The SBI MLS Under-23 Best XI

Photos by ISIPhotos.com


For all the talk about Major League Soccer being a league for older players, the reality is that more and more young players are breaking through and establishing themselves as key figures on top teams throughout the league.

The 2012 season was a good showcase for some of the league’s best young standouts, and a look at the SBI MLS Under-23 Best XI shows that there is some quality talent working its way through the pipeline.

D.C. United leads the way with three players on the Under-23 Best XI, with Bill Hamid leading the way, having just edged out Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson for the nod. The Philadelphia Union are represented as well, with two players among the Under-23 Best XI.

Please keep in mind that the SBI MLS Under-23 Best XI is a group selected based on the seasons they just had in 2012. This list isn’t necessarily meant as a list showing who the very best young prospects are. As we know, not all of the league’s top young prospects had good seasons, be it due to injury, team struggles, or their own battle with form.

Also note that the criteria for qualifying for the SBI MLS Under-23 Best XI is being born in 1989 or sooner.

No, these selections are based purely on performances turned in during the 2012 MLS season. With that in mind, here is the SBI MLS Under-23 Best XI:


—————–Will Bruin——-Jack McInerney——————

——Felipe Martins————————–Nick DeLeon———

——————–Rafael Baca———-Juninho——————–

Ashtone Morgan—————————————-Andy Najar

——————-Matt Hedges——Amobi Okugo—————-

——————————–Bill Hamid—————————-

HONORABLE MENTION- Sean Johnson, Zac MacMath, Connor Lade, Sheanon Williams, Ray Gaddis, Luis Gil, Perry Kitchen, Martin Rivero, Gershon Koffie, Kelyn Rowe, Darren Mattocks, Fabian Castillo


Some thoughts:

There were obviously some very tough decisions to make, particularly in midfield. Rivero, Gil and Koffie were all strong candidates for the first team, as were Mattocks and Castillo. Sean Johnson was barely edged out by Hamid, who turned in a strong finish to the season to grab the spot.

You will notice no Brek Shea on the list. He really didn’t have a strong season by his standards. It would have been tough to imagine this list without Shea, Freddy Adu, Teal Bunbury or Juan Agudelo when the 2012 season began, but circumstances ranging from injuries to team struggles to individual struggles with form led to all four being left out.

We tried selecting natural positions for the Best XI to offer a better measure of where the talent is in the league. There were Under-23 players who had better seasons than Ashtone Morgan, but he had the best season of any Under-23 left back in my opinion. TFC may have had an awful season, but he was one of the bright spots.


What do you think of the team? Who didn’t make the first team that you feel should have? Who didn’t make either of the lists that you feel deserved a spot?

Share your thoughts below.

    • Ives Galarcep

      If he had played a full season at the level he played early in the year he definitely has a chance. Without that, he couldn’t beat out the three who wound up listed.


  • Style

    2 starters, plus 3 HM for the Union. After the season we had, Ill take praise anywhere the team can get it.


    • TimmyU

      Interested to see where Okugo gets on the field next season for the Union if Soumare’s knee comes back to 100% and Valdes stays (both ?s). Does Brian Carroll sit down?

      And its interesting to have two young, gifted right backs (Williams, Gaddis), and only converted midfielders to play at LB unless you invert one of the RBs. Lots of young defensive talent in Philadelphia but also a lot of question marks heading for next season.


  • Shane

    Hey Ives how about something regarding Akron’s David Meves who just became the NCAA all-time shut-out record holder? He must bound for MLS. Probably around the same age as Hamid, Johnson, and McMath. Is he way behind those guys? Too short?


  • fischy

    Good list. I think McInerney is seriously underrated. He’s got a lot of work to do with his finishing, but I think we get glimpses into his potential.


  • Gilby

    Ives, if your team was a good MLS team but underrepresented on this list would you be concerned or it just a matter that its harder for young players to break in on good teams


  • beto

    so many players who already have national team caps on this list. Whether it be U-20, 23, etc or full national team its a huge improvement to MLS

    Already Cap’d:
    USA: McInerney, Okugo, Johnson, McMath, Williams, Gil, Kitchen
    Canada: Morgan
    Honduras: Najar
    Jamaica: Mattocks
    Columbia: Castillo

    USA: Bruin, Lade, DeLeon, Gaddis, Rowe, Hedges
    Brazil: Martins, Juninho
    Mexico: Baca
    Argentina: Rivero
    Ghana: Koffie


    • Hincha Tim

      Martins and Juninho and Rivero have about as much chance of getting capped with Brazil and Argentina respectively as Toronto has of winning an MLS cup.


