Who are the standout players in the USL this season aged 20 years old and younger you should get more familiar with?
You’ve probably seen some of their highlights already, but in the 2018 USL 20 Under 20 we rank the best U20 players in the league this season. From current U.S. and Canadian youth internationals to players whose names are already starting to get mentioned in conversations within MLS fanbases, join us as we count down the players that have made a name for themselves in the USL this season.
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From becoming the youngest player to score a hat trick in the USL’s modern era to a series of spectacular finishes throughout the season, there’s no young player that has caught the imagination of the broader North American soccer public this year than Efrain Alvarez. As a result, the 16-year-old is this year’s No. 1 selection in the USL 20 Under 20.
Selected in the top three of the USL 20 Under 20 for a second consecutive season, Ethan Zubak has posted a breakthrough season to reach double-digit goals for the first time in his career, putting more meat on the bones of the promise he showed a season ago when he counted among his accomplishments becoming the scorer of the fastest goal in the USL’s modern era.
Wan Kuzain’s ability to link play at a high level was evident last season, and he’s maintained that this season with a pass completion rate of 89.3 percent on 59.5 passes per 90 minutes. What’s new this season, however, is his ability to fire from long range that has made him a threat to fire on goal from free kicks.
After making his professional debut with the Charleston Battery two seasons ago in the USL, a stint that saw him notch his first professional assist as well as see USL Cup Playoffs action for the side, this year has seen Andrew Carleton be a centerpiece for ATL UTD 2 in its first season in the league.
It’s the way of things at a club like the Swope Park Rangers that a 20-year-old like Felipe Hernandez is one of most experienced players in the squad, but as he nears 60 appearances and almost 4,000 minutes of action the quality the central midfielder has brought to the two-time defender Western Conference champion has been undeniable, especially this year.
The second-youngest signing in Major League Soccer history aged 15 years, 89 days old when he turned professional in August 2017, Gianluca Busio has shown why he’s such a highly-touted prospect in both the USL with the Swope Park Rangers and for Sporting Kansas City this season with a maturity beyond his years as the second-youngest member of this year’s list.
Denso Ulysse has been consistently one of the first names on the team sheet this season for Sounders FC 2, having logged almost 1,000 more minutes this year than he did in 2017 to be one of the bright spots on a young but talented back line.
Adonijah Reid’s elusiveness with the ball at his feet has made him a dangerous player throughout this season, and he’s shown a willingness to take opponents and create space that has resulted in regular chances both for himself and teammates.
Selected for a second consecutive season, Albert Dikwa has built on the promise he showed with Orlando City B a season ago, having already surpassed his totals for appearances and minutes played in his second full season in the United States.
After making appearances over the past two seasons for the Red Bulls II, Ben Mines has had a breakout year that saw the young midfielder’s vision and creativity come to the fore in one of the best attacks in the league.
A member of the United States U17 National Team, Jaylin Lindsey has progressed strongly this year in splitting time between the Rangers and Sporting Kansas City, where he has made six starts.
Jesus Ferreira has been in the spotlight throughout his ascent in FC Dallas’ Academy system. He earned his first USL Player of the Week honors in Week 26 of the regular season after a hat trick that saw his ability to position himself between defenders pay off handsomely.
It’s been a difficult season for Tulsa Roughnecks FC, but one of the bright spots has been the presence of young midfield standout Brandon Servania on loan from FC Dallas. The current U.S. U20 international has shown off his creativity and calmness on the ball consistently in his rookie professional season.
Sam Rogers earns his second consecutive selection to the USL 20 Under 20. The former Sounders Academy standout has recorded 22 interceptions and 45 clearances in 11 appearances this season for S2.
A USL 20 Under 20 selection for a second consecutive year, Hassan Ndam has continued to shine for the Red Bulls II this season in once again racking up more than 2,000 minutes of action while surpassing the 50-appearance mark for the club.
Michee Ngalina has fit in positively with the young talent surrounding him on Bethlehem’s squad and has proven a weapon for Head Coach Brenden Burke whether in the starting lineup – where he’s made 15 of his 21 appearances for the side – or coming off the bench as an attacking option.
A U.S. U20 international, Matthew Real is on course to set new highs for appearances and minutes played in his second full season with Steel FC while earlier this season made his first three starts for the Union in what could be a full-time transition to MLS in the near-future.
Rodrigue Ele underwent a transitional season in his first year with Seattle Sounders FC 2 in 2017 but this season he has come into his own as one of the bright points in the club’s back line, raising his numbers across the board and sitting in either first or second place in most of the team’s defensive categories.
Now in his third season with Toronto FC II, Aidan Daniels has made a career-high 24 appearances in 2018 and has come to the fore within the young side, even taking the captain’s armband at times. A versatile midfielder, Daniels has played both centrally and out wide in 2018.