seems like a club that is doing a great job with youth development. Benching Carleton for the MLS Cup and making him earn minutes this season despite the slow start look like the right approach for dealing with a talented knucklehead. Hope Carleton gets the message.
My view is that the jury is still out on Atlanta. When they started, they had the foresight to establish their academy essentially by absorbing a local youth club called Georgia United, which happened to have a bumper crop of talent including Andrew Carleton '00. As a result, they've been able to sign some good prospects, including Carleton and his fellow ex-US U17 teammate Chris Goslin '00, and some other guys too like top prospect George Bello '02.

None of their academy kids have really made much of an impact yet. Carleton is getting sub minutes, and we'll see how it goes. He's still only 18 and has time to improve his attitude and work ethic. I'm a little concerned that nobody from Atlanta United 2 seemed to make big strides in 2018, but they did replace the manager so we'll see what happens this year. Bello has the opportunity to play a lot this year, but he's been injured.

Atlanta's biggest youth development success is center back Miles Robinson '97, who they took #2 in the 2017 draft. He just turned 22 and appears to be amid a breakout season, as he's won a starting spot and has been one of the few bright spots in 2019 so far. (He's also a member of the relatively small group of pros from Massachusetts [Arlington].)


The best developmental clubs in my view are FC Dallas and New York Red Bulls. NYRB has developed and sold Miazga '95 and Adams '99, as well as draft picks like Ream '87 and Altidore '89. They've developed plenty of other lower-ceiling MLS guys from their academy (most prominently Sean Davis '93 and Alex Muyl '95) and players on their reserve team always seem to get better. John Wolyniec (the NYRB II manager) deserves more respect; he seems to turn prospects and random journeymen alike into good quality players. See: Tyler Adams, Aaron Long '92, Florian Valot '93

They did bring an interesting former academy winger into their team this year (Omir Fernandez '99), but I think they are about to go through a rough patch, talent-wise. Chris Gloster '00 and Peter Stroud '02 left for Hannover and West Ham respectively. I think it's crazy to go to a developmental nightmare like an EPL club instead of staying at one of the few proven MLS developmental clubs, but that's just me.

FC Dallas has a very impressive pipeline of talent, they finally have a reserve team to link the U19 and MLS team, and now they have a manager who seems 100% committed to the concept. Oscar Pareja was a lot better than Schellas Hyndman in that regard, but Luchi Gonzalez seems even better. It's only been a few games, but Paxton Pomykal '99 looks like the breakout star of 2019, on the fast track to Europe and the USMNT. Jesus Ferreira '00 has been starting and looking good. Reggie Cannon '98 has been capped by the US. Jesse Gonzalez '95 is on the depth chart. A million solid to very good CMs & CM prospects have come through: Victor Ulloa '92, Kellyn Acosta '95, Emerson Hyndman '96, Weston McKennie '98, Brandon Servania '99, Edwin Cerrillo '00. FC Dallas has good-looking AM and FW prospects coming in behind Pomykal and Ferreira, particularly Thomas Roberts '01 and Ricardo Pepi '03. They probably have a dozen more legit prospects in their academy.

Other honorable mentions:
  • Seattle: they won the U17 title last year and many of those guys are on their USL team. Their only real academy successes are Yedlin '93 and Morris '94 (neither of whom actually spent much time in the academy), but there's a big wave of potential coming through.
  • RSL: They regularly start 4-5 academy products, but none of them seem to make the next step from solid MLS starter to USMNT or Big Five League material. They have suffered from some high-profile defections recently: Richie Ledezma '00 (PSV), Taylor Booth '01 (Bayern Munich), Sebastian Soto '00 (Hannover)
  • NYCFC: they have been accumulating talent in their academy, some of which is now on the first team roster, but it's too soon to judge how well (or not) they are handling the integration process. James Sands '00 has been starting at DM this year, which is good, but that's just one data point. The lack of a USL team is an issue here. Just lost a top prospect in Gio Reyna '02 (Borussia Dortmund)
  • LA Galaxy: their academy has been a massive underperformer given that SoCal is the #1 talent hotbed in the US, but with their new GM Dennis te Kloese the vibes are changing. Efra Alvarez '02 looks like a special talent (albeit an El Tri one at this point...) and they just signed Julian Araujo '01, who probably would have gone elsewhere if the atmosphere at the club hadn't changed. Uly Llanez '01 is a big loss.

