One of the best ways to predict a league's future is by gauging the standard of its young players. As such, it's clear to see that Major League Soccer has a very bright path forward.
With the season set to resume on Wednesday following the Gold Cup break, we thought it’d be a good time to identify the best youngsters in MLS this term. It was definitely no easy task.
The league's quantum leap in quality in recent years meant that there somehow was no room in the ranking for the impressive Tyler Adams, Alex Bono, Julian Gressel, Carlos Gruezo, Marlon Hairston, Yangel Herrera, Nick Lima, Mauro Manotas, Ronald Matarrita, Carlos Rivas and Jefferson Savarino.
With the honorable mentions out of the way, here are your top 10 youngsters of the 2017 season:
#10 – Hector Villalba
The 22-year-old MLS newcomer has hit the ground running for Atlanta United. A prototype cog for his club's high pressure system, Villalba leads the expansion side in shots on goal and has buried eight of them. The shifty winger also capably slid over to fill in at center forward when running mate Josef Martinez went down with an injury.
#9 – Albert Rusnak
The scary thing about the Real Salt Lake playmaker is we likely haven't even seen his best yet. Despite playing for a club in an often-painful transition phase, Rusnak has notched four goals and a team-high seven assists, and stands eighth in the league in chances created. As he and his fellow young teammates grow, so should his consistency in production.
#8 – Brandon Vincent
In a league that now has a wealth of standout left backs, the Chicago youngster is quickly becoming one of the best. Vincent is just as comfortable jumping into attack for the shock Supporters’ Shield leaders as he is at the back.
#7 – Cristian Roldan
Plenty has been written about the Seattle midfielder's progress since the start of last season. Roldan has become the perfect two-way partner to Sounders mainstay Ozzie Alonso. The 22-year-old leads the MLS Cup holders in tackles, directs traffic into attack for a team that stands sixth in shots and adds in a bit of supplementary offensive production.
#6 – Diego Fagundez
It can be easy to forget that New England's attacking engine is still just 22-years-old. Fagundez has four goals and five assists this season (and four Team of the Week nods), but his value goes well beyond counting stats. Few MLS players gobble up as much yardage while pushing their team forward on the ball.
#5 – Alberth Elis
In a turnaround team full of transformative figures, perhaps none has had as much impact on Houston's success this season as the Honduras attacker. Just one of the Dynamo's eight wins have come without Elis, and that occurred only last week. In just over 900 minutes of play, the left wing terror has rung up six goals and three assists, as well as countless induced nightmares for opposing defenders.
#4 – Cyle Larin
Had this list come out a couple months ago, the Orlando City strike ace may well have come in at the top. Larin hit six times as the Lions opened the season by winning six of seven. Since then, he's logged just two tallies in 11 games and sat multiple games after his DUI arrest. His opponents should not rest easy, though, as the Canada forward will surely be back to swimming in goals before long.
#3 – Kellyn Acosta
The FC Dallas man has continued evolving into one of the league's finest box-to-box midfielders this season. He does a little bit of everything for Dallas, from burying free kicks to helping Carlos Gruezo halt opponents' rushes. Acosta's growth has certainly not gone unnoticed, with everyone from US coach Bruce Arena to big European clubs paying close attention.
#2 – Jack Harrison
The New York City FC winger, who never met a defender he didn't want to dribble past, offers the rare glimpse of an MLS superstar on the rise. Though the 20-year-old Harrison is still two games away from reaching last season's number of games played, he's already doubled his rookie goal total. The Englishman's game has become more well-rounded in his sophomore year, as evidenced by his averaging more than 6.5 defensive actions per game.
#1 – Miguel Almiron
The Atlanta United string-puller started his debut MLS campaign well, and has only gotten better with the heat of summer. Almiron has eight goals and as many assists through 19 games, but his game doesn't end with offense. The 23-year-old Paraguayan international also excels in winning the ball back all over the field; he's top 10 in recoveries among the league's midfielders. Because of his all-around game, no player on this list can match his five Team of the Week mentions.