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USMNT Weekly Youth Update: A long-awaited return

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Moves abroad, homegrown deals, kids in first-team training, and YNT camp whisperings.

Cole Bassett holds an American flag in Feyenoord’s stadium.
@Feyenoord

A long time ago, in a galaxy not-so-far away, Alex Muncy wrote fantastic USMNT weekly youth updates here at Stars and Stripes FC. A commenter here asked if it would be possible to revive this tradition, and we are giving it a try. It’s a interesting time for the young USMNT player pool, with young players emerging in Europe, MLS players making moves to European clubs, MLS clubs signing youngsters to Homegrown deals, academy players being included in first-team training, and whispers of potential Youth National Team news.

Writer’s note: I am including a significant amount of content straight from the @ProspectsUSMNT twitter account. I’ve reached out to the account holder and been given permission to use as much content as I want for these articles. I’m hoping that sometime in the future, the account holder may write these articles himself, or co-write with me. For now, though, he doesn’t have time or flexibility to do so, and I’ve been encouraged to make the most use I can of the content.

I’ll use Muncy’s rating system: the rating at the end of each update reflects how much I think each player should be called up to the senior national team at the next opportunity (1-nowhere near ready; 10-absolutely call him up and start him). Let’s get into it!

Belgium

Bryan Reynolds has made just 3 club appearances for 91 minutes total since May 23. Thankfully, Roma has decided to send the 20-year-old right back on loan until summer. After initial rumors Anderlecht in Belgium’s top tier would be the destination, Reynolds ended up going to KV Kortrijk. Kortrijk sit 8th of 18 in Belgium, in position for Europa League playoffs.

The Belgian league is a clear step down from Serie A, but it certainly doesn’t preclude USMNT call-ups. Mark McKenzie and Sam Vines ply their trade there, as well as Kyle Duncan, who recently joined Oostende from the New York Red Bulls.

Born in 2001, Bryan Reynolds is eligible for the U-23s, and can play for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. He is an extremely gifted attacking right back, perhaps second in the U.S. pool to Sergiño Dest in that regard. Reynolds’ combination of size, athleticism, dribbling, crossing, and ability to play quick one-twos with teammates are an intriguing skillset. Hopefully this move will give Reynolds more minutes, where he can continue to grow as a player. Rating: 6

England

Mexican-American striker Santiago Muñoz popped up in first-team training with Newcastle United this week. The 19-year-old made the move from Santos Laguna in Liga MX to Newcastle United in the Premier League this summer, on an 18-month loan deal. Muñoz will be glad the loan deal was so long, because he has been out injured for his first 4 months in England. It’s expected he’ll begin play with Newcastle’s U-23s in the Premier League 2. Born in 2002, Muñoz is also eligible for the U-23s, and can appear in the Paris Olympics. Rating: 3

France

Erik Palmer-Brown is no longer youth-eligible at 24 years old, but it’s encouraging to see him starting to play regularly for Troyes in Ligue 1. Rating: 7

Germany

Justin Che is following Chris Richards’ footsteps with near-perfect accuracy. After being widely rumored to join Bayern Munich from FC Dallas, Che skipped the middle-man and went straight to Hoffenheim on an 18-month loan, with an option to buy. It seems like a fantastic move for the 18-year-old. Hoffenheim briefly flirted with Champions League position in the Bundesliga, but have fallen to 7th after back-to-back defeats.

Born in 2003, Che is U20-eligible, and was one of the standouts in the first U-20 camp of this new cycle. The U-20s are being coached by Mikey Varas, a former FC Dallas assistant. While there is still over a year until the 2023 U-20 World Cup, their primary focus is on this summer’s Concacaf Championship, where they can qualify for both the Paris Olympics and the U-20 World Cup. Rating: 4

Reports say Justin Che is on the radar of the Germany national team, as he is a German-American dual national. From a US perspective, it seems like a bonus that Che signed with Hoffenheim rather than Bayern, as the connections between Bayern and the DFB run strong.

DC United wingback Kevin Paredes has been rumored to join John Brooks at Wolfsburg. There has been a lot of excitement about Paredes in the past year. The 18-year-old came through the DC academy as a dynamic attacking winger, but converted to wingback in 2021 and was one of the breakout players in MLS, earning an invite to train with the USMNT in the summer, and again in December. Another 2003 birth year, Paredes figures to play a vital role in the current U-20 cycle. If this move does materialize and Paredes performs well in the Bundesliga, he could be where Joe Scally is right now in the national team pecking order. Rating: 6

Italy

Another lesser-known 2003 is Italian-American CM Kevin Bright, from the AC Milan academy. Bright is currently with Milan’s U-19s in Primavera 1, but reports say he is moving to Cremonese in Serie B. Cremonese are near the top of the table, and could make a push for promotion to Serie A this spring. It’s exciting to see the 18-year-old rated highly enough that they think he can break into the team. Hopefully we see him with the US U-20s soon. Rating: 1

Netherlands

Dante Sealy is continuing to perform well for Jong PSV in the Eerste Divisie, Netherland’s second tier. The 18-year-old winger was highly rated in his most recent game, and will look to continue to put in consistent strong performances if he wants to break through with the first team. Rating: 4

