As we get set for the release of MLSsoccer.com's 22 Under 22 rankings later this week, there will be plenty of debate as to who should be at the top of the list.
But there's few who have the credibility to make the assessment like FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez, who currently mans the sidelines for one of the league's premier clubs in terms of youth development and spent seven seasons as the club's academy director before taking the coaching gig for the first team.
FC Dallas have a few candidates that figure to be on the list on their own roster, but asked on a Monday conference call what players from around the league have impressed him and merit inclusion aside from his own, Gonzalez said there's no shortage of options to pick from.
"There's a few that really stand out," he said. "Players that I've coached against in the academy once upon a time, and to see them now on the first-team stage, professional stage, do things at a high level and show they're not only still young but they're future prospects for the senior national team or future career players for the league, so that's always great to see.
"There's a lot, there's a lot. It's great. There's so many now that you see coming through the league. I think that shows you how much the academies have come along and how much more investment there is and belief and conviction and getting young players opportunities and putting them in young pre-professional environments. The addition of second teams has helped players be ready for the first team. It's fantastic, I'm really proud to see those steps. We have a lot more to do, we have a lot more to give, still. The future is bright."
Specifically, Gonzalez said that 19-year-old Philadelphia Union prodigy Brenden Aaronson, who recently secured a big transfer to Red Bull Salzburg for next season, is one that came to mind right away, as well as Sporting Kansas City Homegrown Gianluca Busio and Toronto FC forward Ayo Akinola.
GOAL: Brenden Aaronson, Philadelphia Union - 36th minute
"I think [Aaronson] is a very dynamic player, I'm very impressed with the times we've played against Philadelphia Union," Gonzalez said. "He's just a confident player, he's busy, he's clear, he's decisive, he's not afraid to take people on, he's not afraid to combine and play-make and he works his butt off to help his team with ball recovery, he can press.
"Another player that impresses me is Busio in Kansas City. He's a player that's played different positions, different roles, but always having the technical ability and the game intelligence to play those roles and he's made his young mistakes but he always bounces back with energy and confidence and responsiveness. That's a great player they have out in Kansas City.
"[Akinola] is a player I coached against in the academy days against Toronto multiple times and, man, he was always a pain. I think he's great for the league, and it's great to see him get opportunities for Toronto and take advantage of them."
FC Dallas rookie midfielder Tanner Tessmann, who is in contention for a spot on the list himself, also gave his thoughts on the upcoming rankings on Monday, first taking the opportunity to turn the focus on teammate Bryan Reynolds and campaign for the 19-year-old fullback, before also citing Busio as his pick.
Tessmann said he's become acquainted with Busio through an interview he did with him on the YouTube podcast he hosts, and that he's grown to respect his game from the matchups the team has had with Sporting Kansas City.
"I think it's great for US Soccer, just from a world standpoint, just to have a lot of young guys playing in the league and getting professional minutes to maybe help our team win a World Cup at the end," Tessmann said. "I think [Busio] is a great guy, I've heard a lot of good stuff from guys at US camp. I think he did well at the U-17 World Cup even though it was a tough World Cup. But I think he's a guy that's tough to play against when we play KC, but a guy that I respect and hopefully he can have a great career. I think that's the one."