There is no doubting that the MLS has become somewhat of a feeder league the last couple of years. With domestically-developed stars such as Jozy Altidore, Stuart Holden and Tim Ream all making the switch across the pond, it is evident that the league boasts more talented youngsters than ever before.
With so many good young players, it is tough to select the ten best teenagers in the American league. Nevertheless, I have picked those who are worthy of your attention prior to them officially establishing themselves in MLS.
Not many first-round draft picks can get selected and immediately be comfortable in a starting role. That is exactly what Andrew Jean-Baptiste did, scoring his first MLS goal in his Timbers debut against Philadelphia a few weeks ago.
His size and strength make him a hard defender to get by, and at just 19, he has plenty of time to have his skills complement his physicality.
The Lebanese-American was labeled at a very early age as one of America’s top young talents. In 2009-10, he was named the Gatorade High School Player of the Year, and the following season he went on to be Big 10 Player of the Year for Michigan.
Saad’s buzz has started to die down since joining an already attack-heavy SKC offense that boast forwards like C.J. Sapong and Teal Bunbury. Nevertheless, if Saad can find some playing time in 2012, he could get back to doing what he knows best: winning awards.
Although maybe not as popular as the other players on the list due to his residence and club, Matt Stinson has put together some good teenage months up in Toronto.Stinson played in 13 games last season for TFC and has featured in the Reds successful Champions League campaign multiple times as well.
He was also recently called up to the Canadian National team back in November and was a key member of Canada’s U23 team that participated in Olympic qualifying. If you want to get in the loop, make sure to mention Stinson’s name when talking about future MLS stars.
I don’t think there has ever been so much hype around one player with just three league starts in MLS history. Ever since Fagundez impressed in a pair of appearances last fall, league fans have not stopped talking about the incredible potential the young Uruguayan has.
He is one of the most technically skilled players on the list and could very well be atop my "MLS Star Rankings" in just a few years.
The 2011 No. 1 SuperDraft pick hasn’t had a tremendous amount of time to prove his incredibly high selection, but that should all change in the upcoming season.
Salgado has the soccer IQ and talent to really make a name for himself in the upcoming seasons for the Whitecaps. At only 18, Salgado also gets plenty of U.S. Youth National team experience and should be very developed by the time he reaches his twenties. It is not a matter of if Salgado will become an effective striker in this league, but when.
We have been waiting for McInerney to get his chance in Philadelphia, and with the team currently struggling to find goals, 2012 just might be his revolutionary year.
His work ethic and positioning once he gets on the field is fantastic for a young player, but now "Jack Mac" needs to do what the scoreboard really cares about: getting the ball in the net. With just one goal last season, McInerney needs the confidence and surrounding playmakers to step up before he can out the Union on his back in 2012.
Gil has been on MLS fans' radar for so long it is amazing that the RSL playmaker is still a teenager. Having turned down offers from Arsenal to stay in the US, it is not a secret that Gil has had plenty of potential for a while now.
Just recently, we have started seeing this potential being taken to the next level though, as Gil has locked down a starting spot at Western Conference-leading RSL. Now, with Gil being on your televisions/computers every single weekend, you can finally get to see why many have dubbed him the next USMNT #10 for Jurgen Klinsmann.
Castillo is the only teenager in MLS history to own the label of a Designated Player. As one of the fastest players in the league, Castillo could be one of the most dangerous players once getting behind the defense in the open field.
Although his statistics have yet to really show his true value, be prepared for a very successful season by the Colombian speedster.
With more starts than any other player on this list, Najar comes in at No. 2 in my rankings. His quickness and dribbling skills are what attracted former USMNT coach Bob Bradley so much back when Najar had yet to declare his preferred national team.
He can produce moments of brilliance and is probably the best teenage playmaker in the league right now. Despite his terrific MLS career already, he still doesn’t top my list for 2012.
Who else were you expecting? The Jersey wonderkid burst onto the scene just 17 months ago after scoring in his USMNT debut and has been declared the future of American soccer by a number of USMNT fans. Although his MLS career has not yet taken off due to New York’s plethora of attacking options already at the position, Juan certainly is the most talented of the teens that find themselves on this list. He is currently sidelined with a knee injury suffered in US U23 camp, but if one thing is for sure it is that Juan will be ready to take the league by storm when he gets back on the pitch in a few weeks.
Here is a list of guys who just missed the list:
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