Built for tomorrow: The 7 best young cores in Major League Soccer
There are some teams in Major League Soccer committed to building around young players, both through their homegrown systems and abroad.
The key is striking the right balance with veteran players in order to maintain a winning structure in the short-term while building up assets in the long-term. FC Dallas may be the club talked about most in the league, but it is not the only team stockpiling young assets.
We compiled a list of the best young cores among the teams in MLS. The rule was the player considered must be 23 or younger this week. For every team, we left off a couple of the youngsters who haven’t broken through in MLS and kept on a couple players who, based on potential, figure to be a part of the team’s plans for the future even if they don’t play big roles this season.
Here’s a look at the top seven young cores in Major League Soccer.
7. New York Red Bulls
Core: Tyler Adams, Derrick Etienne Jr., Michael Murillo, Alex Muyl
Average age: 20
The crown jewel of this class is Adams (above), though Muyl has carved out a nice role and Murillo looks to be a solid piece, as well. Etienne has shown flashes, though he’s yet to fully convince that he can be the go-to goal-scorer that supplants Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Like the LA Galaxy, the strong part of the Red Bulls’ core is starting to age out of the “young” category, with the likes of Sean Davis (24), Kemar Lawrence (24) and Aaron Long (24) all entering their mid-20s, when the expectation is that you have a solid pro.
6. LA Galaxy
Core: Hugo Arellano, Emmanuel Boateng, Bradford Jamieson IV, Ariel Lassiter, Jack McBean, Raul Mendiola, Nathan Smith, Jose Villarreal, Jaime Villarreal
Average age: 21.78
Just one of these players, Boateng, has started more than nine games so far this season. The Galaxy just doesn’t have enough players out of this group that look like regular starters in the foreseeable future.
While the Galaxy academy has regularly done well, it’s not doing enough to produce regular starters, and McBean, Jamieson and Jose Villarreal haven’t been able to break through even during a season in which the Galaxy pushed to become a youth-driven franchise.
The Galaxy may have a ton of young depth, but the core is still made up of other names, some of whom fall just outside of the sub-23 list: Sebastian Lletget, Joao Pedro and Gyasi Zardes.
5. Columbus Crew
Core: Lalas Abubakar, Alex Crognale, Artur, Niko Hansen, Kekuta Manneh, Zack Steffen
Average age: 21.83
Despite having recently graduated Wil Trapp out of this sub-23 category, you have to be impressed with the group the Crew has here.
The talent is led by Artur and Manneh, though the latter may be headed elsewhere at the end of the season, and Steffen and Crognale have both given plenty to be excited about this season.
We may not discuss the Crew very much when it comes to exciting young prospects, but right now that is very much a part of the discussion, and if Manneh re-signs, Crognale locks down a starting job and some other prospects earn their way on to the first team, it starts to become a bigger part of the conversation.