2017 24 Under 24 - No. 17 - Erik Palmer-Brown


Erik Palmer-Brown

AGE: 20

COUNTRY: United States

POSITION: Defender

CLUB: Sporting KC


In part due to the presence of Matt Besler and Ike Opara at center back, in part due to his season-long loan in 2016 to Portuguese side FC Porto, Erik Palmer-Brown hasn’t made much of an impact with Sporting Kansas City. With the 20-year-old Homegrown reportedly set to join Manchester City in January, it doesn’t look like he ever will.

But don’t mistake his lack of MLS experience for a lack of talent. The US Under-20 international proved at the U-20 World Cup earlier this year that he’s one of the better center back prospects in the entire world. He’s smooth on the ball, tough in the tackle and reads the game far better than most players his age. Though he’s on his way out of MLS, he could be a regular presence on the USMNT down the road.

What the technical staffers say:

For a young center back, he has really good feet. He can do that transition into center midfield and doesn’t really miss a beat. A physical presence, he has ability to deal with the physical forwards in MLS but can also deal with the speedy quick ones. … He’s got Ike Opara and Matt Besler, two of the better center backs over the past few years, to learn from. And the thing you see is with physical duels he doesn’t lose many. He’s good in the air, he’s strong in the tackle and his feet are a strength. In the modern game, you have to have center backs who can pass. And they’re hard to find. That’s why you see them going for ludicrous amounts of money in Europe right now. He kind of checks all those boxes as a young center back that’s athletic, that can win a tackle but can also start your attack in the back with a pass. He’s a kid who won’t be in MLS long. I think he’ll be in Europe soon — much sooner rather than later.

“Center back’s a hard position and the only way you improve is with games. He needs more games. Unfortunately playing in KC, who have two great center backs, it’s kind of the gift and the curse because you’re learning from great players but not getting minutes.”

“I would say his strength is in his athleticism. I would say his composure is beyond his years, his ability to read the game is beyond his years, and so is his ability to play out of the back. He’s a uniquely well-rounded central defender, and when you look at the upside it’s huge because he’s got the makings and all the tools.

“I think he’s at a good club at KC where he’ll be brought along the right way. It won’t just be given to him. He’s gonna have to fight for it and earn it. He’s got some center backs in Matt Besler and Ike Opara ahead of him where he can learn from. And I found it to be a really good thing when a kid can be almost the man with the national team his own age and then come back to a club environment where now he’s lower on the totem pole.”

24 UNDER 24