The annual 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR rankings always prompt spirited debate.

That's again unfolded in 2021, with Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin maintaining that his team deserved more honorees than just midfielder Leon Flach, who appeared at No. 15 on the list. The 20-year-old US youth international was signed from Germany's FC St. Pauli last March and has since provided one goal and two assists in 28 games (26 starts), often deputized in a shuttler role.

"Leon is certainly deserving," Curtin said. "I think we have some other really great players that are young and performing better than some on the list.

"I think we have some good young players that were missed out on."

Philadelphia certainly weren't lacking worthwhile candidates, with homegrown midfielders Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan and Jack McGlynn breaking into the defending Supporters' Shield winners in 2021. That teenage trio has lofty upside, while fullback Nathan Harriel is another intriguing prospect.

"I think sometimes it comes down to flavor of the month, whoever is in their minds most recently," Curtin said of the voters.

While Curtin would have liked to see more Philadelphia representation – FC Dallas led with four players, including No. 1 overall Ricardo Pepi – he recognizes that the pool's only increasing as MLS continues to cultivate young talent.

At the end of the day, the ensuing debates are all part of the fun.

"It doesn't really matter. It's good for the game. It shows that this league has a ton of young talent," Curtin quipped. "Could there maybe be a separate list for certain Homegrown players versus guys that cost $12-15 million? I think maybe.

"You can make your own list and have your own strong opinions, but overall they're fun. They're fun to look at. I do the same thing you guys do, complain, disagree and we have shouting matches in our coaching office about who is better than who, but that's what sports are about and makes it fun."

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising