I was recently asked to do an article about some of the best youthful talent in the MLS who might have a chance at going overseas. Despite MLS being such an under-appreciated league, there are actually a few bright spots which should be mentioned. It’s uncertain whether or not this youth movement will experience as much success as Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Tim Howard, Brian McBride, etc. overseas, but these are some of the guys (in no particular order) which have a decent shot of making it abroad.
1. Brek Shea (FC Dallas) – Shea has almost every tool to make it overseas. He has speed, skill, toughness and durability.Without a shadow of a doubt, Shea has been the most important player for FC Dallas, and is in contention for the MLS MVP award. At 6’3” he definitely has the height but his weight of 180 pounds is a bit of concern. A little offseason workout overseas could help add some muscle to the dynamic winger.
Stats: 11 goals, 4 assists
Clubs linked: Liverpool, Manchester City
2. Juan Agudelo (NY Red Bulls) – like Shea, Agudelo is extremely quick and has a knack for scoring goals. Agudelo has a bit more experience with the U.S. Men’s National Team, so he knows what it is like against other major European competition. He does need to add a little bit more weight to his frame because he gets dispossessed rather easily sometimes. The fit would definitely need to be in a faster pace league like La Liga. It would be hard to see Agudelo finish an entire season in the EPL and Bundesliga because of the different and more rough style of play.
Stats: 6 goals, 2 assists
Clubs linked: Atletico Madrid
3. Andy Najar (DC United) – a spectacular player who has risen through the DC United youth academy and decided to stay in MLS and improve his game despite offers from European clubs when he was only 17. Najar has great technical ability, can shoot with both feet and is very agile. Najar can play on either flank as he does with DC United and run rampant through defenses.
Stats: 5 goals, 6 assists
Clubs linked: Arsenal
4. Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy) – Great defender and technical skill on the ball for a big guy (6 feet 5 inches tall). The former Maryland Terrapin was the MLS 2009 Rookie of the Year award winner and has recently become more involved with the U.S. Men’s National team. Gonzalez always comes to play and is a very underrated player in MLS. There is no doubt that Gonzalez could do well given the opportunity in Europe. Carlos Bocanegra is a perfect example for Gonzalez to follow, and the more European experience Gonzalez gets, the better the USMNT will become.
Stats: 2 goals, 1 assist
Clubs linked: AS Roma, two Ligue 1 teams, Bundesliga
5. Danny Mwanga (Philadelphia Union) – The Congo native was drafted No. 1 overall by the Union in the 2010 MLS Superdraft and has not disappointed. Great passer, great soccer and overall a great teammate from many sources. He is still very young and raw, but the talent is undeniably there. With a little more seasoning in MLS, Mwanga should be ready to make the transition to Europe and possibly to the Dutch or Belgium leagues. Possibly even Ligue 1 in France.
Stats: 5 goals, 4 assists
Other not mentioned: Charlie Davies, Teal Bunbury, Luis Gil, Sanna Nyassi