Despite the fact that the USMNT program reached such a low point in Couva in 2017, I have become a lot more bullish in the last 12 months. In large part, that's because the perception that a fairly sizable wave of young talent is on the way is being reinforced with real-world results. What's more, there is more reason to believe that the development of this young talent will be handled well. Many of our best prospects are going to Germany, which has a nice balance of high quality of play, good development, and budgets that aren't so big that prospects will be buried behind $40m bench players like in England.

But the guys who are staying in the US for various reasons are also better than those who came before them and MLS technical staffs are getting over the unnecessary mistrust with which youth have been viewed in the past. This stat, via Matt Doyle, is amazing and says it all:

With that in mind, here are the regular season goals/assists/minutes totals of teenaged American attackers in each of the last four seasons:

Bear in mind that's the entire regular season for each of those calendar years.

Now here's what we've seen from just one month of the current season:

While this has been happening with US products in MLS, a pair of Canadian attacking players – Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla and Alphonso Davies – have been sold for multiple millions of dollars to Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively.
What's exciting to me is that even if we get just 4-5 clubs who really, really excel at youth development, that's enough for a serious foundation for a good USMNT.
 

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Thanks for this very illuminating break down. I was overly impressed by the major prospects coming through Atlanta.

Already been eying the Fire-Dallas match in September with some friends. Pomykal looks like the real deal, hope he’s still in top form come the fall.

Edit: also, I’m going to start referring to Carleton as the “American Riquelme” so as to try to wish it into existence.
 
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The final U17 camp prior to CONCACAF qualifiers. It's also Raphael Wicky's first camp. Since it's only five days, let's hope he's a fast learner! Wicky has a strong resume, but his time to get familiar with the team is extremely limited.

GOALKEEPERS (4): Aaron Cervantes (Orange County SC; Chino Hills, Calif.), Bryan Dowd (FC United; Willow Springs, Ill.), Damian Las (Chicago Fire; Norridge, Ill.), Chituru Odunze (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN; Calgary, Alberta)

DEFENDERS (8): Axel Alejandre (FC United; Chicago, Ill.), Adam Armour (North Carolina FC; Cary, N.C.) Mauricio Cuevas (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.), Tayvon Gray (New York City FC; Bronx, N.Y.), Kobe Hernandez (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.), Antino Lopez (Shattuck – St. Mary’s; Las Vegas, Nev.), Joe Scally (New York City FC; Lake Grove, N.Y.), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; Chatham, N.J.)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Gilbert Fuentes (San Jose Earthquakes; Tracy, Calif.), Bryang Kayo (D.C. United; Poolesville, Md.), Daniel Leyva (Seattle Sounders FC; Las Vegas, Nev.), Adam Saldana (LA Galaxy; Panorama City, Calif.), Peter Stroud (West Ham United/ENG; Chester, N.J.)

FORWARDS (9): Sagir David Arce (Morelia/MEX; Chihuahua, Mexico), Jack de Vries (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.), Cameron Dunbar (LA Galaxy; Chula Vista, Calif.), Andres Jasson (New York City FC; Greenwich, Conn.), Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Seattle Sounders FC; Kent, Wash.), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Joshua Pynadath (Ajax/NED; Los Altos Hills, Calif.), Giovanni Reyna (Unattached; Bedford, N.Y.), Griffin Yow (D.C. United; Clifton, Va.)
https://www.ussoccer.com/stories/2019/04/02/18/44/20190402-news-u17mnt-raphael-wicky-calls-26-players-for-first-camp

First callup for Danny Leyva, a CM who is younger than most on the roster who has been rising up the prospect charts. He did well in preseason with Seattle and has been playing with their USL team at 15. With U17 teams, I always keep an eye on the younger players: amid a team of mostly 2002s, the 2003s are Leyva, Pepi, and Cuevas.
 

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Amazing work TB. Looks like Leyva signed a pro deal with the Sounders this week at age 15 and their coach says he’s training with the 1st team already.

Also, Mendez is the American Riquelme, so that moniker is taken.
 

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Drama.



Brian Kleiban is a highly touted youth coach who is associated with Efra Alvarez, Alex Mendez, Uly Llanez, John Hilton, and other prospects. He was with an independent club in LA, then Chivas USA, then the LA Galaxy. The rumor is that he pushed Mendez and Llanez to sign with his brother as agent, and then with clubs abroad. If true, that's a highly fireable offense regardless of his coaching chops.
 