Cole Bassett has moved to Feyenoord! The 20-year-old midfielder has left Colorado Rapids on an 18-month loan, with an option to buy. That transaction seems to be a popular one, as Bassett joins James Sands and Justin Che as the third American to go on an 18-month loan with buy option in the past few weeks. Feyenoord are one of the biggest clubs in the Netherlands, and currently sit third in the Eredivisie table. The club flew through Europa Conference League group play, and will have knockout games coming up this spring. Born in 2001, Bassett is U23-eligible for the Paris Olympics. Rating: 5

Portugal

Alex Méndez has made a strong start to life in Portugal, after moving from Ajax to Vizela in the top tier (he’s still just 21). Vizela are one of the smaller clubs in the Primeira Liga, and suffered defeats to giants Porto and Sporting CP in the past two weeks. However, Méndez acquitted himself well, showing his technique, as well as his improved defense. Born in 2000, Méndez could appear in U-23 camps based on age, but isn’t eligible for the Paris Olympics. Rating: 7

Scotland

James Sands made his debut for Rangers in a 1-1 draw with Aberdeen (who featured fellow Yank Christian Ramirez, and also have Dante Polvara on their books). Sands recently moved from NYCFC in yet another 18-month loan with a buy option. He didn’t look out of place in his debut, and will look to build on this performance as Rangers maintain a 4-point lead in the Scottish Premiership. Like Méndez, Sands is a 2000, and could appear in U-23 camps based on age, but can’t play in Paris 2024. Rating: 6

Spain

17-year-old winger Luca Koleosho netted a hat-trick for RCD Espanyol’s Juvenil A side (U-19s). Brian Sciaretta of AmericanSoccerNow interviewed Koleosho in November. A 2004, Koleosho is eligible for the current U-20 cycle, and appeared with the US U-15s years ago. Rating: 1

Pedro Somo, a 2006 midfielder with UE Cornella, is the only player on the most recent US U-17 roster to come from a club outside the US. His club congratulated Pedro on the callup. Rating: 1

USA

Atlanta United signed ‘04 LB Caleb Wiley a to homegrown deal. Wiley was in the first camp of the new U-20 cycle. Having Wiley on their books could help Atlanta feel more secure in selling George Bello abroad if the right opportunity presents itself. Rating: 1

DC United is reportedly working on signing 19-year-old CB Hayden Sargis from Sacramento Republic. Sargis is Olympic-eligible, and distinguished himself by being one of the youngest defenders to start regularly for an independent USL Championship club. Rating: 1

There are a number of young academy players joining MLS first-team training for preseason. @ProspectsUSMNT has the rundown:

DMV Soccer have the details on Stiven Jimenez, in FC Cincy first-team training. Rating: 1

Some extra details on FC Dallas academy kids joining the first team for training:

Indy Eleven have signed Alann Torres to the first team, making history for the independent USL Championship club. Rating: 1

Noel Buck has signed a homegrown deal with the New England Revolution. The ‘05 center mid played significant minutes with Revolution II last season, and is U20-eligible. Rating: 1

NYCFC made a trio of homegrown signings, and loaned all three to their reserve team, which will begin play in MLS’ new reserve league, MLS Next Pro. ‘01 CB Nico Benalcázar comes from Wake Forest, and is a former US U-20 (also eligible for Ecuador). ‘00 CB Samuel “Kwaku” Owusu is Ghanaian, but may be US-eligible in the future. ‘01 FW Jonathan Jimenez signs from UNC, and is Mexican-American. Rating: 1

In addition to the signings, NYCFC brought a handful of academy kids to first-team preseason in Orlando: ‘06 GK Alexander Yagudayev, ‘05 defender Klevis Haxhari, ‘08 mid Maximo Carrizo, ‘07 mid Jonathan Shore, and ‘05 Mateo Ponce-Ocampo.

Orange County SC has signed forward Korede Osundina, from Barça Academy in Casa Grande, AZ. Osundina will look to follow in the path of Barça Academy standouts like Matthew Hoppe, Julian Araujo, and Caden Clark. Interesting to see more highly-touted youth prospects sign with USL rather than MLS. We’ll see if this means a quicker path to Europe for Osundina. Rating: 1

Jim Curtin has spoken very highly of the young Americans in Philadelphia Union training. McGlynn (‘03), Sullivan (‘04), Aaronson (‘03), and Craig (‘04) are U20-eligible (all but Craig were in the last US U-20 camp). Harriel (‘01) is eligible for Paris 2024.

In addition to all the club action, we should have a U-20 USYNT roster soon. @ProspectsUSMNT does some theorizing about who could be there::

Brian Sciaretta added that Kristian Fletcher could be on the U-20 roster as well. Fletcher was rumored to move to Borussia Dortmund’s academy this winter. Rating: 1

Additionally, the U-15s just had a camp, and there may be tournaments upcoming for both U-15 and U-17 age groups.

Hit the comment section to let me know if there’s anything major I overlooked or if there’s anyone you’d like to hear about. Thank you for reading!