Every MLS season, several Homegrown Players make the most of their opportunity and see their role vault from the periphery into the limelight.
As the Concacaf Gold Cup break arrives, here are 10 Homegrowns who are growing in influence with each passing game. These youngsters, if you’re not already paying attention, are worth a check-in.
Aaronson, back in 2018, made the decision to bypass an Indiana University commitment and sign with the Philadelphia Union. After an extended spell with their USL Championship side, Bethlehem Steel, the 18-year-old midfielder has become an integral part of Jim Curtin’s Eastern Conference-leading team. Aaronson has made 13 starts and scored on the road at Atlanta United, playing in a variety of roles alongside veterans such as Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin.
Cole Bassett looks upfield with the Colorado Rapids | USA Today Sports Images
Only 17, Bassett is playing beyond his years for a surging Colorado Rapids team that looks reinvigorated under interim head coach Conor Casey. Signed in August 2018, he made six appearances last year and nabbed his first professional goal in a win against FC Dallas. That foreshadowed what was to come, as he’s on track for around 1,300 minutes this season and already has one goal and two assists.
By now, most American soccer fans know some version of Busio’s story: the North Carolina teenager heads to Sporting Kansas City’s academy, signs a Homegrown Player deal and gets into Peter Vermes’ good graces. That simplified version doesn’t quite do the 17-year-old justice, though, as he’s now scored three times this season and even featured in Concacaf Champions League action. Busio was integral for the U.S. U-17 national team this past spring before they fell to Mexico at the Concacaf championships.
The son of former MLS MVP David Ferreira, he signed a Homegrown Player deal with FC Dallas way back in November of 2016. Ample patience is starting to pay off as Ferreira, 18, is often FCD’s starting striker under first-year head Luchi Gonzalez. He has four goals and two assists through 15 matches, though could easily hit double-digits. Across his previous two seasons, Ferreira totaled just 22 minutes of game action.
After drifting in and out of the lineup in 2018, Herrera has locked down the starting right back role for Real Salt Lake. Through 15 games, he’s already started as many games (14) as last season. A versatile outside back who loves to boom forward and join the attack, he signed in December 2017 after playing three years of college soccer at New Mexico. That makes him 22 and one of the older players included here.
Paxton Pomykal winds up a shot | USA Today Sports
It’s not often that a 19-year-old American is indispensable for an MLS team, but here we are. Pomykal’s named is etched in FC Dallas’ starting midfield, and he was dearly missed while recently with the US U-20 men's national team at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. He’s already generating buzz as the next Homegrown Player who could move to Europe, likely a nod to his defensive work rate and ability to dictate the tempo of a game.
After originally signing with the Houston Dynamo in 2014, being waived after 2015 and re-signing in 2017, it’s been quite the journey for Rodriguez. The 2019 chapter looks to be the best yet, as he already has five goals and two assists, with head coach Wilmer Cabrera clearly able to unlock some potential that other coaches haven’t. The next step for Rodriguez is becoming more consistent from week-to-week.
The first Homegrown Player for New York City FC, Sands is a leading reason as to why they’ve shifted to a three-back system this spring under head coach Dome Torrent. Often the middle of two elder center backs, Sands’ athleticism and instincts have put out fire after fire in 13 starts. He easily could have been part of the US side at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland.
Tommy Thompson has enjoyed a new role in 2019 | USA Today Sports
It’s been a season of transformation for the San Jose Earthquakes under new head coach Matias Almeyda, a truth that certainly applies to Thompson. He’s mostly played right back in the man-marking system, and even learned Spanish to bridge cultural gaps with the new staff. The 23-year-old has also grown into a leader, inspiring the group to a season-defining win over the Portland Timbers.
This is only Vines’ second season with the Colorado Rapids, though the 20-year-old’s play might suggest otherwise. He’s featured at left back and been a bright spot amid a rocky start under former head coach Anthony Hudson. He'll look to lock down a role over the course of the rest of the season.