The 2023 MLS regular season is just a few days from getting started, providing another major opportunity for many young American players to excel in one of the world’s growing leagues.
Many former MLS homegrown players have made the move to Europe over the past year with Matt Turner, Auston Trusty, Caden Clark, and Paxten Aaronson headlining the latest contingent to take their talents overseas. Now, a new group of U.S. men’s national team prospects will continue their development in North America, focusing on their individual developments with their clubs.
Cade Cowell, John Tolkin, Jack McGlynn, and Chris Brady are just four of the rising talents within MLS now fighting to make the most of their 2023 campaign with hopes of moving up the international ranks.
Here is a look at the top American players in MLS to keep an eye on:
Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes
It’s not often you see an MLS franchise rely heavily on a 19-year-old player, but the San Jose Earthquakes are one of those exceptions heading into the 2023 campaign.
Cade Cowell heads into his fourth full season with the Quakes, closing in on 100 MLS appearances before his 20th birthday. The 19-year-old has totaled nine goals and 12 assists in league play to date, being used mainly out wide for the Western Conference club.
Cowell has previously been linked with a European move and that could happen sooner rather than later if he has a strong first half of the season.
John Tolkin, New York Red Bulls
The New York Red Bulls have watched John Tolkin come into his own over his first two MLS seasons and now the 20-year-old will be ready to deliver even more in 2023.
Tolkin has claimed the starting left back job in Harrison, logging two goals and five assists in 61 league appearances to date. The homegrown defender is one of the rising talents at his position and has also caught the eye of the USMNT during his early years in MLS.
Tolkin’s strong work ethic and defensive awareness will be key for Gerhard Struber’s backline this season.
Jack McGlynn, Philadelphia Union
The Philadelphia Union continue to pump out top talent within their academy and Jack McGlynn is just one of the rising stars in Jim Curtin’s squad.
McGlynn, 19, took another major step in his development in 2022, scoring one goal and adding four assists in 26 combined league appearances. The U.S. Under-20 men’s national team midfielder was key off the bench for the Union before starting last November’s MLS Cup Final against Los Angeles FC.
With a strong left foot and soccer IQ, McGlynn will be on the radar of several European clubs this summer.
Chris Brady, Chicago Fire
18-year-old Chris Brady watched Gabriel Slonina shine for the Chicago Fire over the past two seasons and now his his opportunity to following in the footsteps of his fellow homegrown.
Brady has only MLS appearance to date, but will be fighting to claim the No. 1 job in Ezra Hendrickson’s squad this season. Brady registered five clean sheets in 12 appearances for Fire II in MLS Next Pro while also excelling for the U.S. Under-20 men’s national team at last summer’s Concacaf U-20 Championship.
After watching Slonina make the most of his opportunity as the Fire’s No. 1, Brady will aim to follow suit in 2023.
Kayden Pierre, Sporting Kansas City
Kayden Pierre earned his first taste of MLS in 2022 and will prepare for an increased role with Sporting Kansas City in 2023.
The 20-year-old right back logged 949 minutes in 19 league appearances for Peter Vermes, failing in for veteran Graham Zusi at times. Pierre is the latest Sporting KC homegrown prospect over recent seasons with Gianluca Busio and Jaylin Lindsey coming before him.
Pierre might not start right away in 2023, but will have a point to prove against the 36-year-old Zusi.
Caleb Wiley, Atlanta United
Miles Robinson’s absence in the Atlanta United backline remains huge heading into 2023, but 18-year-old Caleb Wiley is ready to step back into a starting role.
Wiley made 26 appearances during his rookie MLS season, scoring one goal and adding two assists in Gonzalo Pineda’s squad. A former U.S. Under-17 men’s national team player, and current USMNT U-20 player, Wiley was one of the Five Stripes best players last season and could form a strong partnership with Robinson once he returns to action this Spring.
Tayvon Gray, NYCFC
Both Ronny Deila and Nick Cushing rewarded Tayvon Gray with an increased workload in 2022 and after rising to the challenge last season, the 20-year-old will be ready to deliver more for NYCFC.
Gray’s production doubled in 2022, logging 1,878 minutes in MLS action, and registering two assists. The young right back showed great promise in the final third as a distributor and remains one of NYCFC’s best one-on-one defenders.
Quinn Sullivan, Philadelphia Union
Quinn Sullivan unfortunately has two impressive forwards in front of him in the Philadelphia Union squad, but remains a top threat off the bench for the defending Eastern Conference champions.
Sullivan, 18, made 16 substitute appearances for Jim Curtin’s squad last season, scoring one goal and being a constant threat to opposing backlines. The USMNT U-20 standout will be fighting for even more minutes in 2023, especially with the Union set to take part in four different competitions.
Danny Leyva, Seattle Sounders
Brian Schmetzer has several young talents to call on during the 2023 MLS season, but none might be more crucial to the Sounders than 19-year-old Danny Leyva.
Leyva earned double-digit appearances in 2022 for the second-consecutive campaign, giving him 51 in total over the past four years. A hardworking midfielder, Leyva registered his first two MLS assists last season and will continue to work alongside Cristian Roldan, Nicolas Lodeiro, among others this year.
Diego Luna, Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake will be looking for everyone to contribute this year and 19-year-old Diego Luna will be hoping for another step in the right direction this season.
Luna made 13 appearances for RSL last season, while also impressing with the USMNT U-20’s at the Concacaf U-20 Championship. A dynamic and creative winger/midfielder, Luna can be used in a number of different roles for Pablo Mastroeni’s squad, whether then be off the bench or in the starting lineup.
Cruz Medina, San Jose Earthquakes
The San Jose Earthquakes have several young talents waiting in the wings in 2023 and Cruz Medina headlines that impressive group of players.
The 16-year-old is still waiting to make his MLS debut after totaling one goal and one assist in 16 MLS NEXT Pro appearances in 2022. Currently excelling with the USMNT U-17’s in Guatemala, Medina will be chomping at the bit to feature in Luchi Gonzalez’s long-term plans in San Jose.
Darren Yapi, Colorado Rapids
The Colorado Rapids will be looking for new attackers to step up in 2023 and Darren Yapi is one of them who could see a bigger role under Robin Fraser.
Yapi, 18, made 11 appearances in MLS last season while also totaling six goals in 16 appearances for Rapids 2 in MLS NEXT Pro. A former USMNT U-17 attacker, Yapi is a constant runner and a dangerous threat for center backs due to his mixture of height and speed.
Owen Wolff, Austin FC
Owen Wolff enjoyed an increased role in 2022 for Western Conference finalists Austin FC and now the 18-year-old will be seeking a breakout year under his father’s tutelage.
Wolff made 24 league appearances for Austin FC, totaling 910 minutes and one assist. Mainly being used off the bench, Wolff brought fresh legs in Josh Wolff’s squad, chasing after opposing backlines and linking up with his talented offensive teammates.
Dutch giants PSV have already been linked with Wolff’s signature and a strong year could see that proposed move come to fruition.
Two names Everyone should be on the look out for are both Cameron Harper and Serge Ngoma this season for Red Bulls.
Harper like Indiana Vassilev, huge hype when he was in European Academy then makes move to MLS. Doesn’t immediately dominate so everyone acts like he doesn’t exist anymore. Hard to believe Harper is 21 and Vassilev just turned 22. Both Harper and Vassilev are guys that missed the chance to star in 2021 U20 WC when it was canceled.