The Kids Are Alright
Calling America's Next Top Soccer Player
Josh Deaver checks in on Emerson Hyndman and five other rising United States national team talents. Learn their names before everyone else does. It will make you cool, we promise.
BY Josh Deaver PostedThere was a time, only a generation previous, perhaps, when stories of success abroad were few and far between for top U.S. prospects. You would be hard-pressed to find any American youths succeeding in world-class academy systems. Thanks to the globalization of the sport, the landscape has dramatically changed. American players are now receiving unprecedented exposure to elite professional environments throughout the world. While the harsh reality of international competition is that few, if any, will end up featuring for the full U.S. national team, displaying poise and skill in these highly competitive settings helps secure even greater opportunities for future generations of talent. There are currently hundreds of youth players competing inside and outside the United States and not enough space to recognize them all, but we found six you should know. Without further ado, let’s introduce you to some of the top young American talent making waves around the world. Ben Lederman, 12, FC Barcelona (Los Angeles, CA) Lederman’s presence at the famed La Masia, training academy for FC Barcelona, is unprecedented for an American-born player. The pre-teen initially caught the eye of Barcelona's scouting network after his U-10 club side defeated a La Masia academy team in 2011. He had a tryout, then accepted a spot in Spain. Lederman is currently featuring for the club’s Infantil B team, often on the left side of midfield. He demonstrates the skills required of a Barcelona prospect: composure on the ball, sharp passing, and excellent field vision. Lederman has also spent significant time over the last year with the U.S. U-14 boy’s national team and was one of the youngest players in camp this past November in Los Angeles. Tony Lepore, director of scouting for U.S. Soccer, sees Lederman’s progress as nothing but positive. “Benny's still a little boy [and] has a long way to go in his pathway for development,” he said. "We think the future is very bright." Joshua Perez, 15, Chivas USA Academy (La Habra, CA) He's the nephew of former U.S. midfielder and current U-14 boy’s national team coach Hugo Perez, so the teenager has already received a world class education in football. He has trained with PSV Eindhoven and Fiorentina over the past year, and spent much of February with Italian giant AC Milan. Since returning stateside, Perez has continued his standout play for the U-15 boy’s national team as well as with the Chivas USA U-16 academy. The left-footed midfielder has superior technique, ball control, and accurate passing. He is also versatile at his position with a high soccer IQ and can likely perform in any attacking role. He is one of the most gifted talents in entire U.S. youth program and is clearly the top prospect at his age level. As soon as he figures out a few passport issues, he'll likely move to Europe on a full-time basis. was selected from a group of more than 100,000 participants as the lone representative from the United States in Nike’s "the Chance" competition. The competition was part of an initiative designed to take a select group of 16 players on a high-profile global tour in order to provide professional opportunities and access to scouting networks. Iloksi showed well during trips to Manchester, Italy, and Los Angeles. He's small for his age but is a technically gifted midfielder. Iloski plays the role of facilitator masterfully, combining composure on the ball with good speed and excellent field vision. After returning from the competition, Iloski signed with the LA Galaxy Academy. He most recently participated in a training camp with the U.S. U-18 national team, receiving the start in a friendly loss against France and picking up an assist in a pair of matches against Romania. Julian Green, 17, Bayern Munich (Tampa, FL) Born to a German mother and American father, the 18-year-old wunderkind is making noise in the youth system for German superpower Bayern Munich. He caught the eye of Bayern scouts and has been progressing in the academy system since age 12. In 2012, Green led the Bayern U-17’s with 18 goals. Since being promoted to the U-19 side, he hasn’t stopped his torrid pace, netting seven goals in 19 appearances while being one of only four players to feature in every match for first place Bayern. While Green has appeared for the German under-18 side in the past, his lot seems to be cast with the United States since first appearing in a U-17 national team camp in September. Efforts of national team boss Jurgen Klinsmann may have swayed the teen. Green was scheduled to accompany the under-18 squad during their most recent European camp, but a late injury prevented his attendance. Zachary Pfeffer, 18, Hoffenheim (Dresher, PA) Following a semester with the U-17 residency program in 2010, Pfeffer made a strong impression on hometown club Philadelphia Union, who signed the 15-year-old as its first ever homegrown player. Pfeffer was officially the first player to join Philadelphia during their expansion season, making him the fourth youngest player to ever sign a MLS contract. However, after making only four appearances for the club, Pfeffer was sent to Bundesliga side Hoffenheim on a one-year loan beginning in early 2013. Along with fellow under-18 American standout Russell Canouse, he is featuring for the Hoffenheim under-19’s at the moment, but it might only be matter of time before he moves up to the club’s Regionalliga side. Listed as a striker, Pfeffer showed a nose for goal early in his loan spell, scoring six times in three preseason friendlies for the club—adding another in his four regular season appearances so far in 2013. The club seems to value Pfeffer, having hosted him previously for training stints, but will be forced to make a transfer offer at the end of his loan spell to include him in any long-term planning. Currently with the under-18 national team, he is likely to be a focal point for the U.S. under-20 squad in the upcoming cycle. Josh Deaver is a former academic turned soccer obsessive. Follow him on Twitter.
April 04, 2013
April 04, 2013