Scouting the Men's U-17s: 5 players with senior national team futures
Each December, fans of U.S. Soccer are offered a glimpse of the future at the annual Nike Friendlies, a four-team competition featuring the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team.
Last week, the U.S. blitzed the competition, securing wins against Portugal (7-1), Turkey (5-1) and Brazil (3-0).
Barring a Christian Pulisic-like ascent, the standouts from the current group of U-17s can realistically target the 2022 World Cup cycle as a timeline to breakthrough with the full team.
Obviously, projecting the success of a teenage talent is a fool’s errand. However, there is real promise in the current U.S. pool. Past Nike Friendlies have featured Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Omar Gonzalez, Pulisic and Rubio Rubin among current full teamers, and there’s always the chance of veterans of the event making the full team.
Here are five current U.S. U-17 regulars with the potential to make that jump:
Arguably the best U.S. player at the Nike Friendlies, Sargent is an impressive forward prospect, with one of the highest ceilings in the group.
It goes far beyond his finishing, as Sargent scored four times in three games, including a hat trick in the win over Portugal. His relentless work rate sets the tone for the U.S. press, and every indication of his on-field play hints at a smart, coachable young talent.
Those intangibles for a player at this stage of his career provide the foundation for a bright future down the road. Add in his strengths, from his hold-up play, awareness, passing ability and how he reads the game, and there’s plenty to like about the St. Louis Scott Gallagher product.
His club future is yet to be sorted, and whether he moves abroad or pursues an MLS path could prove decisive in setting him on the path to success.
Perhaps the most recognizable name on the U.S. side, Carleton made a splash when he signed with MLS expansion outfit Atlanta United back in June.
An attacking winger that can play on either the right or left side, Carleton’s biggest strength at the moment is his finishing. If he gets a sniff of goal in the 18-yard-box, it’s a good bet that the ball finds the back of the net.
His combination play at the Nike Friendlies wasn’t his strongest, and his passing wasn’t quite the same level as it’s been at past events. Still, his ability to separate himself from defenders and take players on with the ball at his feet makes him an exciting and unique prospect.
The question is whether he can continue to develop and refine what makes him special at the youth levels as he climbs the ladder. If he does, the full team could be within reach sooner rather than later.
Like Carleton, Durkin turned pro with an MLS side earlier in 2016, as the central midfielder inked a homegrown deal with D.C. United this summer. While he had his own ups and downs during the competition, picking up a yellow card in two of the three games, Durkin’s skill set, combined with his accelerated path and position could open the door to a national team future.
With no clear No. 6 coming down the pipeline, Durkin has the touch and feel for the game in the middle of the field to thrive in that spot. If his physical development progresses quickly and Durkin starts knocking on the door of the first team at D.C., the possibilities are endless. Simply park him in front of the back four, and watch him snuff out fires and jump-start things the other way.
Given the never-ending parade of left-back candidates that have donned a U.S. jersey over the past two decades, any promise from someone in that spot can’t be overlooked.
Gloster, a New York Red Bulls Academy standout, enjoyed a steady showing in all three matches. Since entering the picture at the start of 2016, the outside back has grown in stature in the eyes of the coaching staff. His searing pace is obvious to note, though his defending wasn’t too shabby against some tough opposition coming down his flank. He’s highly valued within his club’s organization, as he had the opportunity to make a USL appearances in 2016 with New York Red Bulls II.
Gloster has all the tools at the youth level to thrive as a left back, given his speed and athleticism. If the soccer side maintains pace and comes along as he develops, perhaps the U.S.’ left back issue will finally be settled.
Given the number of dual internationals that have come through the full team, it’s only fitting to add another prospect to that list – and one with a famous last name. Timothy Weah, son of the soccer legend George, is eligible for both the United States and France.
Currently on an apprentice deal with Paris St. Germain, Weah entered as a substitute in all three matches, though he showed his finishing ability by scoring twice. Weah’s got a lot of potential and has made waves already with PSG, scoring five goals in a youth match this season in France.
There’s a long way to go for the precocious youngster, but he’s shown a good motor, dynamic pace and a finishing ability reminiscent of his father. If he continues to progress and develop, he’d be a great asset attacking from wide areas.