22mls-22u22_best_xi-16x9

The 2022 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR list – we’ve been waiting years for the alignment of 22s, eh? – is officially out.

There are current and future international stars and – someday, perhaps soon – eight-figure transfers among the names. There are players who deserve MLS MVP and Best XI consideration. There are also significant snubs destined to look like foolish omissions and a generation of players on the cusp of breaking in who could take 22 Under 22 to a whole different level in the years to come.

That’s saying an awful lot given the who’s who of the list in years past: Alphonso Davies, Miguel Almiron, Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson, Ricardo Pepi, Diego Rossi, just to name six standouts.

As is Wiebe tradition, let’s take a list and make it into another list. Even better, a Best XI! Before we get there and you get frustrated, I had to cheat at center back. There just isn’t one on the list, though Mamadou Fall would likely be top five had he not gone to Villarreal on loan from LAFC over the summer.

Just for fun, I’ve included Transfermarkt values (or actual transfer fees, in the case of Gaga Slonina) for each player. Again, just for fun. It’s a reference point, but certainly not market force gospel, though it does tickle the pleasure center of our soccer brains to see a number attached to the name.

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  • 22U22 Ranking: #4
  • Age: 18
  • Transfer fee: Headed to Chelsea in the winter for reportedly $15M

Transfer tug of war between Real Madrid and Chelsea. Eight-figure transfer fee. International tug of war between Poland and the United States, though Slonina will wear red, white, and blue. He’s got 43 starts at the ripe old age of 18 years old and the maturity and drive of a long-time veteran. He might turn out to be the best goalkeeper ever produced in the US – there’s a long, long way to go actually live up to that potential – and that would really be saying something.

  • 22U22 Ranking: #5
  • Age: 21
  • Transfermarkt: $5.5M

The choice was between Araujo, a Mexican international reportedly on Barcelona’s radar during the summer window, and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, who at 18 is already in the European window himself. Araujo, for now, is the easy choice. His attacking tendencies and recovery speed allow me to play Thiago Almada as a tucked-in winger on the right. At 21, he’ll hit 100 MLS appearances on Decision Day. The opportunities for young players have never been greater, and Araujo is a prime beneficiary.

  • 22U22 Ranking: NR
  • Age: 21
  • Transfermarkt: $1.1M

Yes, yes, I know. He was not on the list. But consider the fact a 21-year-old central defender with 16 starts this year wasn’t even close to making the list … that tells you how much different the landscape is now for young players than it was a decade or even five years ago. At worse, Campbell is going to be a solid player in MLS for a decade. At best? Well, we’ll find out, won’t we?

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  • 22U22 Ranking: NR
  • Age: 19
  • Transfermarkt: $2.75M

Fall would have been No. 5 on my ballot had he been eligible. In fact, strictly from a competitive standpoint, it might have hurt LAFC’s MLS Cup chances to let the young center back leave on loan. They lost their most athletic and active central defender, youthful mistakes sometimes included, and arguably their most dangerous set-piece threat.

  • 22U22 Ranking: #6
  • Age: 20
  • Transfermarkt: $2.2M

Think about what Sam Vines is doing in Belgium, starting game in and game out for the first division’s top (and undefeated team). There is no reason, given his talent, growing experience, and personality, that Tolkin can’t do the same thing or even more when his European move arrives. I said when, not if. Enjoy him while you can, Red Bulls supporters.

  • 22U22 Ranking: #13
  • Age: 21
  • Transfermarkt: $1.65M

Quietly, he’s been an absolute rock for Oscar Pareja. I’m plugging him into this team without a single worry. Single pivot. All you, Cesar. Orlando don’t have to worry about the position for years to come.

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  • 22U22 Ranking: #8
  • Age: 20
  • Transfermarkt: $4.95M

Kone didn’t play a single MLS match last year. Not one. His rise from an unknown amateur to MLS standout, Canada international, and European transfer target has been rapid, to say the least. He’s just getting started, too. If he thrived almost immediately at this level, what can he do at the next one? Clubs are going to pay millions to find out.

  • 22U22 Ranking: #10
  • Age: 19
  • Transfermarkt: $2.2M

Forget “What if our best athletes played soccer?” Though it must be said, McGlynn is by no means a bad athlete, just not a physical juggernaut at age 19. What if instead, the question was “What if our best technical and tactical players were valued for what they are and what they bring to the game?” McGlynn is an answer to that question, and the answer is very, very good for the Union and US youth national teams.

  • 22U22 Ranking: #2
  • Age: 21
  • Transfermarkt: $16.5M

He’s in the Argentina team with Lionel Messi and all the others. He’s going to be in this team, too. With a little more stability in Atlanta, we could see Almada transform into an Almiron-esque Best XI and MVP candidate next year.

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  • 22U22 Ranking: #3
  • Age: 20
  • Transfermarkt: $11M

New York City FC waited until the market dipped on Magno, then swooped in to sign a player who could be the next Taty. They’re not the same in tendencies or personality, but the overall trajectory could be similar: spend a year acclimating, breakout year two on the wing, move to center forward, and pour in the goals before a transfer to Europe. Nobody is doubting the talent.

  • 22U22 Ranking: #1
  • Age: 21
  • Transfermarkt: $8.8M

Behold, the ideal Homegrown trajectory: Sign as a 15-year-old. Spend a few years as a pro bouncing between the academy, USL, and first-team trainings. Break into the first team, experience immediate success followed by a bump or two in the road. Become a locked-in starter. Work your way into the national team. Break out with an MVP/Best XI caliber season ahead of the World Cup. Lock in a playoff berth for your club while trending toward a starting spot with your national team in Qatar. And folks, this is just the beginning of Ferreira’s story!

22u22 updated Wiebe XI