Columnist: Jonathan Sigal

Every MLS club's must-watch homegrown player in 2024


One of the most enjoyable storylines each MLS season? Seeing which homegrown players raise their profile.

That could mean an increased first-team role, a fast track to the international game or even a transfer overseas. Everyone loves the "local kid comes good" angle.

This pipeline isn't slowing down anytime soon, either, thanks to MLS NEXT and MLS NEXT Pro developing local talent. American/Canadian players have never been more credible in the global game, and the roots start at the youth level. There's improved coaching and a full pathway, helping craft success stories like Alphonso Davies, Tyler Adams, Ricardo Pepi and Brenden Aaronson.

So, let's cast a league-wide view and identify one homegrown player per club you don't want to miss in 2024 – whether it's at the stadium or when watching via MLS Season Pass on Apple TV. Naturally, some are more established than others. And others might shift, rather quickly, from relative unknowns to household names.

Wiley has serious upside as a left wingback, appearing twice for the US men's national team and posting 5g/6a in 56 matches for Atlanta United. The 19-year-old could easily play in a top-five European league one day.

Wolff is coming off a breakout year, when his 2g/3a in 27 matches offered a bright spot during Austin FC's sour 2023 season. The 19-year-old US youth international projects best as a box-to-box midfielder.

Berchimas rose his stock at the 2023 FIFA U-17 World Cup, scoring three goals in four games for the United States. The 15-year-old winger is yet to debut in MLS, but that could change with Charlotte FC now led by head coach Dean Smith.

Gutiérrez, a 20-year-old US youth international, is entering his fifth season with Chicago. He's comfortable in numerous attacking roles, tallying 4g/16a in 65 matches across the past two seasons – and shining alongside homegrown goalkeeper Chris Brady.

Can Ordóñez become FC Cincinnati's first truly impactful homegrown player? The 20-year-old Guatemalan international striker awaits his first MLS goal and/or assist in roughly 400 minutes played.

Bassett is an integral piece of Colorado's reworked midfield and last month signed a contract extension that shifted him onto a U22 Initiative roster spot. The 22-year-old US international's Eredivisie move didn't fully pan out, but 19g/12a in 97 matches with the Rapids reinforces his quality. Also in the running: left back Sam Vines, midfielder Oliver Larraz and forward Darren Yapi.

A two-time MLS Cup champion at age 22, Morris reached another level last season under head coach Wilfried Nancy. The US international and MLS All-Star tallied 4g/7a in 30 matches, adding attacking flair to his rock-solid midfield partnership with Crew captain Darlington Nagbe.

Also, Morris has this club in the bag:

FC Dallas' attack could cook this season with Ferreira and new striker Petar Musa acting as options 1A and 1B. As Ferreira adjusts to playing alongside the Croatian international, the World Cup veteran is seeking a third-straight season with double-digit goals (30g/12a in 60 matches the last two years).

Ku-Dipietro, 22, routinely brought a final-third spark to D.C. United in 2023. TBD where his best position lies – is he a 10, a winger, a second forward? – but 5g/3a in 26 matches last season indicated a bright future awaits.

It won't be easy for Raines to break into Houston's Héctor Herrera-led midfield, but the 18-year-old's potential is certainly there. A highly-regarded US youth international, perhaps Raines' MLS NEXT Pro experience leaves him ready to jump forward.

Davis was quietly among the most reliable right backs in MLS last year, notching 0g/2a in 26 matches alongside elite underlying defensive numbers. The 22-year-old, realistically, could hold down the position at Sporting KC for a decade.

Neal's upside is readily apparent, the type of center back who could represent the USMNT at a World Cup if he keeps developing physically and tactically. The 20-year-old has six senior international appearances and projects as a starter for LA, though needs to shake the injury bug.

It's easy to envision Ordaz taking The Leap™ in 2024, becoming LAFC's first homegrown who makes a serious first-team impact. The 20-year-old forward scored twice in three Leagues Cup matches last season and knows how to sniff out chances.

