6 MLS players named among most promising U-21 talents worldwide

John Tolkin

Major League Soccer is home to some of the world’s top young talent, according to a new scouting report published by the CIES Football Observatory.

The group has identified 200 players, as sorted into top 10s in 20 different classification categories, who were born after Jan. 1, 2002. They’ve given each player an “experience capital” total, which combines playing time, the competitive level of matches played and performance/results.

Of the six MLS players featured, three are homegrowns and another three are South American imports. They also have two prominent MLS alumni – Chelsea FC goalkeeper Gaga Slonina (Chicago Fire FC homegrown) and Borussia Mönchengladbach right back Joe Scally (NYCFC homegrown) – among the players recognized.

CIES ranking: 1st in top 10 most promising defensive left backs

Tolkin, 20, has been the New York Red Bulls' starting left back for the past two seasons. Linked with a move to Europe, the homegrown defender has 2g/5a in 59 games.

CIES ranking: 4th in top 10 most promising two-way right backs

Gray, 20, is poised to become NYCFC's full-time starting right back after Anton Tinnerholm returned to his native Sweden this winter. The MLS Cup 2021 champion already has 0g/3a in 37 games for his boyhood club.

CIES ranking: 4th in top 10 most promising attacking right backs

Signed in July 2022 from Colombian top-flight side Independiente Medellín, Mosquera has appeared in just three games (two starts) for the Timbers. But the 20-year-old right back projects as Portland's starter in 2023 as they seek a return to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

CIES ranking: 7th in top 10 most promising shot-oriented left wingers

Velasco, 20, joined Dallas last February in a club-record transfer from Argentina's Independiente that reportedly clocked in around $7 million. The Young Designated Player tallied 6g/7a in 26 matches as Dallas returned to the playoffs, starring up top alongside US internationals Paul Arriola and Jesus Ferreira.

CIES ranking: 4th in top 10 most promising all-rounder left wingers

Magno, a 20-year-old Brazil youth international, arrived at NYCFC in May 2021 from Vasco da Gama. Playing both at winger and in the No. 9 role, the Young DP already has 9g/10a in 49 matches while helping the Cityzens to MLS Cup 2021 and Campeones Cup 2022 titles.

Jackson Hopkins
Midfielder/Forward · D.C. United

CIES ranking: 5th in top 10 most promising all-rounder center forwards

Hopkins, 18, signed his homegrown deal with D.C. United last April and posted 0g/1a across 21 matches, entrusted by head coach Wayne Rooney. The US youth international was part of the 2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship-winning side, putting him in contention for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in May.