Dante Sealy, Ricardo Pepi - North Texas SC - Celebrate
Courtesy of FC Dallas

The Top 10 players to watch at the 2019 Generation adidas Cup

The finals of the 2019 Generation adidas Cup are just around the corner, with a full slate of international opposition heading to Frisco, Texas to line up against the best MLS academies this month.

Players born January 1, 2002 or later are eligible for the competition, which is split into the Champions and Premier divisions. The Champions division is the top division in the finals. The tournament offers a platform for up-and-coming MLS prospects to experience high-level play, which rings true once again this year.

Below is a look at 10 players to know ahead of the finals (listed in alphabetical order). Nine have already signed a pro contract with either an MLS or USL side with the only exclusion being Kobe Hernandez-Foster.

Simon Colyn

Midfielder - Vancouver Whitecaps FC - Premier Division

WATCH: April 17 - Vancouver vs. Toluca (10:30 am PT)

Simon Colyn | Vancouver Whitecaps FC

The 17-year-old attacking midfielder is looking to follow in the footsteps of former teammate Alphonso Davies, in terms of an offensive-minded academy product making an imprint in MLS. Obviously, it’s unfair to compare the two since Colyn and Davies are different players at vastly different points in their career.

A busy, active player who’s shown the consistent ability to score goals or create them, Colyn’s decision-making and movement are just two of the traits he’s shown to stand out in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. As a 2002, Colyn should also be a part of Canada’s Under-17 squad at next month’s Concacaf Championship.

Cade Cowell

Forward - San Jose Earthquakes - Premier Division

WATCH: April 15 - San Jose vs. Midtylland (8:15 am PT)

A speedy frontrunner, Cowell inked a Homegrown deal in January. Only 15 years old, he’s already debuted – and scored – for San Jose, bagging a goal in a recent friendly against Monterrey.

His ability to stretch defenses with his pace helped him hit more than 30 goals in the 2017-18 Development Academy season at Ballistic United. Cowell has big potential and should have plenty of success against age-group competition in Texas, as defenders will struggle to deal with his ability to race in behind.

Tyler Freeman

Forward - Sporting Kansas City - Premier Division

WATCH: April 14 - Sporting KC vs. Toluca (1:30 pm CT)

Tyler Freeman | Sporting KC

Hard-working and versatile, Freeman can play anywhere across the front three. Signed as a Homegrown Player last summer, he’s cut his teeth with Swope Park Rangers thus far in 2019, making a pair of appearances already.

Showing that he can be goal-dangerous would help SKC’s U-17 side emerge atop Group C in the Premier Division. The time in Texas is a unique opportunity for Freeman to continue building match sharpness and make a case to be an option for head coach Peter Vermes on the first team.

Gilbert Fuentes

Midfielder - San Jose Earthquakes - Premier Division

WATCH: April 15 - San Jose vs. Midtylland (8:15 am PT)

Like just about every other player on this list, Fuentes can use the time in Texas as a chance to make one final argument for his inclusion on the U.S. U-17 roster for next month's Concacaf Championship. The central midfielder remains a supreme player on the ball and makes good decisions with or without possession. He's earned time with the Quakes first team in a friendly against Monterrey earlier this season and made a couple of appearances with Reno 1868 in the USL Championship so far.

Leaning on that experience and playing against his peers should provide the platform for Fuentes to run the show, boost his confidence and influence the game in the final third.

Kobe Hernandez-Foster

Defender - LA Galaxy - Champions Division

WATCH: April 15 - LA Galaxy vs. Peñarol (11:45 am PT)

One of a handful of players on this list who will head from US U-17 national team camp in Florida to the GA Cup finals, Hernandez-Foster is emerging as a top left-back prospect after being converted from forward.

While he often plays center back on youth national team duty, his ability to shut down opposing attackers and get forward into the final third makes him an enticing talent. He could fill a number of roles for the Galaxy in Texas, but will be a key player for them regardless of where he lines up.

