Voices: Greg Seltzer

The top young players set to shine as MLS play resumes | Greg Seltzer

Ayo Akinola - Toronto FC - March 17, 2019

We're all set to get back to regular Major League Soccer life, but many of the lessons learned at the MLS Is Back Tournament can help us predict how the rest of the 2020 season unfolds.

For instance, a horde of developing young players reached new levels in Orlando, compelling hopes of even more excellence to come as we work our way to another MLS Cup. There are a few exceptions, but most of the youngsters mentioned below were able to turn heads in the tournament.

As you'd expect, we'll get you started with an appetizer of honorable mentions: Zachary Brault-Guillard, Francisco Ginella, Matias Pellegrini and Robbie Robinson.

Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union)

Welcome to no-brainer pick No. 1. The gutsy Philly Union midfielder was arguably his team's top field player at MLS Is Back. Aaronson still needs to find the ball more consistently and raise end production, but I have little doubt that's on the agenda for the rest of 2020.

Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC)

Welcome to no-brainer pick No. 2. The 20-year-old showed off his admirable skills in Orlando by scoring five times over the first two games of the tournament and igniting a debate over his international future. An injury sadly cut his MLS Is Back breakout short, but he's likely to see plenty of action either covering for or relieving Jozy Altidore in the potent Toronto FC attack.

Andrew Gutman (FC Cincinnati) 

The FC Cincinnati left back is not your typical wide defender. Gutman gets up and down the flank with gusto, but he's also a bit of a bruiser. In other words, he's Jaap Stam's kind of guy. The Orange and Blue outscored Portland, the Red Bulls, Atlanta United and Columbus 4-3 in Gutman's three-and-a-half games of tourney action, so expect to see much more of him in 2020.

Frankie Amaya (FC Cincinnati) 

Like FC Cincinnati teammate Gutman, Amaya took his game up a notch in Orlando. The top 2019 SuperDraft pick starred against the strong Red Bulls and Atlanta United midfields to spark upset victories. His offensive play driving skills started to emerge at MLS Is Back, offering a preview of what's still to come from the 19-year-old.

Thomas Hasal (Vancouver Whitecaps)

The 21-year-old Vancouver netminder's stunningly stingy emergency display in the Round of 16 nearly booted heavy favorite Sporting KC from the tournament. Now, with Maxime Crepeau on the mend from thumb surgery until at least October, Hasal should get a chance to continue his larceny run.

Jesus Medina (NYCFC)

Coming off a strong tournament in Orlando, the New York City FC attacker will try to help revive his club's flagging offense. With lead playmaker Maxi Moralez back to fitness, Medina will have an easier time accomplishing that goal in his more comfy flank role.

Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC)

The Chicago rookie defender drew plaudits for his MLS Is Back performance, which included a Man of the Match showing (complete with game-winning goal) in the win over SeattlePineda has quickly shown a surprising amount of cool at the back, which is precisely what the doctor ordered for what is practically a rebuilt side.

Brian Rodriguez (LAFC)

The LAFC winger is officially off breakout watch. Rodriguez accomplished that in Orlando, chalking up two goals, three helpers and 3.2 key passes per game in a stellar tournament showing. Provided Bob Bradley can find him enough playing time with Carlos Vela back in the fold, he's now a legit major concern for whichever team stands next on the club's schedule the rest of the way.

Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas)

The teen midfielder enjoyed a terrific start to his rookie campaign back in March, but went on an extended hiatus after FC Dallas were unable to compete in MLS Is Back. Now, Tessmann and friends are back, and it should be enjoyable to resume monitoring his early development.

Ranko Veselinovic (Vancouver Whitecaps)

After a couple of mistakes in their wild tournament-opening loss to San Jose, the 21-year-old Vancouver center back came into his MLS own in Orlando. Veselinovic rallied big time, finishing fourth in clearances per game and first in defensive blocks per game to help the Whitecaps come close to reaching the quarters.