While the bulk of the players competing at last week’s Generation adidas Cup are youngsters looking to earn that first contract, a handful of players on display already have checked that box.
Many of these young prospects that already inked MLS deals were battling it out in Frisco, and here is a look at some of the Generation adidas Cup Rising XI presented by BODYARMOR players and what’s next for them.
One of those to anchor his team was San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper Emmanuel Ochoa. Competing for the Under-17 squad, Ochoa was one of the most experienced pros on display, having signed his Homegrown deal back in November 2019. The 6-foot-2 goalkeeper played in all three group games for San Jose’s U-17 team, conceding two goals. After San Jose finished second in their group, he returned to the Bay Area and was on the bench over the weekend in MLS NEXT Pro action. He’ll look to get regular reps at that level in the near future.
A defensive resoluteness anchored Seattle’s Under-17 title at Generation adidas Cup. And one of his last acts in the Round of 16 for Sounders Homegrown midfielder Reed Baker-Whiting was to find the back of the net. Baker-Whiting bagged what turned into the winning goal in a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union, netting a free kick that rolled through a sea of bodies to give Seattle a lead. Over the weekend, while his squad won the U-17 competition, he was back and in the starting lineup for the Tacoma Defiance. That remains Baker-Whiting’s likeliest shot for pro minutes with a stacked first-team Sounders squad.
After missing the first half of the tournament at a Portuguese youth international competition, Bento Estrela made a few appearances in the showcase portion of GA Cup. The Red Bulls had finished third in the group stages, but Estrela eventually made a couple of starts, including a 1-1 draw against Flamengo to finish off the week in Texas. The midfielder has battled injuries over the past year and is likely to remain with the academy, eyeing regular minutes with Red Bulls II later this year.
Despite the fact that he was eligible for the New York City FC Under-15 squad, Christian McFarlane made starts in three of five matches for the Under-17s. Playing as a left back, he was a contributor to the team’s run to the quarterfinals, where NYCFC ended up losing on penalty kicks against Tigres. It was valuable experience for the youngster, facing older, high-level opposition. Getting MLS NEXT Pro minutes is surely next up on his checklist.
Inter Miami CF winger Felipe Valencia was a regular sub for the Under-17 squad at the Generation adidas Cup. Inter fell 1-0 against the Sounders in the semifinals, and were one of the best teams on display in Frisco. The attacker will look to get amongst the goals for Inter Miami II as the MLS NEXT Pro season picks up pace.
Two offseason Homegrown signings for Real Salt Lake were regulars for their Under-17 side this past week. Jude Wellings played all three of the group games in the competitive portion, while Axel Kei started once and came off the bench twice. After the U-17 squad didn’t make it into the knockout competition, things picked up for the duo in the showcase portion. Wellings capped it off with a goal in a 2-1 win against D.C. United. The pair is likely to get minutes for Real Monarchs as they tussle for an MLS debut this season.
Slated to join Atlanta United on a Homegrown deal at the start of 2023, Noah Cobb anchored an impressive week for the club’s academy teams. Cobb showed that his experience in the USL Championship has continued to help him develop as a player, as the center back started all four of Atlanta’s U-17 games. Remaining a regular in central defense for Atlanta United 2 is in his future for 2022.
Generation Adidas Cup has North American youth soccer in a great spot