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Gianluca Busio scored his third goal in as many games last night. None of them were golazos by any stretch, but for a 16 year old he's showing good technical ability, poise in key moments, and a knack for being in the right spot. KC has a relatively deep team, but his role as first attacker off the bench & occasional spot starter as a good situation for him right now.

Pomykal had another good game, and Ferreira scored his second goal for Dallas after beating out a couple of vets for the starting role.
 

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The Generation Adidas Cup is ongoing, which mostly features U17 teams of MLS clubs playing with a bunch of foreign invitees. It's a good reality check, as foreign clubs have won the tournament ever since the format was adopted in 2014.

I've never heard of this kid before, but this is nasty:


The youth success of the current Sounders academy youth wave continues; they beat three-time champs River Plate in the quarterfinals on the strength of a winner from US U17 forward Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez.
 

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The youth success of the current Sounders academy youth wave continues; they beat three-time champs River Plate in the quarterfinals on the strength of a winner from US U17 forward Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez.
Seattle is playing their semifinal match right now and they are just annihilating West Ham. It's not even the 25th minute and they're up 4-0. AOC has a hat trick already.
 

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Big news here: MLS has announced it will now participate in the international training compensation & solidarity payment system.

https://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2019/04/18/mls-clubs-seek-training-compensation-and-solidarity-payments

Miki Turner has been the reported most dialed in to TC/S issues. Here he says that MLS clubs will seek payments for players who have gone abroad and will pay out compensation related to foreign players coming to the US. MLS clubs will not pay out compensation to local youth clubs when they sign domestic players, nor will they seek compensation from USL or CPL clubs when those clubs sign ex-MLS academy players.

https://theathletic.com/933096/2019/04/18/

“FIFA regulations only dictate that professional clubs pay training compensation when a player signs his first professional contract in a country other than the one in which he was trained,” MLS said in a release. “MLS will not seek training compensation for players that sign their first professional contract with non-MLS teams in the U.S. or Canada as FIFA regulations do not mandate domestic payments.”

As previously reported by The Athletic, there were discussions about a comprehensive system which would have included so-called “domestic payments” at one point, but those talks ultimately went nowhere. Thus, a player who signs a MLS deal from a domestic youth academy will not be subject to a claim.
The MLSPA isn't happy, but I'm not sure if there's anything they can do about it:

 

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Seattle is playing their semifinal match right now and they are just annihilating West Ham. It's not even the 25th minute and they're up 4-0. AOC has a hat trick already.

Excellent work here from Seattle, who beat teams from some very strong academies.
 

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The U17 qualifying roster dropped.

GK

Damian Las (Chicago Fire)
Chituru Odunze (Vancouver Whitecaps)

DF
Axel Alejandre (FC United)
Adam Armour (North Carolina FC)
Mauricio Cuevas (LA Galaxy)
Tayvon Gray (NYCFC)
Kobe Hernandez (LA Galaxy)
*Joseph Scally (NYCFC)
John Tolkin (NYRB)

MF
*Gianluca Busio (Sporting KC)
*Gilbert Fuentes (SJ Earthquakes)
Bryang Kayo (D.C. United)
*Daniel Leyva (Seattle Sounders)
Adam Saldana (LA Galaxy)

FW
Jack de Vries (Philadelphia Union
*Tyler Freeman (Sporting KC)
*Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Tacoma Defiance)
*Ricardo Pepi (North Texas SC)
Gio Reyna (unattached) [will join Dortmund when some paperwork is cleared up]
*Griffin Yow (D.C. United)

* = on a pro contract


I always have a looser grasp on U17s because it requires a herculean effort to watch them play most of the time, and because evaluating 16 year olds is a huge PITA. That said, I have gotten the sense that there are some good prospects here, but that there are significant questions about the depth of talent in this group.

Guys I'll keep a close eye on:

  • Las - people who have seen him talk about him like he's the best GK prospect we've had in a long time
  • Scally - talented RB who might wind up as a CB given how tall he's become
  • Hernandez - natural LB who might be needed at CB given how weak we are at that position. His reputation has grown considerably in the last six months
  • Busio - an attacking mid and the most professional accomplished in this group, Busio is already a contributor and spot starter for SKC.
  • Leyva - a CM whose stock has exploded recently — he was just bumped up to an MLS contract from his USL deal
  • AOC - recently rose to more prominence for scoring a ton of goals in Seattle's high-profile win in the U17 GA Cup. Hasn't done much for their USL team yet, though
  • Pepi - target forward prospect, what little I've seen of him has been impressive
  • Reyna - has a lot of talent, nobody seems to know what his long-term position will be.
One big name who isn't here is left back George Bello, who is still recovering from an injury.

