The next generation of talent for the United States Men’s National Team is on the way, with new faces popping up every week. Some of the surnames may even be familiar to long-term supporters. Owen Wolff is making waves with Austin FC, putting in impressive performances at one of Major League Soccer’s most exciting outfits. The 18-year-old midfielder has reportedly fielded attention in the transfer market and could receive even more in the coming months.
Born in Snellville, Georgia, Wolff is the son of retired USMNT forward Josh, who was on the 2002 and 2006 World Cup rosters. He spent time in the academies for Columbus Crew SC and Atlanta United, being called up to the reserves with the latter club. In 2021, the midfielder then moved to expansion side Austin FC, which was and continues to be managed by his father.
Wolff began playing with the academy and the reserves while also appearing for the first team in a friendly against Tigres UANL, contributing an assist. A few months later, the club signed him as its first Homegrown player on a deal through the 2025 season with a one-year option. He featured in the final two matches of the season for a combined eight minutes against Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers.
“I had been training with the team for most of that year, and it just meant a lot [to be able] to come out on the field,” Wolff told KVUE. “I’m just really thankful and grateful for the opportunity and the belief that [the club] has given me, and I’m just looking forward to keep on developing on and off the field, and I hope that I can continue to be a role model and an example for our academy guys. Just keep focusing on getting better and earning my minutes with the team… I’ve been able to experience a lot of different things with the academy and also with the first team seeing what it’s like at a professional level.”
Last year, Wolff appeared in 24 regular season matches as a rotational starter, registering an assist in a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy, at times deployed out of position at right winger. He also featured twice in the MLS Cup Playoffs, as Austin reached the Western Conference Final before falling to LAFC. According to a report by Eindhovens Dagblad, Dutch super-club PSV Eindhoven was tracking his progress and exploring a winter move.
Owen Wolff (2004) with a great pass, which ends up being an "assist" for a Jon Gallagher golazo!!!pic.twitter.com/tVS8XwKLog— Football Report (@FootballReprt) March 12, 2023
This year, Wolff has been firmly entrenched in the starting lineup, featuring in four MLS matches and both legs of the CONCACAF Champions League. He had what could be seen as his breakout performance against Real Salt Lake, registering a goal and an assist in the 2-1 victory. After receiving the ball around midfield, his darting run into the final third was capped off with a well-placed long-range finish. The league named him to the Team of the Matchday for his performance, likely the first of many to come as his development continues.
“Game model, structure, positional play is something that he was quite aware of, and now, you know, there’s certain player attributes and qualities that we are very defined about and based on the positions on the field,” the elder Wolff shared with The Coaches’ Room. “He has a level of understanding of that, but when you start playing with men, there’s a realization [of] what that looks like and feels like. At the end of the day, you have to perform. I think what was really unique about Owen was when he did start to play with men, there was very little drop off, there was very little difference as he started to get healthy and get stronger. He still is developing and growing… We keep enhancing technical qualities, the tactical ideas, and he’s still growing, but he brought those things and that enabled him to get on the field and actually perform in a really, really good way.”
Owen Wolff goal vs. Croatia in a 4-3 win. Nice awareness and composure to get the ball down in the box after a mis-hit shot and then calmly slots it past the keeper. pic.twitter.com/W2jeCUM8OT— Kevin Morris (@socceralt) September 23, 2022
At the international level, Wolff made his youth debut with the U-19 team in 2022, helping claim the title at the Slovenia Nations Cup with a goal against Croatia. After training with the U-20 group in January, he was named to the roster for the camp in Spain, which included friendlies against England, France, and Serbia. His inclusion at the upcoming U-20 World Cup appears likely, providing the opportunity to display his abilities at one of the largest scouting platforms.
Primarily a central midfielder who also can line up on the right, Wolff is a highly-accurate passer who “fights engine-room battles” and “logs defensive actions,” registering some of MLS’ highest interception numbers. Teammates have praised his perseverance, high “soccer IQ,” and physicality in training. Coaches describe him as a “combative player” who “gets in good spots” and “battles well.” A fast-thinker, his dropping deep and working out of pressure are essential for Austin’s transitions into the attack.
Owen Wolff vs STL 2/25/23 MLS week 1 pic.twitter.com/814ytkd43u— alden (@aldeneats) February 28, 2023
“Owen is a very well-rounded player that is stout physically, very clean technically and has a very strong understanding of his role and what is going on in the game,” writes Chasing a Cup. “My favorite aspect of Owen’s game is both his vision and his ability to execute a variety of passes through the heart of the defense and in the half spaces, sending early crosses in. As is the case with a lot of young players that are playing at the senior level at a young age, Owen needs to continue to find ways to get more involved in games consistently. I have seen numerous occasions where Owen disappears and struggles to get on the ball. He has the skill to impact games, but he needs to assert himself a bit more to be able to do it.”
While very early in his career, Wolff appears to be approaching the precipice of a significant move abroad. Consistency with Austin FC and a strong performance at the upcoming U-20 World Cup could boost his profile to an even higher level, attracting a broader array of European clubs. The midfielder joins a growing group of young American talents who potentially could break into the senior national team during the current cycle.