Once upon a time, the MLS was seen as the league for fading superstars. That reputation hasn’t gone away completely – you’ll still find Zlatan, Nani and Wayne Rooney there – but it’s certainly changing. First, young Vancouver Whitecaps winger Alphonso Davies signed for Bayern Munich and then Miguel Almirón made a £21million move from Atlanta United to Newcastle United. These landmark moments have helped put American soccer on the map as a new hotbed for young football talent. Here are 5 wonderkids who could be next.
Diego Rossi, Los Angeles FC, Age: 21
The small, speedy Uruguayan joined the new MLS franchise Los Angeles FC back in 2017 as one of their young designated players. Since then, Rossi (pictured) has formed a formidable front three with former Arsenal and Real Sociedad star Carlos Vela and…former Hull City man Adama Diomande. Rossi finished with 17 goals last year, and 7 games into the 2019 season, he’s already scored 6, including an accomplished hat-trick against Rooney’s DC United.
Ezequiel Barco, Atlanta United, Age: 20
Miguel who? So far, this tiny Argentinian winger looks like the perfect replacement for Almirón. If you haven’t yet seen his second goal against New England Revolution, you should. Super sub Barco got the ball on the left, cut inside onto his right foot and curled a beauty into the top corner.
James Sands, New York City FC, Age: 18
Sands is NYCFC’s first ever homegrown player and a future American captain in the making. A defender/defensive midfielder in the Declan Rice mould, Sands is comfortable in possession but he’s at his best when he’s trying to win the ball back. He’s averaging 3.7 tackles per game in the MLS this season.
Paxton Pomykal, FC Dallas, Age: 19
One player joining Sands in Team USA 2022 could be Dallas midfield dynamo, Paxton Pomykal. He’s got the energy and the quality to play box-to-box, as he showed against Real Salt Lake in late-March. His second strike in particular showed real skill and a lethal left foot. 2019 is looking like a breakout MLS season for Pomykal.
Gianluca Busio, Sporting Kansas City, Age: 16
Alphonso Davies was 17 when he scored his first MLS goal. Busio is still only 16 and he’s already scored 3…in 3 consecutive games. Yes, they were all pretty fortunate and straight-forward, but you’ve got to admire Busio’s confidence, composure and killer instinct. Being in the right place at the right time is the sign of a top striker.