Cremaschi shot into the stratosphere last season, going from an 18-year-old rookie to winning Leagues Cup alongside boyhood idol Lionel Messi. It was a dream-like campaign for the Argentina-eligible US international, who's recovering from sports hernia surgery.

The Inter Miami midfielder is pure class, too. He had 3g/6a in 41 all-competition matches in 2023.

Minnesota's academy is yet to bear fruit, though Padelford has shown glimpses of being a reliable MLS fullback. He scored once in eight substitute appearances last season.

Choinière, who turned pro in 2018, is a tried-and-true veteran with 9g/7a in 102 matches for his hometown team. But last year created real forward momentum, when he finished as Montréal's leading scorer, was an MLS All-Star and returned to the Canada men's national team picture.

Adem Sipic

Nashville's academy is only just starting to produce first-team players, and Sipić likely needs development time with Huntsville City in MLS NEXT Pro. Maybe the 17-year-old forces head coach Gary Smith's hand, though, with more seasoning – and goals scored.

It seems like a matter of when, not if, Buck moves to a Premier League team (provided the transfer rumors are accurate). The Revs' 18-year-old midfielder is an established England youth international, one who recorded 3g/2a in 25 matches last season.

Ice. Cold.

Tolkin's Decision Day 2023 penalty kick is an iconic moment in RBNY history, ensuring their league-record Audi MLS Cup Playoffs streak reached 14 seasons. With a personality that matches his upside, the 21-year-old US international left back already has 5g/11a in 86 matches.

NYCFC's first-ever homegrown player is still their most important one. Sands returned to the club for 2023 after a loan to Scottish powerhouse side Rangers, reinforcing his importance as a defensive midfielder, while adding center-back depth. The 23-year-old US international and MLS Cup champion is approaching 100 league matches for NYCFC.

Halliday, a 21-year-old US youth international, is fighting to become Orlando's starting right back after playing in a career-high 18 league matches last season. Another Orlando homegrown thought: Can Favian Loyola translate his MLS NEXT Pro goalscoring success into a consistent first-team role?

Brenden Aaronson, Mark McKenzie, Paxten Aaronson… the Union have a proud history of developing sought-after homegrown talents, transferring them onto European teams. McGlynn looks next in line, as the 20-year-old US international has a sweet-as-can-be left foot – spraying passes from midfield and owning 3g/6a in 69 matches for Philadelphia.

This one's admittedly a cheat pick because Portland acquired Williamson's homegrown rights from D.C. before the 2018 season and the Timbers' academy has precious few first-teamers. Nevertheless, Williamson has impressed when healthy. He's coming off a second ACL tear in as many years.

Real Salt Lake are approaching 40 (!) homegrown signings in the club's history. For now, their headliner remains center back and captain Justen Glad. He is RSL's longest-tenured player (signed in April 2014) and has 13g/1a in 215 career matches.

After Cade Cowell's transfer to Chivas, the homegrown mantle in San Jose shifts to Tsakiris. The 18-year-old US youth international can play numerous midfield roles, and now it's about seizing this opportunity.

Yes, we could have gone with any of Seattle's promising youngsters – Josh Atencio, Obed Vargas or Reed Baker-Whiting. But Morris is still a locked-in starter for the Sounders, and his stat line of 53g/25a in 162 career matches is nothing to scoff at. It's also easy to forget the USMNT forward is just 29 years old.

If American soccer history is any indicator, St. Louis CITY SC are sitting on a gold mine of talent. TBD if that'll translate in Glover's case, but the 16-year-old impressed in MLS NEXT Pro last season. And options are admittedly limited with Miguel Perez out on loan!

Toronto's starting No. 9 spot is up for grabs, though Kerr might have pole position. The 21-year-old has shown bright moments (eight career goals) and could reach another level under head coach John Herdman.

One of the OG homegrowns in Vancouver (he signed in August 2013), Adekugbe re-joined the club last summer after playing in Turkey's top flight. The Canadian international left back is a written-in-pen starter and is chasing a second World Cup trip.