[USA CONFIDENTIAL] If the post-Gold Cup era marks a breakup of the U.S. national team as we know it, where will the next generation of U.S. stars come from? Players under the age of 23 should form that nucleus of future national team players, but there are slim pickings in MLS.
You think of some of the young stars coming out of the major European leagues for their national teams -- Englishman Jack Wilshire (Arsenal), German Mario Goetze (Borussia Dortmund) and Spaniard David de Gea (Atletico Madrid) are all 20 or younger -- and you wonder what MLS clubs are producing.
MLS's player development program offers long-term promise, but in the near term the number of young players seeing regular action in MLS -- a league on the lookout for young talent -- is worryingly low.
With dozens of regulars away on Gold Cup duty, last weekend should have been a chance for young Americans to show off their talents, but only 20 Americans -- a little more than one per team -- under 23 got starts, most notably 17-year-old Luis Gil in his first MLS start for Real Salt Lake.
Few of these players have seen much action. Only three have started more than the equivalent of a full MLS season and seven have fewer than 10 MLS starts.
And if it's attacking talent we're looking for, only three of these U.S. U-23s are forwards -- with a combined total of 27 MLS starts.
Only one MLS player under 23 was selected by Bob Bradley for the Gold Cup. New York's Juan Agudelo (18) got the call after all of five MLS starts.
MLS Americans Under-23*
GS Player Club Age
72 Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles) 22
44 Jeremy Hall (Portland) 22
42 Brek Shea (FC Dallas) 21
26 Michael Stephens (Los Angeles) 22
26 Jorge Flores (Chivas USA) 21
21 Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia) 21
21 Sean Johnson (Chicago) 22
18 Bill Hamid (D.C. United) 20
17 Zak Boggs (New England) 22
14 Will Bruin (Houston) 21
14 A.J. Soares (New England) 22
13 Rich Balchan (Columbus) 22
10 Jalil Anibaba (Chicago) 22
9 Perry Kitchen (D.C. United) 19
8 Evan White (D.C. United) 20
8 C.J. Sapong (Sporting KC) 22
6 Jeb Brovsky (Vancouver) 22
5 Blake Brettschneider (D.C. United) 22
3 Michael Farfan (Philadelphia) 22
1 Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake) 17
(MLS starters the weekend of June 10-12.)
Tomorrow: Americans under-23 in Europe.