The word ‘phenom’ isn’t thrown around liberally here in CONCACAF. Perhaps it is due to the years of players not exactly living up to the hype or just the general excitement for a new player perhaps cracking through people are generally pretty cautious when using the word in North America. For as many Tim Howards, Chicharitos, Carlos Velas, or Dwayne De Rosario’s there is a Freddy Adu or a Jonathan Bornstein.
Now seems to be a different time. With multiple young players cracking through at multiple top clubs in Europe it is almost difficult to keep track of everyone. So here is a quick look at ten players from the CONCACAF to keep an eye on this football season.
10. Chris Richards (Age: 20, Bayern Munich/USA)- Richards has quietly worked his way into the Munich rotation with strong performances for their U-23 side and through consistent work in training with the senior team. Much like with many players on this list he is going to receive substantial minutes this year with Bayern due to the club’s ambitions in the league and in multiple tournaments. That experience will undoubtedly help him develop his game and give him an opportunity to earn time with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
9. Zack Steffen (Age: 25, Manchester City/USA)- Steffen earned the number two goalkeeper spot with Manchester City after a strong season with Fortuna Dusseldorf. City manager Pep Guardiola has shown his trust in the University of Maryland keeper, giving him starting minutes in Carabao Cup matches and by making the Champions League roster. Twenty-five is still very young for a goalkeeper and given Ederson’s struggles he may get Premier League minutes sooner rather than later.
8. Jonathan David (Age: 20, Lille/Canada)- David made a huge splash in the offseason, signing with Lille for 30 million pounds, the highest transfer signing for a Canadian player. His speed and pace allowed him to score 30 goals over the last two seasons in the Belgian First Division. The 2019 Canadian Men’s Player of The Year has already developed a solid 1-2 partnership with Alphonso Davies (more on him in a bit). If he can continue to grow in Ligue 1 it will only bolster Canada’s World Cup ambitions.
7. Edson Alvarez (Age: 22, Ajax/Mexico)- Alvarez’s has cemented his spot as a center mid for Ajax after a year of getting adjusted to the Dutch system. His passing and vision has helped bring balance to their midfield and made him an invaluable piece for Erik ten Hag’s eleven. He recently started for El Tri in their friendly against the Netherlands and looks to be a big part of Tata Martino’s plans for World Cup Qualifying.
6. Tyler Adams (Age: 21, Red Bull Leipzig/USA)– The footballing world in August got a taste of what those who are in the Bundesliga knew about Adams when he scored the game-winning goal in Leipzig’s Quarterfinal match against Athletico Madrid. His ability to make big plays coupled with his knack for maintaining possession in the midfield makes him an excellent asset for both Leipzig and the US in their respective Cup ambitions.
5. Weston McKennie (Age: 22, Juventus/USA)- McKennie’s move to the Bianconeri kind of flew under the radar this summer amidst the other major moves from American and Canadian players. But make no mistake about it: This is a big signing for Juve and for McKennie. Juventus have needed a defensive midfielder who can maintain possession and also move the side into an attacking posture. McKennie provides that and has Champions League experience with Schalke. It also doesn’t hurt that he will be playing for Andrea Pirlo, one of the greatest midfielders ever.
4. Christian Pulisic (Age: 22, Chelsea/USA) -It almost seems strange to put Pulisic in as a phenom given that he is very much a known quantity and that he has been playing at the top levels in Europe for close to five years. But something that everyone forgets is that he is just 22 years old and he is still cementing his spot in the Chelsea XI. He found his rhythm at Stamford Bridge in year one but he needs to stay healthy.
3. Giovanni Reyna (Age: 17, Borussia Dortmund/USA)- Reyna has taken the Bundesliga by storm, forming a dynamic partnership with Erling Haaland that threatens to break Bayern Munich’s stranglehold on the Bundesliga. While his passing and drive will remind many of his father Claudio, his maturity at such a young age means that he is only going to get better. Although he is just 17, he is going to play a massive role in the US’ World Cup Qualification.
2. Sergino Dest (Age: 18, FC Barcelona/USA)- It is still sinking in the United States that Dest made the move to Barcelona and becoming a fixture in their eighteen man roster on gameday. It shouldn’t. In his first and only season as Ajax’s starting right back Dest showed that he is one of the top young right backs in the world. Barca are lacking in depth at right back and given their domestic and international ambitions in Messi’s presumed final year he is going to get plenty of minutes. That will make USMNT supporters very happy since there has been hole on the right side of the back four for decades.
1. Alphonso Davies (Age: 19, Bayern Munich/Canada)- The best player in CONCACAF had a coming out party in Europe this past season, leading Munich to a treble. His world-class speed and expert decision-making on the wing crushed the Barcelona defense in a 8-2 drubbing that earned him many plaudits. What will be interesting to see this season is how he adapts to having teams mark him closer and force him to take shots. If he can develop into a consistent scorer then he will cement his spot as one of the top five to ten players in the world.