U.S. U17 National Team Players with First Team MLS Contracts Make A Big Difference in International Play
Daniel Leyva, Gianluca Busio, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, Giovanni Reyna, and Griffin Yow have all been using their elevated experiences with top professional clubs to be consistent producers throughout an impressive U.S. U17 CONCACAF Championship run.
2019 CONCACAF U17 Championship Tournament
The U.S. U17 Men’s National Team continues to excel in the 2019 CONCACAF U17 Championship, advancing to the semifinals in a 3-0 victory against Panama and clinching a trip to the 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup.
Head coach Raphael Wicky’s squad powered through the group stage, round of 16, and quarterfinal matches in multi-goal victories, and left their opponents without a goal in their last 306 minutes of play.
Inside the 2019 U.S. Soccer’s U17 Men’s National Team Roster
An impressive 17 players on the 2019 Concacaf U17 Championship Roster come from MLS clubs, with seven first team professionals and 10 MLS Development Academy players working toward their first pro contract.
MLS Players on U17 Roster
The U17 roster boasts seven players with a professional MLS contract, with midfielder Gianluca Busio and forward Tyler Freeman both hailing from Sporting KC, midfielder Daniel Leyva and forward Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez representing Seattle Sounders, midfielder Gilbert Fuentes-Perez coming from San Jose, defender Joseph Scally from NYCFC, and forward Griffin Yow of D.C. United.
Only two of these players have featured on their club’s senior teams, with Yow earning one appearance and Busio earning four starts, three appearances as a substitute, and three goals.
MLS Academy and Non-MLS Players
On this roster, there are three players who are not in the MLS or an affiliated Development Academy. Defenders Axel Alejandre of Chicago’s FC United and Adam Armour of North Carolina FC both feature on independent USL teams.
The team captain Giovanni Reyna, however, has made his way across the Atlantic onto Borussia Dortmund’s U19 team.
When it comes to U17 National Team players in an MLS Development Academy, the LA Galaxy have the most stock in the roster, with defenders Mauricio Cuevas, Kobe Hernandez and midfielder Adam Saldana currently in the Galaxy’s Academy.
Defenders Tayvon Gray of NYCFC and John Tolkin of NY Red Bulls, midfielders Bryang Kayo of DC United, goalkeepers Damian Las of the Chicago Fire and Chituru Odunze of Vancouver Whitecaps, and forwards Ricardo Pepi of FC Dallas and Jack De Vries of Philadelphia Union represent their respective MLS Academies as well.
The starting lineup in the USA’s quarterfinal match against Panama featured players in each tiered group, but certainly favored the first team professional:
IN GOAL: Las; DEFENDERS: Scally, Gray, Hernandez, Armour; MIDFIELDERS: Leyva, Saldana, Busio; FORWARDS: Yow, Ocampo-Chavez, Reyna.
Leyva, Busio, Ocampo-Chavez, Reyna, and Yow have all been consistent producers in a fiery, offensively-minded 2019 U17 Men’s National Team. Leyva, Busio, Ocampo-Chavez, and Yow are all on a first team MLS contract, and Reyna is currently in a top European club youth program.
These players are 17 or younger and already showing the skills needed to succeed at the highest international level. Both Daniel Leyva and Ricardo Pepi have just barely surmounted their 16th birthday and are already making a difference on the pitch for the USA.
The elevated opportunities and first team experience that our young talent has earned is paying off on a national scale.
The U.S. Men’s National Senior Team is in need of young, fresh talent alongside star player Christian Pulisic for the 2022 and 2026 World Cup tournaments, and it seems that these high-performing youth players will be well-prepared to contribute well when their time comes to join the squad.