Photo courtesy of Saint Louis FC / Irvin Herrera
For many years, the USL has seen the level of its international contingent steadily rise, but 2016 brought an unprecedented number of full and youth internationals to the fore and elevating the league competition. In fact, almost one-third of the players – more than 220 total – in the USL this season had represented their country at the U17 level or higher internationally.
Raising the bar in 2016 were new faces such as Saint Louis FC and El Salvador forward Irvin Herrera, whose 14 goals earned him All-League honors at the end of the season. His outstanding finishing, exemplified by strikes such as this against Rio Grande Valley FC, lit up World Wide Technology Soccer Park on a regular basis over the course of the season.
One of the best stories in the USL’s international ranks in 2016 was Louisville City FC goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh, whose call-up to the Trinidad & Tobago National Team completed his transition from a backup for his club at the start of the season to standout starter both professionally and internationally.
Other, younger international standouts also had strong seasons. Canadian U17 and U20 international Alphonso Davies became the youngest player and goal-scorer in the league for Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. Players like USL 20 Under 20 No. 1 selection Victor Mansaray of Seattle Sounders FC 2 and No. 5 Tyler Adams of the champion New York Red Bulls II led their respective club sides and are looking to help the U.S. U20s claim a berth at the 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup.
As the USL continues to grow, the incoming influence of international standouts like Herrera, or fellow All-League selections Yudai Imura (Richmond Kickers) and Harrison Delbridge (FC Cincinnati) is likely to continue to grow.
Photo courtesy of Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 / Alphonso Davies