A year's difference in physical maturity and general development can make a huge difference at the U17 level. That means that every cycle, the vast majority of players on the U17 team are even-birth-year players, whereas there's more diversity among the U20s. All the players on this squad are 2002s, except for Leyva, Pepi, Cuevas, and Freeman, who are 2003s. These younger, odd-birth-year players on U17 squads tend to go on to excel at a higher rate, as you might expect given their advanced trajectory. In this team, Leyva and Pepi are strong candidate to start whereas the other two are very likely to be backups.
 
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The U17 qualifying roster dropped.

GK

Damian Las (Chicago Fire)
Chituru Odunze (Vancouver Whitecaps)

DF
Axel Alejandre (FC United)
Adam Armour (North Carolina FC)
Mauricio Cuevas (LA Galaxy)
Tayvon Gray (NYCFC)
Kobe Hernandez (LA Galaxy)
*Joseph Scally (NYCFC)
John Tolkin (NYRB)

MF
*Gianluca Busio (Sporting KC)
*Gilbert Fuentes (SJ Earthquakes)
Bryang Kayo (D.C. United)
*Daniel Leyva (Seattle Sounders)
Adam Saldana (LA Galaxy)

FW
Jack de Vries (Philadelphia Union
*Tyler Freeman (Sporting KC)
*Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Tacoma Defiance)
*Ricardo Pepi (North Texas SC)
Gio Reyna (unattached) [will join Dortmund when some paperwork is cleared up]
*Griffin Yow (D.C. United)

* = on a pro contract


I always have a looser grasp on U17s because it requires a herculean effort to watch them play most of the time, and because evaluating 16 year olds is a huge PITA. That said, I have gotten the sense that there are some good prospects here, but that there are significant questions about the depth of talent in this group.

Guys I'll keep a close eye on:

  • Las - people who have seen him talk about him like he's the best GK prospect we've had in a long time
  • Scally - talented RB who might wind up as a CB given how tall he's become
  • Hernandez - natural LB who might be needed at CB given how weak we are at that position. His reputation has grown considerably in the last six months
  • Busio - an attacking mid and the most professional accomplished in this group, Busio is already a contributor and spot starter for SKC.
  • Leyva - a CM whose stock has exploded recently — he was just bumped up to an MLS contract from his USL deal
  • AOC - recently rose to more prominence for scoring a ton of goals in Seattle's high-profile win in the U17 GA Cup. Hasn't done much for their USL team yet, though
  • Pepi - target forward prospect, what little I've seen of him has been impressive
  • Reyna - has a lot of talent, nobody seems to know what his long-term position will be.
One big name who isn't here is left back George Bello, who is still recovering from an injury.

A year's difference in physical maturity and general development can make a huge difference at the U17 level. That means that every cycle, the vast majority of players on the U17 team are even-birth-year players, whereas there's more diversity among the U20s. All the players on this squad are 2002s, except for Leyva, Pepi, Cuevas, and Freeman, who are 2003s. These younger, odd-birth-year players on U17 squads tend to go on to excel at a higher rate, as you might expect given their advanced trajectory. In this team, Leyva and Pepi are strong candidate to start whereas the other two are very likely to be backups.
Awesome stuff TB. Thanks for doing this - takes no small amount of time I’m sure.

To contribute to the discussion, I saw some well informed Twitter chatter that the 2003 birth year appears to be shaping up even better than a pretty strong 2002 class.

This might be the strongest squad in a few cycles with high end attacking talent, yet guys like Bello, Cameron Dunbar and Moses Nyeman are on the outside looking in for various reasons. Oh and both Stroud and Judge weren’t released by pretty good sized clubs in Europe.
 

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Awesome stuff TB. Thanks for doing this - takes no small amount of time I’m sure.

To contribute to the discussion, I saw some well informed Twitter chatter that the 2003 birth year appears to be shaping up even better than a pretty strong 2002 class.

This might be the strongest squad in a few cycles with high end attacking talent, yet guys like Bello, Cameron Dunbar and Moses Nyeman are on the outside looking in for various reasons. Oh and both Stroud and Judge weren’t released by pretty good sized clubs in Europe.
Thanks, just trying to put all the time I waste on this stuff to good use!

