Major League Soccer, also known as the MLS, is obviously not a world-class soccer league, and the fact that the United States doesn’t have a fairly developed league puzzles many around the world. It is obvious, though, that soccer hasn’t gained such widespread favor in the U.S. due to sports like basketball and baseball. Perhaps, soccer just hasn’t caught the attention of the American public, but those who follow the MLS are beginning to notice an increasing amount of young talent entering the league. The New England Revolution represent the positive direction of this youth movement.
Clint Dempsey’s departure to the Premier League in 2007 allowed the Revs’ front office to invest considerable money into the team’s youth academy. Two products of this investment were Scott Caldwell and Diego Fagundez.
Caldwell, 22, was a starter and a strong contributor to the Revs’ successes this past year, and Fagundez, at only 19 years of age, was New England’s leading scorer in 2013.
Other young players include Kelyn Rowe and Andrew Farrell, both starters who were significant during the Revs’ playoff push this past season. Rowe was acquired with the third pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. Farrell was the first pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. Rowe, 22, and Farrell, 21, show boundless amounts of promise on the field. Rowe displays superb technical capabilities in the midfield, while Farrell’s athleticism and speed clearly separate him from the average defender.
The real intriguing player in this bunch, however, is Fagundez. Still a teenager, Fagundez is already showing off his skills that one would consider exemplary by MLS standards. He was a homegrown prospect; the young man grew up in Leominster, Massachusetts, and instead of performing at a youth academy abroad, Fagundez decided to stay at home and make appearances for an nearby MLS club. The Uruguayan-born midfielder has great instincts for a player his age, and his raw talent was cultivated right before our eyes in his breakout 2013 season.
Rookies Patrick Mullins and Steve Neumann will look to make their mark as well, but look out for the Revs’ most recent trade acquisition from Sporting Kansas CIty, 23-year-old Teal Bunbury. Bunbury is obviously a more established attacker than Mullins and Neumann, given that fact that he has been a professional for several years. He also lead Sporting in goals scored after the 2011 regular season, showing flashes of Juan Agudelo’s skilled style of play.
With veterans like Lee Nguyen and Jose Goncalves, both of whom have experience competing abroad, the Revs’ young talents have mentors that can surely improve their abilities in the long run.
This type of team structure–several promising youngsters led by aging but skilled veterans–is a great blueprint for future MLS squads. There is definitely no shortage of talent in the U.S., and if teams around the league start exploring and refining their youth academies while taking advantage of their draft picks, the MLS as a whole will noticeably progress. Talent will find its way to American soccer clubs.