It’s hard to deny that nowadays the gap of youth soccer development between the United States and the rest of the world is shrinking.
With the USSF and MLS investing money in development for soccer players at an early age, these last several years have shown an influx of young players having opportunities to play professionally both domestically and internationally.
Of course with the coming years, fans would like to see this trend continue, developing youngsters early and having them play in a professional environment while still in their teenage years.
Now, to say that the mentioned U.S. teenagers will become world soccer stars is definitely a bold statement. But it’s a statement filled with hope and aspiration—and maybe a little sense of fantasy—however, given the opportunity, only each player can define their destiny.
Junior Flores was a newcomer to the U.S. Residency program in Bradenton, Florida, but he shone in the 2011 Nike International Friendlies this past December.
He got the game-winning assist to upset Brazil and followed up his performance with a game-winning goal against Turkey.
Currently 15 years old, Flores is the youngest player on this list, but this kid might be the real deal in the years to come.
He's already being pursued by Major League Soccer for a Generation Adidas contract.
Jack McBean signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy when he was 16 this past season and is somewhat behind the rest of the professionals on this list.
Nevertheless, McBean has the potential to be a great player, and if he gains playing time with the LA Galaxy, he can help with the trouble Juninho’s departure has created.
McBean’s performance with the U.S. U-20 will also give him an opportunity to expose himself to scouts from Europe, who have already learned that there is potential for young soccer players in the United States.
Making his move up the soccer ladder more quietly, the 17-year-old Alejandro Guido is one that fans shouldn’t overlook.
The Southern California midfielder was one of the best players for the US U-17 team during 2011, and he became the main link between the defense and offense during the CONCACAF Championships.
Not too long after the U-17 World Cup, Guido was on trial with Vitesse Arnhem of the Eredivise for a undetermined amount of time.
It will be interesting what route Guido and Vitesse decide to take once he turns 18 this March.
If the frustrations for US fans in not having a goal-scorer who’s known to capitalize in front of the net still exist by 2014, Alfred Koroma may be the answer.
He performed admirably for the U.S. U-17 this past summer.
Koroma has speed, strength, and most importantly, he can create spaces for himself to score from.
Not since Clint Dempsey have U.S. fans seen this ability in a forward.
Koroma will have the opportunity to further shine with the U.S. U-20. He’s committed to Akron, but don’t be surprised if he departs early to pursue a pro contract.
Luis Gil’s sophomore season with Real Salt Lake has been of growth—playing in 25 games during the 2011 season while tallying two goals.
His play in the midfield has been worthy of the attention he received when he decided to sign for RSL and bypass European offers.
The 18-year-old displays tranquility over the ball with a sense of creativity. Think of a Michael Bradley, but with some flair.
Gil is currently in the U.S. U-20 camp in preparation for the FIFA U-20 World Cup qualifiers.
It’s doubtful he’ll have a shot for the 2014 World Cup squad, but he sure is in line for the years following.
Leading the way for teenagers to join European squads is Villyan Bijev.
He signed a three-year contract with Liverpool this past summer after lending his services to the U.S. U-17 at the World Cup.
The Californian forward—who just turned 19—was immediately loaned out to Germany’s Fortuna Dusseldorf after signing with elite Premiership side.
Bijev’s abilities on the field are very unlike many American soccer players, and when he’s ready, Bijev can take the USMNT attack to another level.
The quick and explosive Joseph Gyau can be instrumental in helping the U.S U-23 medal at the 2012 London Olympic games.
Furthermore, Jurgen Klisnmann might be able to utilize his speed and deepen the forward position of the USMNT that lacks speed in the final third.
Gyau has been seen taking defenders one-on-one and blowing past others.
It will be a welcome treat for U.S. fans to see such a dynamic player, especially if he can climb the ranks to the first team.
Marc Pelosi, following the steps of Villyan Bijev, signed with the Liverpool academy in the fall, after a commanding performance both at the CONCACAF U-17 Championships and the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
He’s a playmaker fans dream of having on the full USMNT, and his development with one of the top teams in the Premiership can give hope for fans for another bright and talented player to someday don the US crest.
There is a lot of work still left to do for this 17-year-old midfielder, but if he further improves on what he’s shown in 2011, Pelosi will be a person of interest among US Soccer fans.
Being an unexpected first overall pick by the Vancouver Whitecaps at the 2011 MLS Superdraft, Omar Salgado had a lot to prove during his rookie season.
Was he able to? Not necessarily, but it can't be all put on him.
The Whitecaps just weren’t a good overall team for anybody to shine above the rest.
Yet hope still stands for the 18-year-old Salgado, as he can still break his way into the US first team.
He must keep a positive form for both the Whitecaps and the US U-20 squad, which he was called up for most recently. It is Salgado’s 6’4” frame that gives him a big advantage as a forward prospect for the USMNT.
Imagine if you will—Salgado, Brek Shea, Tim Ream and Omar Gonzales—looks more like a basketball team than a soccer team.
By far the most experienced player on this list, and probably among all the US teenagers playing professionally, Agudelo—still 19 years of age—is seen by plenty to be destined as a world football star.
Of course the little problem is that Agudelo isn’t getting any time with the New York Red Bulls.
It’s a bit perplexing to understand why NYRB head coach Hans Bache hasn’t used Agudelo as often as Jurgen Klinsmann has for the U.S. National Team.
Regardless, Agudelo can be the immediate future for the national team, but he’ll need playing time—either with NYRB or somewhere else.