Sticking with that MLS homegrown theme, let’s break down which players could enter the roster after rising through academies across the league. This is not to suggest/guarantee they’ll make the USMNT roster for North America 2026, but rather to forecast who might reach that World Cup level.
The below group is broken down by tiers, starting with 1) who we might see soon and then getting into 2) high-potential teens and 3) U-20 players whose outlook could improve. Almost all of these players are yet to make their USMNT debut, and plenty more will enter the discourse in seasons ahead.
A quick note: MLS homegrown exports like Paxten Aaronson (Eintracht Frankfurt), Justin Che (Hoffenheim), Kevin Paredes (Wolfsburg) and more aren’t spotlighted because they’re already in Europe.
These players have played first-team soccer in MLS for a couple of seasons, and seem ready to factor into the USMNT in some capacity.
Only 22, Pomykal has over 100 MLS games under his belt with 4g/12a along the way. The FC Dallas homegrown product has stayed healthy the last two seasons, a massive win considering his injury stops and starts in recent years. He earned his first (and only) senior USA cap in September 2019, though could/should be integrated more.
Tolkin might be in Europe as soon as this winter, emerging as one of MLS’s best left backs the past two seasons. The 20-year-old Red Bulls youth product thrives in their high-pressing system and could feasibly reach MLS All-Star status if he’s around for the 2023 season.
These players have either broken through or may soon reach USMNT camps if they keep progressing as hoped.
It’s no stretch, at least in this scribe’s view, to call Vargas one of the biggest teenage talents in MLS. The Sounders homegrown was fantastic as they won the 2022 Concacaf Champions League title, and would be discussed more if not for a troublesome back injury. The 17-year-old is also eligible for Mexico.
I’ll point to Matt Doyle’s 2026 World Cup roster prediction, which had Medina as his “wishcasting” pick. That’s how well-regarded the 16-year-old San Jose product is before he plays one MLS minute; the attack-minded midfielder is a big-time prospect. Keep an eye on homegrown midfielder Niko Tsakiris, too.
Bajraktarevic has often played up with US youth national teams, plus arrived in New England from Wisconsin (of all places) to eventually earn a homegrown deal. The 17-year-old left-footed playmaker is silky-smooth on the ball and sees passes/plays at a high level. Fellow Revs homegrown midfielder Noel Buck deserves a shout, too.
Baker-Whiting is currently training with German Bundesliga side SC Freiburg and has been linked to some of Europe’s biggest clubs, placing on The Guardian's Next Generation list in September. The 2005-born homegrown midfielder isn’t yet in the USMNT fold, but that seems his final destination one day.
It’s been a wild few months for Cremaschi, starring in Inter Miami’s youth system before earning a homegrown deal and getting call-ups to both Argentine and US youth national team camps. The 17-year-old is entering his inaugural MLS season and will hope for a first-team breakthrough under manager Phil Neville.
In July, these players were part of the US U-20 side that booked dual qualification to the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Indonesia and the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. They’ve got potential, though let’s circle back down the road.
Sullivan, 18, has proved productive for the US U-20s, playing up top after usually slotting in midfield for the Union. He’s got 3g/1a in 761 minutes for Philadelphia, often being a late-game sub for the perennial MLS Cup contenders.
The son of Austin FC manager Josh Wolff, the 17-year-old looked at home in Austin’s high-intensity midfield – a tactical system that employs similar principles to the USMNT. He amassed roughly 900 first-team minutes during his first true pro season, a strong building block.
Edelman looked super comfortable after breaking into RBNY’s starting lineup midway through last season. We’ll see if the 19-year-old has the physical/technical qualities to reach the USMNT level, but there’s a lot the US U-20s captain/No. 6 does well.