I think the best birth year class that we've had in a long time is the 2000s and I'm as of yet unconvinced that the 2002s will equal or surpass them, but we'll see how things unfold. The last U17 team had good prospects, but a large number of 2000s have risen to prominence since: Richards, Ledezma, Aaronson, Cerrillo, Soto; also Ferreira is waiting in the wings for citizenship paperwork to go through.

The 2002s have some good prospects, but I don't see the same depth and breadth yet.

Judge is a funny one. He has gotten consistently poor reviews from U17 camps, but he seems to be doing well with Frankfurt, and recently received an early promotion to their U19 squad. I haven't seen confirmation as to whether he wasn't released, or simply wasn't selected.

Hopefully Nyeman gets US citizenship soon.
 

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Drama.



Brian Kleiban is a highly touted youth coach who is associated with Efra Alvarez, Alex Mendez, Uly Llanez, John Hilton, and other prospects. He was with an independent club in LA, then Chivas USA, then the LA Galaxy. The rumor is that he pushed Mendez and Llanez to sign with his brother as agent, and then with clubs abroad. If true, that's a highly fireable offense regardless of his coaching chops.

An update on this via Paul Tenorio at The Athletic:

[LA Galaxy GM Dennis te Kloese] also fired a heralded academy coach, Brian Kleiban, whose Galaxy under-19 team produced several top pro prospects. Kleiban had a clear conflict of interest, as his brother, Gary Kleiban, represented several Galaxy academy prospects as an agent. Multiple sources confirmed Sam Stejskal’s MLSsoccer.com report that two top prospects, Alex Mendez and Uly Llanez, had been advised by Gary Kleiban not to sign homegrown contracts with the Galaxy. Instead, those sources confirmed the accuracy of a Yahoo Sports reportthat the players had signed contracts in Germany worth less than $1,000 dollars per month. Gary Kleiban also represents Galaxy prospect Kobe Hernandez, a U.S. youth international.

Te Kloese wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the firing except to praise Brian Kleiban as a coach, but the issue was one Te Kloese clearly realized he had to remedy quickly. Te Kloese didn’t put the failure to sign Mendez and Llanez solely on the agent, however, pointing out that one of his goals as general manager was to ensure the Galaxy were providing a clear path to their first team for homegrown prospects, something that would make it easier to convince youngsters to stay in MLS.

Meanwhile, LAG have been giving opportunities to 17 year old defender Julian Araujo and, just today, signed one of their top academy prospects, 16 year old defender Mauricio Cuevas. It's way too early to fete the LA Galaxy's youth development, but it suddenly feels like the organizational culture, communication, and developmental pathway is on track with DTK in charge.

LAFC have young academy teams that are well-regarded, but they built their academy from young ages on up and their oldest team is in the U15 DA league (2004s), so they don't have any prospects who are close yet.

LAG have historically done a remarkably poor job with their academy given the talent in SoCal. If that changes, plus LAFC comes in hot, it will be a major boon to development in the #1 soccer talent market in the US.
 

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U17 qualifiers begin today against Canada. It's at 6pm on Univision Deportes, the CONCACAF Facebook page, and the CONCACAF website.

The format of the tournament is dumb this time; three of the four teams in the group will advance to the Round of 16.
 

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Well, the US dominated possession in the first half, but totally switched off on two counterattacks and gave up two goals within a minute of each other.

Fortunately, they've scored three in the second half and are up 3-2.
 

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3-2 FT. The US deserved to win, but it wasn't a great performance. The team is a bit sloppy in possession and the goals mostly came from set piece dominance. The defense didn't impress me very much, either.

The U17s have had extremely little time under new coach Raphael Wicky, so it's not crazy to hope that they'll gel and look better as the tournament progresses. The next two group stage games should be against weaker opposition in Guatemala and Barbados.
 

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The U17s rested a number of starters and beat Barbados 6-1. I didn't watch the game, but apparently the team annihilated Barbados on set pieces while not doing especially well breaking down the bunker. Barbados scored on a PK after a Joe Scally handball.

There's one more game against Guatemala before the first knockout game, which will almost certainly be against Guadeloupe.
 

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Tab Ramos has some tough choices to make with the U20 World Cup roster that is due to drop on Friday. There is a growing list of players who are somewhat banged up and are close to returning.

Paxton Pomykal (hamstring)
Mark McKenzie (appendicitis)
Brenden Aaronson (hip flexor)
Julian Araujo (ankle)
James Sands (hamstring)
 

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U17 lineup vs. Guatemala in the last group stage game.


