By Sameer Hirani
Over the past years an influx of young Americans have been playing across Europe from Christian Pulisic (Chelsea FC, England) to Weston McKennie (Juventus FC, Italy).
A batch of locals have also lit up Europe, notably, Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, Germany) a Wappinger Falls native and Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund, Germany) who played youth soccer at New York Soccer Club (Purchase, NY) and attended Greenwich Country Day School.
As a result, many have called this young crop of talents the Golden Age for American Soccer tipping them to contend for the 2026 World Cup which will be hosted across the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
Here are my ten young Americans to watch for in 2021:
10. Joe Scally | Age: 18 | Position: Right Back | Club: Borussia Monchengladbach
Athletic and attacking minded, Scally is the epitome of the modern-day fullback hence why he was a mainstay in the youth national team setup and is one of the crown jewels of the NYCFC Academy, where he eventually signed with the first team. Upon his 18th birthday, Scally, a Lake Grove, NY native, completed a move to German side Borussia Mochengladbach who often contend to compete in European competition. I am excited to see how much playing time he gets in the side and how he adapts his game to the more technical Bundesliga.
9. Matthew Hoppe | Age: 19 | Position: Striker | Club: Schalke 04
One of the only bright spots in Schalke’s season thus far has been the quick rise of Californian Matthew Hoppe who scored a hat trick in the team’s first and only Bundesliga win. This performance earned him a Man of the Match award and he is now the only American to ever score a hat-trick in the Bundesliga, doing so in just his fourth appearance. The striker is a formidable scorer and his tall, strong frame and off-ball movement make him a menace for opposition defences. Hopefully his scoring can help salvage Schalke’s season and perhaps a first call-up to the national team(at any level) will come soon.
8. Timothy Weah | Age: 20 | Position: Winger | Club: Lille OSC
An injury riddled year saw Weah sidelined for most of the season, however two goals in December make the son of Ballon d’or winner George Weah look like a serious prospect to make a big jump this year. Hopefully more consistent performances and health can help Weah, a former academy player for NY Red Bulls, and Lille make a run in the Europa League and give them a final push in the Ligue 1 race which gets tighter and tighter each day. His speed and dazzle make him a spectacle to watch and always keep defenders on their toes.
7. Konrad de la Fuente | Age: 19 | Position: Forward | Club: FC Barcelona
A product of the famed La Masia, Konrad is everything you’d expect from a graduate technically sound and tactically brilliant he also has exceptional speed and a great first step. Currently he is playing with the second team at Barcelona and training with the senior side but he did make some bench appearances and got to see some action in the Champions League group stage, a sign of things to come for the promising American.
6. Josh Sargent | Age: 20 | Position: Striker | Club: SV Werder Bremen
Another Bundesliga prospect is Josh Sargent although prospect may not be the best word as the St. Louis native has started all fourteen games he has appeared in. Although his numbers don’t pop off the board, he is clearly a mainstay in the starting XI and part of the plan at Werder Bremen where he is slowly evolving into the main man, his coach went as far as saying, “I haven’t thought about playing a starting line-up without Josh Sargent in it for a second.” Expect Sargent’s numbers to rise over the next few years as he gains more experience and matures into his role.
5. Yunus Musah | Age: 18 | Position: Midfielder/Winger | Club: Valencia CF
Musah is arguably the best prospect on this list, he is among the leaders in most minutes played for u19 players across Europe’s top 5 leagues and his power combined with his technical ability make him a threat on the counter. The only two knocks I have to say are that his awareness is not the best and there still are questions on which nation he will represent at the senior level. Musah, born in New York, has played for England’s youth teams and is also eligible for both Ghana and Italy. However, the recent success of Sergino Dest, who was eligible to represent the Netherlands, will surely help sway Musah as he makes a decision.
4. Owen Otasowie | Age: 20 | Position: Midfielder | Club: Wolves
Despite beginning to regularly play football at the age of 14, Owen Otasowie has carved out a future for himself at one of the Premier League’s most exciting clubs. Being athletically gifted has helped Otasowie’s rise to the top and will help him stay there as his strength and size make him an option at center back, anywhere in the midfield, and notably he got touches as a false nine. A true jack of all trades, hopefully we see Owen get his feet set in the starting line up soon and also wearing the red, white, and blue.
3. Brendan Aaronson | Age: 20 | Position: Midfielder | Club: RB Salzburg
Brendan Aaronson played beyond his years as he helped Philadelphia Union to the supporters shield this past season in the MLS earning him a move to Austrian outfit Red Bull Salzburg, where he’ll be coached by American Jesse Marsch. His athleticism, technical ability, work rate, and ability to read the game are through the roof showing just how special the Medford, NJ native is. These traits will help him adapt to the more physical and technical Austrian Bundesliga and hopefully could see him make the jump to sister club RB Leipzig, where Tyler Adams plays.
2. Chris Richards | Age: 20 | Position: Defender | Club: Bayern Munich
Chris Richards will be the anchor of the American backline for the next decade plus but for now he is trying to find a way to crack his way into the Bavarian giant’s starting XI. He has shown keen ability to read and destroy attacks while also being a calm and confident distributor from out the back. Although taking a starting spot from Niklas Sule, Jerome Boateng, and David Alaba will most likely not happen this year but with the rumored departure of Alaba and the aging of Sule and Boateng a opportunity may arise for the Alabama native to step in and show his skill. It’s still great that Richards learns from some of the world’s most elite central defenders and is able to grow in an environment at Bayern.
1. Gio Reyna | Age: 18 | Position: Forward | Club: Borussia Dortmund
Who else could be number one but the youngest American to play and assist in the UCL, the youngest goalscorer in the German Cup, the first American to record 3 assists in a single game while playing in one of Europe’s top 5 leagues. Gio Reyna, a Bedford Hills native, was fostered at NYCFC’s academy before moving to Germany to play for Dortmund at the age of 16. He is a gifted passer, dribbler, and has the creativity and aggression to make a killer play and finish a team off. He has lit up the Bundesliga with 3 goals and 4 assists in 12 starts and scored a freekick in his second game with the senior national team. Gio has shown why he is deserving of the hype and will certainly continue to over the next 15 or so years as he will adopt a talismanic role on both the national and club level. A true world beater, in the future he will be the focal point of this US team as it progresses.