This year's MLS 22 Under 22 list will be released Oct. 21-22, but MLSsoccer.com’s Matthew Doyle took to Twitter on Tuesday to reveal his top 5 before the big reveal.
Doyle’s ballot is led by a Uruguay international winger, while four of the five are products of MLS academies. Check out the full thread below and for more information on each player:
1. Brian Rodriguez (LAFC) – Rodriguez, 20, is an emerging key part of Uruguay’s national team. He was signed from Peñarol as a Young Designated Player in August 2019, and overseas links have followed suit. The winger has two goals and seven assists across 22 MLS appearances for LAFC.
2. Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas) – Pomykal, a 20-year-old midfielder, has incredible potential with FC Dallas and the US men's national team. He’s earned one senior-team cap, and has been plagued by injuries the past few years. He has three goals and five assists across 38 MLS appearances.
3. Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union) – Linked with an overseas move, this USMNT center back provides a steady presence for Philadelphia. McKenzie, 21, has started 16 games as they challenge for this season's Supporters’ Shield. Head coach Jim Curtin has even called him one of the best center backs in MLS.
4. James Sands (New York City FC) – The first Homegrown Player signed by NYCFC, Sands has shown versatility at center back and center mid. He’s now in a deep-lying midfield role under head coach Ronny Deila, starting in 34 games across the last two seasons. Sands, 20, has featured extensively for US youth national teams.
5. Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union) – The 19-year-old midfielder is reportedly nearing a transfer to UEFA Champions League side RB Salzburg, who are led by former New York Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch. The New Jersey native, as of writing, has seven goals and seven assists in 45 Union appearances. Aaronson also has one USMNT call-up.
The 22 Under 22 list weighs both potential and productivity, while Extratime made up their own award for the Young Player of the Year, which is entirely based on performance.
Watch: Extratime discusses contenders for Young Player of the Year
The 22 Under 22 list was topped by LAFC forward Diego Rossiin 2019, while in 2018 it was led by former Vancouver Whitecaps academy star Alphonso Davies. The latter has emerged as the starting left back for Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern Munich. Previously known as 24 Under 24, that version was last topped by former Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almiron, who's now with Premier League side Newcastle United.
Who could win this go-around? Check out Doyle's thoughts above, and feel free to provide your own in the comments section below.