I *think* it looks like this, though I might have Reyna/Freeman wrong:

Reyna — Pepi — Freeman
Freeman
Saldana — Kayo
Armour — Gray — Alexandre — Cuevas
Las​

The US got a handy result in the Canada-Guatemala game, which allowed the US to clinch first place already. There's a fair bit of squad rotation here, although I also get the sense that Wicky is still feeling out his squad. Certainly, I think there are a number of spots in the first XI that haven't exactly been locked down by anyone.
 

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US wins 3-0 on the strength of a Griffin Yow brace and a late goal by AOC. The team now plays Guadeloupe in the R16 on Thursday. If they win, the US would play the winner of the Panama/Guatemala game in the all-important QF round, which is what determines who qualifies for the U17 WC.
 

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I just turned on the US-Guadeloupe R16 match and the US is up 5-0 inside of 30'.

CONCACAF did this weird thing where the top 16 teams in the "CONCACAF Men's U17 Ranking" [whatever that is] automatically qualified, and four more teams competed in qualifying. However, those four qualifiers skipped the group stage of the main tournament and went straight to the R16. This appears to have been a mistake.
 

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It finished 8-0; another productive test in CONCACAF youth tournaments! Next up is the quarterfinal against Panama, which is the do-or-die game for qualification to the WC.

The U20 World Cup roster is supposed to drop tomorrow.
 

Titans Bastard

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The US U20 World Cup squad has been announced!

GK
C.J. dos Santos '00 (Benfica)
David Ochoa '01 (Real Salt Lake)
Brady Scott '99 (Köln)

DF
Sergino Dest '00 (Ajax)
Chris Gloster '00 (Hannover)
Aboubacar Keita '00 (Columbus Crew)
Mark McKenzie '99 (Philadelphia Union)
Matt Real '99 (Philadelphia Union)
Chris Richards '00 (Bayern Munich)

MF
Edwin Cerrillo '00 (FC Dallas)
Chris Durkin '00 (D.C. United)
Richie Ledezma '00 (PSV Eindhoven)
Alex Mendez '00 (Freiburg)
Paxton Pomykal '99 (FC Dallas)
Brandon Servania '99 (FC Dallas)

FW
Ayo Akinola '00 (Toronto FC)
Konrad de la Fuente '01 (Barcelona)
Uly Llanez '01 (Wolfsburg)
Justin Rennicks '99 (New England Revolution)
Sebastian Soto '00 (Hannover)
Timothy Weah '00 (Celtic)


This is a good team, probably the deepest U20 team I've seen from the US. One thing that jumps out is that it's young: there are twice as many 2000s as 1999s, which is a reverse of the normal age distribution. The 2000s have a great breadth of talent.

It's impossible to have perfect depth on the 21-man youth World Cup rosters. On this team, the defense is thin, with just six players for four spots. A serious injury early in the tournament could be crippling there more than at other positions. Sergino Dest is the only right back on the team and I honestly don't know who will play there if he's unavailable for any reason.

CM is really deep. Servania was good in qualifying and won a spot in the tournament Best XI, but he's been beaten out in Dallas by Cerrillo. I was surprised to see them both make it. Personally, I would have dropped Servania for another defender.

Weah is the biggest get. Ramos needed sign-off from PSG, Celtic, and Berhalter, but it happened. He'll add a lot to wing/forward depth (he'll start obviously, but it means that our bench options are stronger as guys get pushed down the chain).

One other thing to consider: Tyler Adams and Josh Sargent are also part of this age bracket. So is Jesus Ferreira, who would probably start at forward if he got his citizenship in time.


