Analysis

The best teenagers in CONCACAF, according to Football Manager 2018

You know the top young Americans, but some of the region's finest young players might come as a surprise you.

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Ernesto Vega (Mexico)

An exciting attacking spark plug, Ernesto Vega’s come up through the youth ranks at Toluca to emerge as yet another promising youngster in Liga MX. While a torn ACL caused him to miss the entire 2017 Clausura (and knocked him out of action for more than a year), Vega’s already had ample opportunity to showcase what he can do.

A winger that can bedazzled defenders with his mazy runs, Vega is an effective creator who can pick out teammates with his crossing ability, or find space in between defenders to finish chances on his own. He made his return to the pitch in the 2017 Apertura, scoring a goal in five appearances. Provided that his injury issues are in the past, and Vega returns as sharp as he ways during long stretches of 2016, he’ll cause plenty of issues for Liga MX defenders next year and beyond.

Mckinze Gaines (USA)

Gaines leveraged his opportunities with with a talented U.S. Under-17 national team in 2015 qualifying into a move to Wolfsburg in Germany. Another wide attacking-type that can scare defenders with his pace and prowess on the ball, after a solid 2016/17 campaign for Wolfsburg U-19s, he’s since moved on to join Darmstadt in the 2. Bundesliga with an obvious goal of earning first-team minutes.

While he hasn’t slotted into the starting lineup right away, Gaines did make his debut back on Oct. 16, a 4-3 loss against Nurnberg. Forcing his way onto the field in whatever way possible is now the main goal, and like other players of both his age and stature, being consistent is a significant key to make that a reality. Gaines may not be as flashy as some of his other talented rising U.S. stars, though he remains one to watch.

Juan Pablo Torres (USA)

Even though American youngsters moving to Europe isn’t unheard of, when Torres signed with Belgian club Sporting Lokeren it did come as something of a surprise. The Atlanta native hadn’t slipped through the cracks – he’s represented the U.S. at several youth teams – but it was more the destination that was striking.

Belgium hasn’t necessarily been a common landing place for players from the United States, so the 18-year-old midfielder is something of a trailblazer. Torres isn’t the first, as Sacha Kljestan spent several years at Anderlecht, but after he had already established himself as a pro in Major League Soccer. A calm and composed presence capable of quick-passing and tactically savvy, Torres is looking to forge his professional reputation at a mid-level club in Europe as opposed to pursue opportunities closer to home. Minutes have been hard to come by for the Lokeren first team, although the talent is there for Torres to start making a name for himself before season’s end.

NEXT: Mexico’s young stud and the USA’s Premier League hopeful