      • Steve B

        What mountains would have to be moved for Juninho to play for USMNT? It must be such a long shot it wasn’t worth addressing…


    • acj

      Also don’t forget Mario Martinez. He has 21 appearances for the Honduran senior team and played on their last two Olympic teams.


      • Syd

        Played? He has been a force on those teams. Seattle should give him more minutes.


  • Andy

    Ives or anyone, what do you think about the potential of Bruin in terms of the national team?


    • WiseGuy

      He could potentially make a camp. If he did well, he might potentially make a gameday roster. Jurgen might potentially put him in a game, and he might potentially score. If he could repeat that feat over and over, he could potentially be a legend. Gotta love potential.


    • BigBirdLenny

      Houston Fan here. He’s not the fastest and he’s probably not the kind of striker who will skin defenders, so he’ll have to dramatically improve his hold-up play and passing around the box if he wants a shot with the nats. He’s as strong as a bull, and his play is getting smarter and smarter. If he stays healthy, I think he’s certainly a great MLS striker year in and year out. But if he’s going to make an impact for the nats, he’ll have to use his best assets—strength, intelligence, and finishing—in the only way they’d be useful for the nats: as a target man. Right now he struggles in a 4-3-3 or as a long target man.


      • Joe

        I’m also a Dynamo fan, and a huge fan of the Dancing Bear. But I’m sure the Nats have been paying attention to Bruin’s production in a 4-4-2 vs Houston’s 4-3-3 midseason experiement. He is showing growth, and deserves a January camp call up (especially if he continues his strong postseason: three goals and an assist in two games thus far), but he’ll be a long shot until he takes the next step or Klinnsman switches from his favored 4-3-3.


  • M Vann

    Very good and well constructed starting IX, Ives! Loads of good choices which excites me about the league willing to integrate young players more. Pitty Rivero was a honorable mention but understandable. As someone would watched him in person every week, I’ve really grown fond of his game and really wished others around the country got to witness it more often. Rivero’s game is so smooth and he can ping the ball around the park smartly and effectively. He makes the game simple and we often take that attribute for granted. Rivero wants to be back in Colorado and I pray they work something out with Rosario Central. We need him and can build a team around him.


    • Ives Galarcep

      Rivero was the last player dropped from the Best XI. I had him on there until just before it posted, but gave the nod to Nick DeLeon by a nose. Was tempted to drop Morgan and squeeze in Rivero, but decided to keep in the positional format. Rivero is a beast. Great talent.


      • Big Chil

        Yeah, we like him over here in Colorado. Pretty good nucleus with Rivero, Castrillon, Cascio and Hill. Young, too. My understanding is that Rivero was a 2 year loan, so he should be back for 2013, the question then is how the contract is resolved.


  • Edwin in LA

    What about Darlington Nagbe? He’s 22 and born in July 1990? I know Portland didn’t have a great season but he showed a lot of potential in several moments


    • Mike

      It’s the “potential” issue. He showed flashes of greatness and I think with Caleb Porter in the Rose City 2013 will be a HUGE year for him, but right now it’s JUST potential. I think he’ll end up being an awesome player but I agree with Ives not having him not on the list.


      • Berto

        He needs a honorable mention… As much as the timbers need some clinical finishing from a young prodigy


    • Mike in Missouri

      If this list was done on “greatest goal ever scored by a U-23,” he’d win going away.


  • jerrry

    jack Mcinerney is the worst forward in the league…i don’t care how young or inexperienced he is..i know talent and can see a goalscoring fwd when I see one and i don’t see him as that..

    overrated. misses too many goals, can’t create his own shot, can’t head, can’t dribble, he’s an opportunist but opportunist are known for capitalizing on their chances…he does none of these.

    I usually agree with everything IVES says but not with his fwd selection, terrible…


    • M Vann

      Let me guess he destroyed your club team growing up?? Sour grapes! Jack is raw. No debating that but the KID went on a terrorizing streak the second half of the season. Is he a finished product? No, of course not. Is there room for major improvement? hell, yeah. Jack surprised me and I have a sneaky feeling he’ll surprise me next year again.

