Stats & Analytics

Is age impacting success? MLS’s oldest and youngest squads in 2022

"Age is no guarantee of efficiency. And youth is no guarantee of innovation."

That exchange from "Skyfall" (the best James Bond movie, for what it's worth) helps provide a prism through which Major League Soccer rosters can be viewed. Are our 28 teams more reliant on youngsters or veterans? Perhaps it’s somewhere in between?

We found some answers when breaking down average squad age, with the data set focusing just on players who have logged minutes in 2022 (not the entire roster). To go one step further, are teams finding success based on where they fall on the old-young spectrum? That's where points per game come into play as Week 11 approaches.

Let’s take a deeper look, with nearly six years separating the youngest and oldest teams in MLS.

The full picture

Across the entirety of MLS, the below graphic charts average squad age vs. points per game. Again, the age component only factors in those who have logged minutes during the 2022 season.

The four quadrants break down as such:

  • Bottom right: Youngest teams, most points
  • Bottom left: Youngest teams, fewest points
  • Top right: Oldest teams, most points
  • Top left: Oldest teams, fewest points

It's still relatively early (about one-third of the 34-game season is done) and coaches can introduce key pieces young and old. But some notable, and telling, trends are developing all the same.

Age vs. points graphic MLSsoccer

The 5 youngest squads in MLS

The New York Red Bulls, owner of the youngest squad in MLS (22.79 years on average), are proving youth can still drive results. They sit second in the Eastern Conference table, with US men's national team center back Aaron Long (29) their oldest key contributor and homegrown left back John Tolkin (19) their youngest key contributor. Two of their minutes-played leaders (900 each) are both only 25: goalkeeper Carlos Coronel and center back Sean Nealis.

There are similar stories at CF Montréal and FC Dallas, where those like Canadian national team midfielder Ismael Kone (19) and USMNT forward Jesus Ferreira (21) are respectively playing key roles. FCD have a well-established youth pipeline to Europe, while CFM have amassed young MLS-proven talents like midfielder Djordje Mihailovic (23).

But it's also a dual-edged sword, as Toronto FC and Chicago Fire FC have learned. Leaning too heavily on youngsters means growing pains are inevitable, or the veteran leaders may leave something to be desired. Then again, those like Chicago goalkeeper Gaga Slonina and Toronto wingback Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty are 17-year-old wunderkinds with high upside.

Average age
Points per game
New York Red Bulls
Toronto FC
CF Montréal
Chicago Fire FC
FC Dallas
John Tolkin Red Bulls
New York Red Bulls defender John Tolkin, 19, is a key piece of MLS’s youngest squad.

The 5 oldest squads in MLS

Coaches often trust veteran players because they've proven themselves over many years, something that's evident at Nashville SC – the oldest squad, on average (28.11), in MLS. Center back Jack Maher (22 years old) is their only lead contributor under the age of 25. Their two main DPs, USMNT center back Walker Zimmerman (28) and attacker Hany Mukhtar (27), are firmly in their prime.

The top four minutes-earned leaders at the Columbus Crew are all over 31: goalkeeper Eloy Room, center back Jonathan Mensah, left back Pedro Santos and midfielder Darlington Nagbe. But head coach Caleb Porter also trusts some mid-20s attackers in striker Miguel Berry (24) and winger Derrick Etienne Jr. (25), as well as homegrown midfielder Aidan Morris (20).

It's no secret New England Revolution boss Bruce Arena leans toward a veteran core, with eight players 30 or older already playing this year. Center back Andrew Farrell (30) and DP forward Gustavo Bou (32) are leaders on that front. Midfielders Carles Gil (29) and Sebastian Lletget (29) aren't far behind, with left back DeJuan Jones (24) and center back Henry Kessler (23) their youngest core contributors.

Average age
Points per game
Nashville SC
Columbus Crew
New England Revolution
Minnesota United FC
Colorado Rapids
Drew Moor Colorado Rapids
Colorado Rapids defender Drew Moor, 38, is the oldest player to have featured in MLS in 2022.

5 median-age MLS squads

Seattle Sounders FC have become a prime example of blending youngsters with cornerstone pieces who are well-established, especially during their 2022 Concacaf Champions League conquest. Look no further than the final's second leg vs. Pumas, when homegrown midfielder Obed Vargas (16) came in for the injured Joao Paulo (31) and didn't miss a beat. Seattle's points per game will likely level out now that they're more focused on the league, it should be noted.

It's a similar story at Supporters' Shield-leading LAFC, where center back Mamadou Fall (19) is tied for third in minutes played alongside star forward Carlos Vela (33). They've also seen Ecuadorian left back Diego Palacios (22) level up this season, while two veteran players from their offseason of intra-league moves – goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau (27) and midfielder Ilie Sanchez (31) – have logged the most minutes.

Those like Inter Miami CF and FC Cincinnati have some elder statesmen, but also rely on some prime young talents to turn around their fortunes.

Average age
Points per game
Inter Miami CF
FC Cincinnati
D.C. United
Seattle Sounders FC
Obed Vargas
Seattle Sounders midfielder Obed Vargas, 16, is the youngest player to have featured in MLS in 2022.