Major League Soccer has long been touted by overseas viewers as a retirement home for experienced legends of the game. While Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard, and Kaka all ended their respective careers in the US, the league division is now bearing fruits from enticing such veterans to the league. There are some special talents among the best MLS young players 2022.
Best MLS young players 2022
We dissect the best MLS wonderkids and predict just how far they can go.
Talles Magno – New York City FC
At the tender age of 19, Talles Magno has already captured silverware – something that some players can only dream of. The young Brazilian was a key rotation option for New York City last year as the franchise went on to win MLS Cup on penalties.
The left-winger however is now making regular appearances as he’s enjoyed an extended run in the starting eleven in both MLS and CONCACAF Champions League squads. The early signs are promising as he’s scored four goals in eight appearances, including a brace in NYCFC’s 4-0 victory against Santos FC.
Mbacke – Los Angeles FC
Mamadou Fall (also know as Mbacke) is one of the true success stories of former Liverpool midfielder Salif Diao’s Sport4Charity directive. The program aims to improve the experiences of young footballers in Senegal and improve their chances of making it into the professional game.
Mbacke performed well and these links got his big move to Los Angeles Football Club. The Senegalese 19-year-old broke through last season but has shown real improvement already in 2022 as he’s been consistently in the squad and capable of keeping clean sheets with either Doneil Henry or Jesus Murillo as his centre-back partner.
Leonardo Campana – Inter Miami
Wolverhampton Wanderers have clearly seen promise in this young Ecuadorian having signed him on a long-term contract beyond his loan spell at Inter Miami. While his prior loan spells at Famalicão and Grasshopper were inconsistent, he’s settled relatively well at DRV PNK Stadium.
Phil Neville has put the young forward in the starting eleven and he has actually scored one of the two goals scored in Miami’s opening four games.
The issue is that David Beckham’s new(ish) franchise is seldom a place for top young players in MLS as the team continues to find its identity. Results will continue to vary but if given the chance, Campana can help craft them out.
Obed Vargas – Seattle Sounders
At 16 years old, Obed Vargas might be one of the youngest players to be featured as a regular MLS starter. He was a lock to feature among the best MLS young players 2022.
The Alaska-born midfielder has lit up the middle of the park with an unwavering determination to pass the ball and create openings for his forward-playing teammates. In addition, he’s not afraid to get stuck into tackles having pressured opponents more than 50 times in his opening four games in the campaign.
Gabriel Slonina – Chicago Fire
Any 17-year-old which Chelsea is sniffing around clearly has potential worth exploring. Gabriel Slonina came in at the end of the 2021 season but has kept his place as Ezra Hendrickson has stood by the youngster between the sticks.
That faith has been rewarded as Chicago Fire has remained unbeaten across its first four games this season, keeping three clean sheets in the process. His stats are impressively backed up too; as in the same timeframe he’s saved 87.5% of all shots faced.
Ismaël Koné – Montreal CF
There might not be another player in Major League Soccer who has hit the ground running like Ismaël Koné. The 19-year-old might have been born in the Ivory Coast but has become a staple of Canadian soccer in quick fashion.
His debut came against Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League, where he announced himself with a goal to help ensure Montreal won the tie 3-1 on aggregate. Since then, the central midfielder has retained his place in Wilfried Nancy’s plans, having appeared in all four of their league games subsequently.
Koné has played well having made three assists and scored a goal. That included a stellar performance in the 3-3 draw against Atlanta United, where he had a hand in all of Montreal’s goals. The only issue is that despite his performance, Montreal as a team has not been as prolific, having yet to win a game and only registering a single point from the aforementioned stalemate. His good form has however seen him earn a call-up and play for the Canadian national team.
Ben Bender – Charlotte FC
If being the number one pick in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft doesn’t put enough weight on your shoulders, try joining a newly formed franchise looking to just keep up with the standard in Major League Soccer.
That’s the position Ben Bender finds himself in. After an initial struggle for results, Charlotte notched consecutive wins against New England Revolution and FC Cincinnati.
The turning point can be plotted exactly when Bender joined the starting eleven as it was only then the team scored a goal. Uncoincidentally, he assisted it.
The 21-year-old from Baltimore has since retained his place and taken a starring role in this fledgling team’s embryonic season, having scored and assisted in the 3-1 win against New England and getting another key pass in the following win.
Despite not being capped at any youth level, Bender will no doubt be a future option for Gregg Berhalter and the US national team if he keeps this form up with Charlotte.
Jesús Ferreira – FC Dallas
It’s hard to believe that Jesús Ferreira is still only 21 years old. Having moved to Dallas from Colombia as a young child, Ferreira excelled at the US soccer camps eventually leading to an amateur and subsequently a professional contract with FC Dallas as a homegrown player.
He was thrust into the starting line-up at Toyota Stadium in 2019 with varying levels of success, but this year he’s taken up the mantle as the club’s out-and-out striker.
Of course, the headlines flowed after his hat-trick against the Portland Timbers but even in the games he hasn’t scored, he’s played well. Despite being one of the best MLS young players in 2022, he has become a senior figure at the franchise.
In addition to his great form at club level, he’s proving to be a valuable asset to the US national team via his newly acquired American citizenship. Three goals in eight games have proved his ability at the top of the CONCACAF game, most recently netting against Panama in a 5-1 thrashing.
Santiago Moreno – Portland Timbers
This Colombian winger impressed for his boyhood club América de Cali during the infancy of his career. This led to a big move to the Pacific Northwest to play for one of the MLS super clubs in the form of the Portland Timbers.
While the club is currently performing below its grand expectations, Santiago Moreno is masterfully working the right flank. His shot creation and pass completion speak for themselves, as he’s been able to manoeuvre the ball into the right spaces for his teammates. He’s a complete winger.
He’s showing a knack for making the right decision. The problem is that the rest of the team isn’t performing — they’ve won one out of their first five. Giovanni Savarese will undoubtedly rely on the 21-year-old going forward to get them out of this rut of form and ascend the table.