By James Nalton, Football Whispers
The United States is looking for its next generation of soccer stars to help lead them to future FIFA World Cups. Fans are already starting to think about the 2022 USMNT roster, and young American talents are emerging around the globe.
It’s encouraging to see more of them plying their trade on US shores, but there are also a number of players already making waves in Europe.
The most high profile player on this list is Christian Pulisic, who is a regular for UEFA Champions League side and German Bundesliga challengers Borussia Dortmund. The other members of this list will aspire to reach his level and, if they do, the US will be a danger at forthcoming tournaments.
Here’s a look at some of the best young players who will eventually push for a regular place in the USMNT lineup, and some who have already reached that level. In most cases we have looked at players under the age of 21.
The 23-year-old Columbus Crew stopper was recently named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, and looks primed to take over from 34-year-old Brad Guzan between the sticks for the USMNT in the near future.
He has played a big part in the Crew’s playoff progress, saving an important penalty and putting in an impressive display in a first-leg win against New York Red Bulls in the Conference Semi-finals.
The USMNT Under-20 goalkeeper is on the books at Real Salt Lake and has already appeared for their reserve side in the United Soccer League. He is also eligible to play for Mexico, but the Californian has so far opted for the country of his birth.
The USA will be looking to cap him at senior level in the coming years to secure his services. He's already been linked with moves to Europe, and has trained with Manchester United.
At 23 years old Horvath is slightly older than the other players on this list, but we have been more lenient when it comes to goalkeepers, whose initially progression can be slower than outfield players, but they can go on to play well into their 30s.
The former Real Colorado youth has already played in two different European leagues — for Molde in Norway and now for Belgian side Club Brugge. He is among a number of players vying for the No 1 shirt for the USMNT, and already has three caps.
If Jonathan Klinsmann practiced football with his father, Jürgen, it won't come as a surprise that he became a goalkeeper. Klinsmann Snr. was one of the best German strikers of his time, but his son has forged a career stopping goals rather than scoring them.
At the time of writing the 21-year-old Hertha Berlin stopper had just been called up to the USMNT to replace Steffen, and it’s likely that the pair will be on the roster come 2022.
The left-back is cutting his teeth in the English Championship with Wigan Athletic, where he is on loan from Premier League side Everton.
He experienced a baptism of fire in his early international career when he was asked to stop Juventus winger Douglas Costa in a friendly against Brazil, and it was a game the 21-year-old will have learnt a lot from.
The 18-year-old has played in both full-back positions during the early part of his career, but as a right footer he will be more accustmed to playing on that side of the defence.
He’ll be looking to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Deandre Yedlin, currently on the books at Premier League side Newcastle United, with whom he shares many attributes.
One of the best right-backs in MLS this season, Cannon is a standout young performer with a standout name. The FC Dallas prodigy is tipped to replace long-standing holder of the position Graham Zusi, who has not returned to the national team fold since their 2018 World Cup qualifying failure.
The 20-year-old has already won his first cap, starting in a 1-1 draw with Peru.
The Manchester United youth player will hope to follow in the footsteps of Jonathan Spector and Tim Howard, both of whom played for the Premier League giants while turning out for the USMNT.
He’s already made one appearance for the US, coming on as a sub in a friendly against Bolivia, and will be looking to become part of his country’s future in the centre of defence.
Another Manchester based youth, 21-year-old Palmer-Brown is with United's rivals, Manchester City, and has already been on loan at two different clubs: Dutch outfits KV Kortrijk, and NAC Breda.
The former Sporting Kansas City centre-back also spent time on loan with FC Porto's B team in 2016 before moving to Manchester at the start of 2018.
A familiar name with those who follow the progress of US youth players, Carter-Vickers showed great early promise and is now gaining valuable experience at Swansea City in the English Championship, on loan from parent club Tottenham Hotspur.
Born in England, Carter-Vickers’ father, Howard Carter, is a former professional basketball player from Baton Rouge, LA, and considered one of the best players to come out of Louisiana State University having been drafted by the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 1983 NBA Draft.
The centre-back moved from FC Dallas to FC Bayern this year, and impressed in International Champions Cup fixtures against Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Juventus in the USA this summer as Bayern began preparations under new coach Niko Kovač. He joined on a one-year loan deal two weeks prior and made his debut at the ICC aged 18 and just 24 days.
19-year-old McKenzie is a promising centre back who has spent time with Wake Forest Demon Deacons, storied club Bethlehem Steel, and is now breaking through at Philadelphia Union.
He was a regular starter for the club in MLS last season, making a total of 19 appearances, and has the potential to form an effective partnership with 20-year-old Auston Trusty at both club and national level. The pair have been called up for the upcoming USMNT friendlies, and look set to earn their first caps.
Ajax's 18-year-old right-back was born in the Netherlands but is eligible for the United States thanks to his American father. He has represented the USMNT youth sides at Under-17 and Under-20 level, and currently plays his club football for Ajax’s renowned youth side.
Though he’s right-footed, Dest has played occasionally at left-back, but his future looks to be down the right, either as a full-back or a winger.
Atlanta United left-back Bello is already on the radar of a number of European clubs, and give the position he plays he might be on the verge of first-team minutes in MLS despite having only just turned 17.
Indeed, he has already made his debut for the MLS Cup winners, coming off the bench against DC United in September when he was still only 16. Born in Nigeria but having grown up in the US, he could be an option for the national team sooner rather than later as he possesses all the attributes required of a modern day full-back.
Having spent time on loan at his youth side Richmond Kickers, in his home state of Virginia, Durkin eventually became a regular in DC United midfield during the early part of the 2018. He is yet to be capped at senior level, but the defensive midfielder has appeared for the US youth sides.