Some good players didn't make the cut.
  • Julian Araujo '01, RB, LA Galaxy — A really good prospect who impressed for LA Galaxy this year before suffering an ankle injury. It's not clear if he isn't quite fit or if Ramos just cut him. I would have taken him over Servania.
  • James Sands '00, CB/DM, NYCFC — he's played really well for NYCFC this year. My understanding is that Ramos really didn't rate him after a bad youth camp, but it's unclear whether he was able to play himself into contention; he just came down with an adductor injury.
  • Brenden Aaronson '00, CM, Philly — a revelation for Philadelphia who got his chance early because Marco Fabian has missed a lot of time, and he hasn't given up his spot. A classy #8/#10 type. Also recently injured and probably not totally fit
  • Jaylin Lindsey '00, RB, SKC — he's out for several months, but might have gone otherwise to provide depth at the position. I'm not convinced he has huge upside, but should be an above-average MLS player.
  • Chris Cappis '99, CM, Hobro — supposedly had a great camp recently, but was crowded out by higher-achieving players at his position
  • Frankie Amaya '00 CM/AM, Cincinnati —rode a decent qualifying performance to an MLS contract and went #1 in the draft. A good player who would make most US U20 teams historically, but his position is crowded
  • Andrew Carleton '00, AM, Atlanta — his stock has fallen due to lack of progress into Atlanta's first team and off the field shenanigans. I still like his creativity and technical ability. If his head is screwed on straight, he'll be a good player somewhere. His athleticism will determine whether he ultimately winds up as a wide or central player.
  • Jonathan Amon '99, AM, Nordsjælland — Joe Gyau-esque winger who is dynamite at times, but he's been injured a lot. He also doesn't play defense and is quite raw. Weah's inclusion did him in.
 

Titans Bastard

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  • Julian Araujo '01, RB, LA Galaxy — A really good prospect who impressed for LA Galaxy this year before suffering an ankle injury. It's not clear if he isn't quite fit or if Ramos just cut him. I would have taken him over Servania.
  • James Sands '00, CB/DM, NYCFC — he's played really well for NYCFC this year. My understanding is that Ramos really didn't rate him after a bad youth camp, but it's unclear whether he was able to play himself into contention; he just came down with an adductor injury.
  • Brenden Aaronson '00, CM, Philly — a revelation for Philadelphia who got his chance early because Marco Fabian has missed a lot of time, and he hasn't given up his spot. A classy #8/#10 type. Also recently injured and probably not totally fit
Well, Araujo and Sands started today and Aaronson played 32 minutes off the bench, so these guys now seem like straight cuts. I'd quibble a bit, but it's not outrageous, and speaks to the depth of this squad.
 

Titans Bastard

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The U-17s are playing their do-or-die qualification match, the quarterfinal at the CONCACAF championship.

The lineup vs. Panama:

Ocampo-Chavez
Reyna ------------------------------ Yow
Busio
Leyva -- Saldana
Armour -- Hernandez-Foster -- Gray -- Scally
Las​

Here's hoping they pull through.
 

Titans Bastard

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The U17s beat Panama 3-0. It was a comfortable win in which the US controlled play for almost the entire game and conceded virtually zero danger. In the first half, the team struggled to create chances, but things opened up in the second half. Busio had a nice finish a couple minutes after he bottled a sitter, then Reyna scored on a PK drawn by AOC, then Pepi got in behind the defense and beat the keeper to the far post.

The US moves on to a semifinal match against Canada, who advanced past Costa Rica on PKs. The US beat Canada in the first group stage match, but they are the only team who has given us trouble so far. It doesn't really matter, as all semifinalists go to the World Cup.

The team could use a creator. Most of the attacking mids are players who are looking to score; we don't really have an orchestrator. There are also still questions about the defense, which hasn't been tested much so far.

Still, the overall level of technique, movement, soccer IQ, etc. has been pretty solid across the board. It's easy to nitpick and although I don't think this is the Best Youth Class Ever, I'm thinking of many dire U17 performances that I've witnessed in the past. These guys can play soccer.
 

Titans Bastard

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The U17s beat Canada 4-0 today in the semifinal. The US bossed the game, though they weren't able to find the back of the net until the second half. The first Canada game was a struggle, but this one was easy. Aside from the first half of the first game, the whole tournament has been mostly a breeze for the US.

Mexico vs. Haiti tonight in the other semifinal.
 

Titans Bastard

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The U17s lost in the final to Mexico in extra time 2-1. I wasn't able to watch the game, butfrom all accounts, the US outpossessed and outcreated Mexico, hitting the woodwork three times in the first half.



Sounds like the US tired in the second half, before conceding in ET.



Now, hopefully Wicky will have more time to sort through the U17 pool and make some adjustments to strengthen the team before the WC in the fall.
 

Titans Bastard

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The U20s are playing a tuneup friendly against Uruguay right now:



Looks to me like:

Soto
de la Fuente ------------------Weah
Mendez - Servania
Cerrillo
Gloster - Keita - Richards - Dest
Ochoa​


There are three players with fitness questions: Pomykal, McKenzie, Rennicks. Hopefully they can demonstrate their readiness soon; otherwise they should be replaced before it's too late.
 

