While plenty of superstars merit excitement before the new MLS slate, fans are also bound to be drawn to youngsters on the rise. Below is our top 10 for the latter category.
To be eligible for this list, players must be under the age of 22 on the last day of the 2020 MLS regular season (Oct. 4).
Right back - LA Galaxy - Age: 18
Julian Araujo signed right before the 2019 season began and immediately entered the mix at right back under coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto. He finished the year with 18 appearances (10 starts) and flashed impressive athletic ability when getting up and down the right flank. He's in a battle with veteran Rolf Feltscher to earn the starting role in 2020, but it's clear that the California native has a bright future. US men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter called him up to the team's January camp earlier this year.
Attacking midfielder - Atlanta United - Age: 20
The Argentine youth international is yet to enjoy a sustained run of form in Atlanta, but he's highly rated based on his international experience and the transfer fee the Five Stripes paid to bring him to MLS. Ezequiel Barco finished No. 2 in last year's 22 Under 22 voting, and that was despite playing only 980 league minutes. He'll aim to have a truly breakout year under Frank de Boer in 2020.
Central midfielder - Colorado Rapids - Age: 18
The silky central midfielder was the youngest signing in Colorado Rapids history and has been developing over the past two seasons in hopes of becoming a key piece for his hometown club. Cole Bassett played over 1,000 minutes for Colorado in 2019, and while he doesn't have a clear hold on a starting role, manager Robin Fraser should have the 18-year-old in his plans based on his passing and pressing ability.
Attacker - Sporting Kansas City - Age: 17
Despite being the youngest player on this list, Gianluca Busio is already entering his fourth professional season. He gained a lot of experience last season, playing 923 minutes and scoring three goals. Most comfortable as an attacking midfielder, the 17-year-old will have to battle much older players for playing time this year as he hopes to translate some of his attacking gifts into goals for Peter Vermes' team.
Right winger - Columbus Crew SC - Age: 21
Luis Diaz burst onto the scene with the Crew after arriving from Herediano last summer. His best performance came in a rivalry match against FC Cincinnati, when he had a goal and an assist in a 3-1 Columbus win. All told, the Costa Rica international had two goals and four assists in 797 minutes. His presence and speed on the right wing will be a major plus for a rebuilt Crew side that aims to reach the playoffs for the first time under Caleb Porter.
Attacker - FC Dallas - Age: 19
Jesus Ferreira makes this list over his teammate Paxton Pomykal – who finished No. 3 in last year's 22 Under 22 list – as he appears to be the likely starter at FCD's No. 10 spot heading into the season. Though that's somewhat due to Pomykal's injury troubles, there's no denying what Ferreira can do in the attacking third of the pitch.
The son of former MLS MVP David Ferreira, Jesus had eight goals and six assists in his first season as a regular first-team contributor while splitting time playing as a striker or slotting behind Zdenek Ondrasek. His performances earned him a call-up and start with the USMNT in January, and he signed a new four-year contract this offseason to stay with his hometown club.
Center back - Philadelphia Union - Age: 20
2019 was a difficult year for Mark McKenzie. He entered the year hoping to land a starting role, but a series of injuries and an emergency appendectomy meant he left for the U-20 World Cup with just 12 minutes under his belt. Though he was named captain, the Delaware native made just one start for Tab Ramos' team in Poland. His first MLS start of the year came at the end of August, replacing fellow Homegrown Auston Trusty in the starting XI, and he went on to start both of the Union's playoff games.
Exceptional on the ball, the 20-year-old enters 2020 with a starting role firmly in his grasp after the departure of Trusty to Colorado. McKenzie also has the potential to become a key figure in Olympic qualifying for the United States.
Winger - Inter Miami CF - Age: 19
One of the first two signings for Inter Miami, the Argentine is expected to be one of the key figures for the expansion club for several years. Matias Pellegrini has the ability to play on either wing, though he figures to line up on the right, and has shown the ability to score in the Argentine SuperLiga with Estudiantes (4 goals in 1,060 minutes).
Winger - LAFC - Age: 19
The Uruguay international is one of the fastest players in MLS, and he'll be expected to have more of an impact in 2020 after joining LAFC last August. Brian Rodriguez didn't contribute a goal or an assist in 385 regular-season minutes, but his 1v1 ability is undeniable. Improving his efficiency in the final third will prove vital in keeping his starting role after the return of striker Adama Diomande from injury.
Striker - Minnesota United FC - Age: 21
After a mostly nondescript rookie season, Mason Toye burst onto the scene last summer. The striker scored six goals in less than a month across all competitions and took over the starting role under Adrian Heath by the end of August. But that's when the goals dried up – aside from a stunning brace on the road against LAFC – and he enters 2020 in a position battle against Paraguayan import Luis Amarilla after the departure of Angelo Rodriguez.