Adams, 19, is likely to join McKennie in the engine room of future American midfields, and is coming off a good season for Supporters’ Shield winners New York Red Bulls. He won’t be there much longer, however, as he’s agreed to join his midfield compatriot in the Bundesliga, where he will sign for RB Leipzig.
As well as the Red Bull link, assistant coach Jesse Marsch at Leipzig, having moved from their New York franchise where he coached Adams.
Twenty-year-old McKennie is one of the more established players on this list, having played regular football in the German top flight for Schalke for around a season. He is a combative defensive midfielder who has UEFA Champions League appearances under his belt, and looks set for a place in the USMNT for years to come.
Luca de la Torre
The San Diego-born midfielder moved to England to play for London side Fulham in 2013. Having worked his way up through the youth sides he is now on the brink of the first team, and has already made a couple of appearances in cup competitions.
He has one cap for the national team, coming off the bench against the Republic of Ireland in June.
Another son of, Reyna’s father Claudio was a USMNT legend who won more than 100 caps for his country, and the 16-year-old is looking to follow in his dad's footsteps.
He has already been linked with a move to Europe, and Borussia Dortmund specifically, and is one of the most promising players in his age group.
The 19-year-old plays his soccer for Schalke along with McKennie, though he is some way off his compatriot's level. He’s yet to make a senior appearance, but is highly regarded in the USMNT youth setup as one of their most technically gifted attacking midfielders.
Atlanta United have become one of the most entertaining sides in MLS with their South American flair, but they are also keen to add more homegrown talent to their roster in the future.
Carleton, 18, is one such hopeful, and the Powder Springs-born winger who can also play as an attacking midfielder has already made several appearances for the club, as well as for youth teams at international level.
Germany may be a popular destination for young American players, but Argentina certainly isn’t. But that’s where Acosta has gone to learn his trade, and is currently on the books for one of the youth sides at Boca Juniors.
What’s more, he’s been playing as the No.10, or as they call it in South America — the Enganche. An American soccer player in one of the most iconic positions in Argentine football, for one of their most iconic clubs? If the young playmaker continues on his current trajectory, then this could very well happen!
Phoenix-born attacking midfielder Ledezma now plays his club football for PSV Eindhoven having come through the ranks at Real Salt Lake. He’s one of a handful of players on this list who’s also eligible for Mexico, but he has already represented the country of his birth at youth level.
He is yet to make a first-team appearance for PSV or the senior USMNT but, at just 18, he’s one to keep an eye on.
The global tour continues and this time takes us to Liverpool, England, where we meet midfielder Ritaccio.
He’s played mainly as a holding midfielder for the Premier League club’s youth sides but has also previously operated as a No.8 or No.10. A career in Europe will be aided by the fact the New Yorker holds an Italian passport
Méndez is one of a number of USMNT players who have made the move to the Bundesliga at a young age. He joined up with SC Freiburg from LA Galaxy towards the end of last year and is currently with their Under-19 squad.
He’s a highly rated left-footed midfielder who is good from dead ball situations and when shooting from distance, but can also keep it neat and tidy in midfield. His best position is probably as the most advanced player in a midfield three.
Méndez won the Golden Ball at the 2018 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship which was won by the US.
Weah is one of the most dynamic forwards in the young USMNT contingent, and has already begun to make strides at the highest level in the game.
Son of Ballon d’Or winner George Weah, he is a wide forward with plenty of pace and dribbling skill, and his experiences at Paris Saint-Germain have given him an excellent base on which to build a successful career. The 18-year-old is an exciting option for any USMNT coach, even at such a young age.
The Werder Bremen striker is one of many promising young American center forwards, and is perhaps the one on whom the most expectation rests. He has taken this in his stride so far, scoring two goals in five caps for the senior national side.
Despite these international appearances, the 18-year-old is yet to make his debut for Werder Bremen, having to make do with appearances for their reserve side for the moment.
19-year-old winger Amon plays his club football in Denmark for FC Nordsjælland, having joined from Charleston Battery academy in 2017. He is a direct wideman who will look to take on opposition defenders with the ball at his feet, and recently made his USMNT debut against Peru.
Like former LA Galaxy team-mate Alexis Méndez, Llanez is also eligible for Mexico, but having been born in California the forward has been a regular in US youth teams.
And, like Méndez, he has attracted interest from Europe but has not yet turned 18 so a move abroad may have to wait. In the meantime, he’ll no doubt continue impressing for the youth teams of LA Galaxy and the United States.
The pair were the stars for the US at the 2018 CONCACAF U-20 Championship where Llanez bagged seven goals and was named in the team of the tournament.
Wright burst into the Schalke first team somewhat unexpectedly this season, and he has regularly joined his more established compatriot McKennie in their first team squad.
The rangy forward, who can also play wide, has work to do to establish himself in the starting XI, but he is progressing well and is already off the mark for his club, scoring his first goal against Bayer Leverkusen.
It will be a surprise if the former New York Cosmos and LA Galaxy youth player doesn’t pick up his first cap this year.
The standout player here, it almost seems strange to include him in a list of potential talents as so much of it has been realized already. He is a regular for Borussia Dortmund with more than 100 appearances for the Bundesliga giants to his name since moving from the US in 2015.
But there is much more to come from the 19-year-old who is still waiting for a coach who can get the most from him at international level. The Hershey native is already the USMNT's biggest name but, with his ceiling so high, the former Brackley Town, Michigan Rush and PA Classics attacker could become one of the all-time greats.
Pulisic has already written his name into US history – he's the youngest player to represent and start for the USA in a FIFA World Cup qualifier, the youngest player to score for the USMNT and the youngest scorer of a brace.