“I believe the children are our future/teach them well and let them lead the way.” Those lyrics to “Greatest Love of All,” the timeless Whitney Houston cover that was also made popular by Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate in Coming To America, define the state of U.S. Soccer today. We have a ton of youth players that are on the cusp of breaking out both with their respective club teams and have the opportunity to do so on the national team. Most fans are ready to let them lead the way and begin forming the core of the future of the U.S. Men’s National Team.
But, which players should you watch out for? Who are the youth players poised to break out in 2018? Lucky for you, we have a list of them that you should keep an eye on. Let’s do our top 11, starting first with the honorable mentions:
Honorable Mention: Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Chris Durkin (D.C. United), Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC), Kenny Saief (RSC Anderlecht), Keaton Parks (Benfica), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Antonee Robinson (Everton – on loan to Bolton Wanderers), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United), Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha Berlin), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake)
Now, you’re already sitting there like, “Christian Pulisic? Honorable mention? This is already trash!” Well, hear me out first. Of course, when it comes to USMNT players to watch in 2018, Christian Pulisic is number one. It will be interesting to see how he continues to star during this transition on the MNT and, on the club front, whether he continues to dazzle and shine for Borussia Dortmund or if a big move to another club is in the works. But, let’s focus on some of the youth players that aren’t already on our radars and maybe some guys we’d like to see line up alongside the phenom.
Now, to the 11 players you should absolutely keep an eye on in 2018:
Weston McKennie – Schalke 04
The Weston McKennie hype train is in full swing after he was called up for the friendly against Portugal back in November and scored the opening goal. He has emerged as one of the bright young stars in the Bundesliga, and he’s only 19. McKennie patrolling the midfield with his pal Pulisic? Sounds like success.
Tyler Adams – New York Red Bulls
Adams performed well for the U.S. U-20s during the U-20 World Cup last year, and that coupled with his play for the Red Bulls earned him a call up for the Portugal friendly, where he played the full 90 minutes. Tyler Adams is one of the more exciting young players in MLS and he’s going to be a guy to watch this season as he looks to possibly move abroad. He will also likely be a guy you will frequently see on the USMNT roster on matchdays.
Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur – on loan at Sheffield United)
Carter-Vickers began his career in the Spurs academy system at age 11, and has moved up through the ranks. Currently, he’s on loan at Sheffield United, where he will hopefully gain the experience to be considered as a featured defender when he returns to Spurs. He was on the U.S. U-20 team last year as they competed in the U-20 World Cup. Now, he looks to make some waves and earn more call-ups to the senior MNT.
Josh Sargent – Werder Bremen
The 17-year-old won the hearts of fans last year with his play during the U-17 and U-20 World Cups. He was also called up for the November friendly against Portugal, though he did not make the matchday roster due to injury. Sargent signed a contract to join Werder Bremen, but cannot officially do so until he turns 18 in February. At that point, we will hope that the kid will be able to make inroads at the same Bundesliga club that currently employs Aron Johannsson.
Shaq Moore – Levante
La Liga has an emerging American talent, and his name is Shaq. Shaq Moore recently broke into the first team at Levante and has performed well thus far, including a match against Barcelona where he almost scored at the Camp Nou. The right back can control the entire flank and track back efficiently, so it will be interesting to see whether he can continue to improve and excel in La Liga.
Danilo Acosta – Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake will have several young players on their team, including Danny Acosta. The 20-year-old can play defense or midfield and already has become a regular in the RSL lineup. Can he improve on his performance that saw him be one of the bright spots of the U-20 MNT during the U-20 World Cup?
Brooks Lennon – Real Salt Lake
Lennon recently completed a permanent move to Real Salt Lake after spending last year there on loan from Liverpool. Lennon can play up top as a striker or on the wing, and his versatility could mean wonderful things for the future of the MNT.
Andrew Carleton – Atlanta United
One of the best players on the U-17s, Carleton was Atlanta United’s first Homegrown Player signing. Can he break into a midfield that’s loaded with talent? If he can, that will be incredible for his trajectory and could see him land on the MNT sooner rather than later.
Erik Palmer-Brown – Manchester City
The 20-year-old recently left Sporting Kansas City for Manchester City, a huge move for Palmer-Brown. He undoubtedly will get loaned to another club initially, but his improved play in Europe could be beneficial for a MNT who has questions on defense.
Emerson Hyndman – AFC Bournemouth
Hyndman has flirted with the national team before, but he is still young and playing in the Premier League for Bournemouth. The hope is that he can work his way regularly into the lineup for the Cherries and make it so that he gets more opportunities to show he can feature in the midfield for the MNT.
Timothy Weah – Paris St-Germain
When you think of Timothy Weah, you think of good pedigree. Weah’s father is George Weah, the former Ballon d’Or winner who also recently was elected president of Liberia. Weah starred for the U-17s during the U-17 World Cup and signed a professional contract with PSG. This is one of the biggest clubs in the world and he’s one of our brightest young talents. If Weah can move his way up at PSG, it will be huge not just for him, but for the MNT.
There you have it, some youth players to watch. The good thing is that the future begins now. As we move through the year, the upward trajectory of these players will help our MNT rebuild and get the experience necessary to get back on track. We’re #HereForTheFuture, so next time you’re watching soccer on a Saturday or Sunday morning, look out for these guys.