Major League Soccer has undergone a radical transformation in the past few years. Long considered a league where players closed out their European careers rather than start them, all that changed when Bayern Munich dished out as much as $22 million for a 17-year-old winger named Alphonso Davies in 2018.
After quickly becoming the team's first-choice left back and one of the best in the world, MLS was being seen in a new light. Young talent from the league suddenly became one of the hottest commodities in the global transfer market and MLS finally started earning respect as a league that develops players of the highest order.
This coming season will be no different, so here are just a few of the young players you should expect to see break out and stand out amongst the league’s best.
Kwadwo Opoku, Los Angeles FC
Centre Forward - 21-years-old
It feels kind of unfair to have anyone from LAFC on this list due to the simple fact that if you’re a youngster that can get consistent minutes on a team this stacked you’re bound to have a great year. With LAFC’s only real depth issue being at striker, that’s exactly Opoku’s case, who’s in a prime position to have a consistent starting role should he stay healthy.
Opoku was linked with a potential move away from the City of Angels but appears to be sticking around — a huge win for the club as his upside is enormous. He scored seven goals and added two assists in his first full MLS season, but if he remains at the tip of L.A.’s attacking trident, that number is sure to go up.
Andrés Reyes, New York Red Bulls
Centre Back - 23-years-old
With the departure of Aaron Long from Red Bulls, Andrés Reyes has a golden opportunity to showcase and develop an already formidable skillset. One of the best ball-playing centre backs in the league, Reyes has also established himself as an elite ball-moving defender, ranking 83rd and 84th percentile in key passes and progressive passes, respectively.
His lethal combination of speed and size, partnered with a very strong understanding of the game, means he has every tool needed to succeed as a defensive anchor in the modern game.
Sean Rea, CF Montreal
Midfielder - 20-years-old
One of the most exciting young Canadians in the league right now, Sean Rea has a golden opportunity to become a key figure in a side that is committed to playing in developing young talent. With Djordje Mihailovic’s move to the Netherlands and his supposed replacement Matko Miljevic out for two-to-three months with a torn meniscus, Rea has a real opportunity to carve out a role for himself. As last year’s Canadian Premier League Under-21 Player of the Year, Rea was called back to his boyhood club from loan and has all the confidence in the world.
He’s entering a system that loves to play with the ball, dominate possession, and find its #10s in dangerous spaces in the attacking third — a style of play that suits his traits wonderfully. There have been a lot of questions swirling around Montreal’s chaotic offseason, but his emergence could put a lot of doubt to rest.
Pedro Vite, Vancouver Whitecaps
Pedro Vite does have a bit of an advantage over his counterpart on the other side of the country in that he has a full MLS season under his belt. Vite was the shot in the arm that the Vancouver midfield desperately needed last year. His work in building up play and transitioning into attack was instrumental in Vancouver’s second half of the season turn in form, nearly sneaking into the playoffs.
He’ll be a surefire starter this season and is a large part of the club’s future, becoming one of the most accurate and reliable passers of the ball in MLS and driving play forward with surprising maturity.
William Agada, Sporting Kansas City
Centre Forward, 23-years-old
There’s a reason that he’s on every list previewing young talent, he’s just that good. The second half of the 2022 season very well could have served as his breakout, picking up eight goals and two assists in just twelve games, helping Sporting claw their way out of the Western Conference’s cellar with a record of 6-4-2, but he’s only getting started.
Most players with his profile and his speed use that as their main tool, making them relatively one-dimensional. That isn’t the case for Agada, whose creativity and incisive runs in behind make him an absolute nightmare to play against. As he acclimatizes to MLS and his team even more, he’ll only get better and could be an outside MVP candidate if that form holds up.