Titans Bastard

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This is a good sign for McKenzie's fitness following his appendectomy.

 

Quintanariffic

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The U20s are playing a tuneup friendly against Uruguay right now:



Looks to me like:

Soto
de la Fuente ------------------Weah
Mendez - Servania
Cerrillo
Gloster - Keita - Richards - Dest
Ochoa​


There are three players with fitness questions: Pomykal, McKenzie, Rennicks. Hopefully they can demonstrate their readiness soon; otherwise they should be replaced before it's too late.
Two things here. First, it’s really interesting to me that Tab paired the defensive-minded Servania (he’s normally a 6) with Mendez (not known for his defensive effort) against a strong opponent like Uruguay. To the extent you can ever care about a pre U-20 friendly lineup, I was shaking my head with Servania over Ledezma. But I wonder if this is a sneak preview of what we might see during the knock rounds where we wrk need to have more defensive bite in the midfield. Servania over Ledezma (though obviously Pomykal factors in if/when he’s fit) and Cerrillo over Durkin are telling in that regard IMO.

Second, yes someone wasn’t fit after all, but it wasn’t one of those three players you named. In what I think will turn out to be serendipitous, Ayo Akinola seems to have got a knock in camp and is being replaced by 17 year old Julian Araujo. Not only is Araujo starting for the Galaxy and looking great in the process, he can give Tab cover at RB in case Dest gets hurt/carded or slide over to CB if needed. With both Weah and Rennicks being able to cover the wing or more centrally at the 9, Akinola’s similar flexibility didn’t have much unique value.
 

Titans Bastard

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US vs. Ukraine kicks off in a few hours (2:30 ET on FS1). I'm pumped.

The game is in Bielsko-Biała in southern Poland, not all that far from the Ukrainian border, so this should be something of an away game atmosphere.

Ukraine had a nice run in the 2018 UEFA U19 championship. After qualifying, they finished atop their group, ahead of France, England, and Turkey, before being crushed by Portugal in the SF.

Ukraine will be missing one of their top players, LB/CB Vitaliy Mykolenko, who had to withdraw due to injury. Their squad is supposed to be very physical and it also has to be one of the oldest: more than half of their team was born in the first two months of 1999, whereas the large majority of the US team was born in 2000 or later.
 

Titans Bastard

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The lineup:




A few comments:
  • Keita starts instead of McKenzie (who was named captain a few days ago). Presumably McKenzie is being given a few more days to be 100% healthy. Pomykal is captaining today
  • Durkin+Servania means the midfield trio is a bit more conservative than it could be.
  • Pomykal on the wing: not his ideal spot, though he can play there.
  • I look forward to seeing Weah up top; I've never been totally convinced that he is a winger first and foremost.
  • Turns out Scott gets the nod over Ochoa at GK.
 

Quintanariffic

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Nigeria mauling Qatar 4-0. This matters b/c it's important for the US to finish first in their group, as the 2nd place team will face the favorites France.

Also, starting XI just released:

Scott - GK
Dest - RB
Keita - CB Over team captain McKenzie - must not be fully fit yet. Don't feel great about this downgrade.
Richards - CB
Gloster - LB
Durkin - DM
Servania - AM This is a surprise, though maybe the Uruguay friendly portended it a bit
Mendez - AM
Konrad - RW
Pomykal - LW Also a surprise, as he's typically been deployed centrally
Weah - Striker Yet another surprise. Expected Soto to be here with Weah on LW and Pomykal in midfield.


Edit: But of course TB beat me to it, and with a better, more insightful post. Why God why!!!!!
 

Titans Bastard

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The US is looking snappy so far. They are dominating possession, looking very clean on the ball, and winning second balls.

The danger will always be on Ukraine's counter, I think. I'm glad we're not being pressed - that would make me nervous (Keita).
 

Titans Bastard

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Nice FK from deep from Mendez is parried over the bar. There's a good chance we will be watching a lot of Mendez's left-footed set pieces over the next 10 years.
 

Titans Bastard

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Ugh, 1-0 Ukraine.

Defensive mistake defending a diagonal by Dest. US has overall looked better, but Ukraine's gameplan was always based on these sorts of counters.
 

Titans Bastard

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HOT DAMN.

That was an amazing team goal finished by Servania. 1-1.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Confusing seeing the US score that team goal with the other guys being the ones getting their goal lumping it to the striker and being scary on set pieces.