      Oh yeah and name me another U-23 forward who should have been there instead of Jack? I’m having trouble thinking of one.


      • jerrry

        There you go Mvan

        there’s nothing special about him. All i ever read about on this site is about stupid ass american soccer fans who thnk they know the game and are biased bc of the clubs they follow n all they want is to see their fav player get a shot on the USMNT bc he’s been playing well for a couple game…same ol same ol here

        I’m sure Ives gets frustrated reading some of the nob comments on here but for reals..Jack is gonna be in the USL in 2 years..He gets one shot next year to prove himself w Philly before they trade him and when they trade him, he’ll get one shot there and then they’ll cut him there and he’ll end up at Orlando or something

        just bc he was on the U23 doesn’t mean anything and If i recall. He didn’t even play in WC qualifying


      • M Vann

        I’m glad you have such a great eye for forecasting his future. Pretty amazing. Can you forecast the economy two years, too?

        You reading comprehension sucks. I nevered mention anything remotely close to him being considered a US national teamer. I also never mentioned US youth national teams. I just prefaced U-23 which he is. All I said was that he’s not a finished product and needs to improve. I also said that he went on a goal scoring run, which he did,and I also mentioned he surprised me

        I see some good things in Jack. I see some bad things. I’m just eager to see how he pans out. I’m far from “jack ass american soccer fan”. I’m far from bias. In fact, I’m pretty unbias, almost to a fault.


    • SoB

      Union Jack turned 21 a couple months before the season ended. He scored 8 goals and barely played for the first 1/3 of the season while Nowak was still boss. Name a player 5’10 or shorter that is better in the air. Can’t think of one? He scored half of his goals with his head. Did he miss some chances, sure,but he is younger than Bruin and this is his first season seeing any extended action. His work rate is exceptional and he makes some pretty gnarly runs. Most games he was battling two center backs. Think before you post.


      • jerrry

        i laugh at you SOB bc when Jack moved up top, yes he scored 8 goals but starting forwards in this league are suppose to be match winners and score goals when they matter, score gw goals..all of his goals were when they were down and the game was over and they were chasing the game and it was too late..if i was a GM and looked at my team sheet and saw Jack Mcinerney as my starting star fwd. Id be very worried bc when you compare to other starting forwards in the league. He’s probably dead last on the depth chart.

        Think before you post. Age doesn’t matter when your a starting forward and the team relies on you to score goals. What does he say in the locker room to the coach or players. Sorry i missed that goal early on but I scored at the end, and don’t forget I’ve got a lot of potential and I’m young.

        Sit down


      • Jim

        And Jerry, I laugh at you and your obvious incompetence when it comes to identifying young talent (or do you have your own website critiquing talent that we haven’t heard of?). You contradict yourself in your own posts saying that Jack scored goals in the last minutes of the game when they were down a goal, yet state that he does not score when it matters. I’m guessing you think his game winning goals “don’t matter”.
        Your inability to create a cohesive argument aside, you state “age doesn’t matter when you’re a starting forward”. Is this not a post about the best Under 23, where age is the single thing that allows you the opportunity to be placed on this list?
        Jack just turned 20, if I may correct SoB, during the season, and was the leading goal scorer on the U this season, as well as contributing assists. So let’s all be thankful you aren’t their GM, or anyone else’s for that matter.
        Rather than criticize and continue your uneducated, statistics lacking argument, why don’t you sir “Sit down” and leave the analyzing and player rating to the pros.


  • Martin Blank

    Andy Rose had a very solid year for the Sounders. Very heady, smart CM with a pretty bright future. At least worth a mention.


  • Kevin Burbridge

    Eastern Conference bias here? Just wondering what % of your travels are to Western Conference teams?


    • Ives Galarcep

      Don’t travel to a ton of Western Conference games (though I did take a West coast swing through LA and Seattle in October) but I watch both conferences regularly. It’s just a fact that 2012 was a better year for the top young players in the East than in the West (DC and Philly alone have deep collections of quality young talent). East teams have more young players playing in key roles than the West. The West has some good young talent, but not as many who play key roles and had great seasons. If guys like Shea and Agudelo play like expected, this list is obviously different.


  • Osama Greeb Mohamed

    I need to com for try out, I have playing soccer for good team back in my country


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