Teenagers. At times tantalizing with their on-field potential, at others frustrating with their youthful mistakes. While they’re certainly prone to inconsistency, there are quite a few teens in MLS who are providing plenty of hope for the future of their clubs. Here are the top five from the 2017 season:
Perhaps the best teen in all of MLS, the New York Red Bulls’ Adams was excellent in 2017. The 18-year-old midfielder/defender emerged as a solid option in central midfield and one of the best right wing backs in the league this season, starting 24 regular season games and all three playoff matches for head coach Jesse Marsch.
"I literally can envision him in playing in any of the 10 spots. Maybe not goalkeeper." -Jesse Marsch said, smiling, about Tyler Adams#RBNY— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) November 8, 2017
The Red Bulls’ Homegrown starred with the US Under-20s at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, and will get his first shot with the full USMNT in their friendly at Portugal next week. Barring something catastrophic, it’ll likely be the first of many call-ups for Adams. He’s got the juice to be one of the best players in MLS and one of the top options in the US pool for years to come.
Already a full Venezuelan international and signed to a deal with Manchester City, Herrera is the only teenager in MLS who can realistically claim to be ahead of Adams. The 19-year-old box-to-box midfielder beat out Andrea Pirlo for a starting job in NYCFC’s midfield about two months into the season and never looked back, sandwiching 14 starts around a Bronze Ball-winning performance at the U-20 World Cup.
A bulldog in defense and a smooth player in possession, it’s yet to be determined whether Herrera will return to NYCFC next year, or if he’ll head elsewhere following the expiration of his loan from Man City. One thing’s for certain: He’d be a huge asset for Patrick Vieira in the Bronx.
Just one part of Real Salt Lake’s promising young core, Acosta locked down the club’s starting left back spot over the second half of the season. Like Adams and Herrera, the Honduran-born US youth international’s overall appearance total (he made 17, with 16 starts) was cut into by the U-20 World Cup, but he started seven of the club’s eight final games during their desperate playoff run.
He’s clean on the ball, a solid 1-v-1 defender and, as he showed against Seattle, pretty fearless for a young kid.
He should be a solid MLS option for years to come.
The Vancouver Whitecaps wunderkind didn’t hit expectations on the club level this season, but that doesn’t mean the 16-year-old Davies doesn’t have plenty of talent. He showed a bit of that on the international level, where he tied for the tournament lead with three goals to help Canada to the quarterfinals of this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. Hopefully he gets more minutes next year, and hopefully we start seeing some of that form in MLS.
Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla
Tabla’s year started on a promising note, but took a bit of a step back after the 18-year-old started making noise about wanting out of Montreal. He made only five appearances after the start of August, though he did record two goals and two assists in 21 overall regular season appearances for the Impact. He clearly has plenty of talent and has reportedly caught the eye of several big European clubs. If he’s to make a dent at that level, however, he’ll have to make good on his promise much better in 2018.