Daniel Leyva

Midfielder - Seattle Sounders - Champions Division

WATCH: April 14 - Seattle vs. Valencia (9:45 am PT)

Danny Leyva | Seattle Sounders

Few players with ties to the Sounders Academy have surged like Leyva has over the past few months, including a sparkling performance in a preseason friendly with the first team. Signed to Tacoma Defiance in the USL Championship, Leyva’s a central midfielder who can play any three of the central midfield positions and leave his mark on the game – especially at the academy level.

Seattle should arrive in Frisco with a strong contingent, seeking to make a deep run and potentially contend for the Champions Division crown. Leyva, who is also heading to Florida with the US Under-17s for the first time this cycle, has ample experience with the Defiance that should pay off nicely when competing against the likes of Flamengo and Valencia.

Jayden Nelson

Forward - Toronto FC - Champions Division

WATCH: April 14 - Toronto vs. Peñarol (9:30 pm ET); WATCH: April 17 - Toronto vs. Club Leon (10 am ET)

Over the course of their academy’s history, Toronto have been extremely aggressive in getting academy products signed to contracts and into a professional environment and Nelson is one of several attacking prospects with bright days ahead. A wide attacker who can play on the flanks in midfield or up front in a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1, his goalscoring touch is a big reason TFC secured a spot in the Champions Division in Frisco.

Not only does he have the physical tools to create separation from defenders and get in behind, he also brings a bit of flair on the ball when taking opponents on one-v-one. Signed to a Toronto FC II deal, he’s another player in the mix for Canada’s U-17 squad next month.

Ricardo Pepi

Forward - FC Dallas - Champions Division

WATCH: April 14 - Dallas vs. Club America (8:30 pm CT); WATCH: April 15 - Dallas vs. West Ham (1:45 pm CT)

Similar to Leyva, Pepi’s prospect stock has soared over the past few months, especially after an opening-weekend hat trick for North Texas SC in USL League One. Another US U-17 called to Florida, he’s a mammoth striker for his age at 6-foot-1 (born in 2003, he turned 16 in January). The Mexican-American (pictured at top, right) looks very much like a high-end talent who could even see MLS minutes later this year.

More than capable with the ball, he can be unplayable at times when he’s clicking, particularly against academy opposition; his strike rate in the DA this season is 19 goals in eight games for FCD’s U-16/17 squad. If Pepi gets going, FC Dallas might be difficult to slow down in the Champions Division.

Dante Sealy

Forward - FC Dallas - Champions Division

WATCH: April 14 - Dallas vs. Club America (8:30 pm CT); WATCH: April 15 - Dallas vs. West Ham (1:45 pm CT)

Another promising attacking talent to matriculate through Dallas’ setup, Sealy is the son of Scott Sealy, a longtime MLS veteran with stops in Kansas City, San Jose and Dallas. Dante (pictured at top, left) is a perfect complement to someone like Pepi, as he can play off the No. 9 or on one of the flanks in a three-forward system. The youngster inked a Homegrown deal earlier this year and debuted in the starting lineup with Pepi over the weekend in USL League One.

He’s already proved the ability to score goals against older competition, scoring 10 times in 12 games for FCD’s U-18/19 team. Deployed against his peers (he’ll still be playing up as a 2003), Sealy has ample potential to create headaches for opposing defenses alongside Pepi.

Gabriel Slonina

Goalkeeper - Chicago Fire - Premier Division

WATCH: April 17 - Chicago vs. Ulsan Hyundai (10:45 am CT)

Gabriel Slonina | Chicago Fire

Back in March, Slonina made headlines when he signed a Homegrown deal with the Fire at just 14 years old. While he’s still very much a prospect with a long way to go, he stands at 6-foot-4 despite the fact that he doesn’t turn 15 until May. US U-17 goalkeeper Damian Las will be his competition for minutes in goal in Texas, but he’s a name to keep in mind as Group A gets rolling next week in Frisco.

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