It’s natural for fans to want to look to the future and American soccer fans are no different—always eagerly awaiting the rise of the next breakout star.
But American soccer also has a past littered with players who never lived up to those expectations, players who could never raise their game to the level of the hype that once accompanied it.
Here are 10 players, five men and five women, all under the age of 25, who have managed to largely stay under the radar of most American soccer fans, but who have bright futures in the game.
Joseph Gyau is a 20-year-old winger who currently plays with St. Pauli in the Bundesliga 2. This season, on loan from parent club Hoffenheim, Gyau has earned 14 appearances with St. Pauli and appears to be steadily progressing after several years of playing matches primarily in the German Regionalliga.
Gyau has represented the U.S. on multiple United States youth national team levels and received his first full national team call-up for the United States’ friendly against Russia last November.
Bobby Wood is another 20-year old plying his trade in the Bundesliga 2, Wood doing so with 1860 Munich.
So far this season, Wood has two goals in 13 appearances in the Bundesliga 2 and eight goals in 26 appearances while playing with 1860 Munich’s second team in the Regionalliga.
Although John Anthony Brooks has stayed off the radar of casual United States men’s national team fans, he is well known among the more fanatical followers of the USMNT. Brooks has had a breakout season in Bundesliga 2 this season, helping lead Hertha Berlin to the top of the table and promotion to the Bundesliga.
The 6’4” center-back is an imposing physical presence and is widely tabbed to be a future star. Brooks is a dual national, also eligible to play for Germany, and has been called into youth camps for both teams. In good news for U.S. fans, it was reported this week that Brooks is leaning towards playing with the U.S. U-20 team in the U-20 World Cup this summer (via ESPN FC).
Joe Corona, unlike other USMNT youngsters like Mix Diskerud, Josh Gatt and Brek Shea, has managed to stay largely under the radar.
Even though Corona has received fairly regular USMNT call-ups under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, he has rarely featured, only playing 24 minutes in three substitute appearances.
However, Corona was a big part of Club Tijuana’s rise to the top of Liga MX in the Apertura this past year and has 61 appearances in the Mexican top flight over the past two seasons.
Corona was originally eligible to represent the United States, Mexico or El Salvador internationally, but Klinsmann used him as a stoppage-time substitute in a World Cup qualifier against Guatemala, cap-tying Corona to the United States.
Conor O’Brien is a 24-year-old central midfielder who plays for Nordsjaelland in the Danish Superliga. O’Brien moved to Denmark following his college career after which he was not drafted by any Major League Soccer team.
In Denmark, O’Brien has steadily moved up the food chain, recently signing with Danish champions Nordsjaelland, whose attractive style have led to them being dubbed as the Barcelona of the Danish league.
O’Brien was also the feature of a recent German article, which charted the ground covered by players in the Superliga—O’Brien finished at the top of the list.
Turning to the future of the U.S. women’s game, no one has had a bigger start to 2013 than Christen Press. Press, who was an alternate for the U.S. Olympic squad in 2012 under former coach Pia Sundhage, has emerged as a premier goalscorer in 2013, already finding the back of the net six times for the U.S.
Press competes professionally in Sweden and was the second-leading scorer in the 2012 campaign behind Brazilian legend Marta.
Crystal Dunn has had a whirlwind year. Last fall, Dunn emerged as a top-notch right-back at the U-20 World Cup, which the U.S. won. Dunn then came home to win the NCAA championship with the University of North Carolina while playing as an attacking center midfielder and won the Hermann Trophy as the nation’s best player.
Since then, Dunn has earned her first full national team call-ups, playing in several recent United States women’s national team friendlies and the helping the team to the championship at the 2013 Algarve Cup.
Kealie Ohai, like Dunn, has made a big impression over the last year.
At the U-20 World Cup, Ohai scored the game-winning goal in the final, a 1-0 victory over Germany. Then, she returned home to win the national championship with UNC, scoring the overtime game-winning goal in the semifinals and then the opening goal in the national championship game.
Julie Johnston was another player who was a key part of the U.S.’ U-20 World Cup-winning team, anchoring the back line and captaining the team. Johnston’s performances were so outstanding in the tournament that she won the Bronze Ball as the tournament’s third best player.
Johnston then went on to be an All-American in the 2012 college season and has since earned her first national team call-ups with the full USWNT.
Christine Nairn had a breakout year in 2012 for Penn State, scoring 17 goals, finishing second in the Hermann Trophy voting and leading Penn State to the national title game.
Nairn, who has been called into the USWNT in the past, is now playing for the Seattle Reign and scored the opening goal of their 2013 season.
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