Ranks of MLS teen signings grow rapidly

You won't have seen the names Josh Atencio, Ben Ofeimu or Lionel Abate Etoundi in Soccer America Daily's morning "MLS Moves" wire because they didn't sign with MLS clubs, but they represent the next wave in MLS player development as they are teenagers signed this week by MLS clubs to their second teams in USL.

As MLS clubs rush to sign their top young academy players to avoid losing them without compensation when they turn 18, they are parking many of them with USL contracts on their second teams.

As of Jan. 24, MLS clubs or their USL second teams have under contract 63 players born in 2000 or later, ie. they are young enough that they still have eligibility in this season's Development Academy.

They include Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, whom Toronto FC II signed as the age of 14 in December, and Cade Cowell, whom the San Jose Earthquakes made their youngest signing at age 15 on Wednesday.

Of the 30 players born in 2000 or later and signed to their first pro contracts for the 2019 season -- including some signed last fall after the close of the summer transfer window -- 18 were signed to contracts with second teams in the USL's two pro leagues.

Atencio (photo), a 16-year-old midfielder, is the eighth player the Seattle Sounders have signed to S2 from their U-17 team that won the 2018 DA championship.

The Philadelphia Union has done a great job of promoting academy players from the Delaware Valley area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, but 18-year-old Ofeimu, who hails from Michigan, is the first product of its residency program to turn pro -- and he's tipped to move quickly from Bethlehem Steel to the Union first team.

Etoundi, 18, is one of many Cameroonians whom MLS teams have signed in recent years. With the advent of second teams, they can now start out on second teams like Etoundi, who plays for Cameroon's U-23s, will at the Real Monarchs.

MLS pro signings (2000 birth year and younger)
Atlanta United (6)
Andrew Carleton, 2000 (Atlanta United)
Chris Goslin
, 2000 (Atlanta United)
*Jackson Conway, 2001 (Atlanta United 2/USL Championship)
George Bello, 2002 (Atlanta United)
Diego Lopez, 2002 (Atlanta United 2/USL Championship via FC Golden State)
Alessandro Castro (Honduras), 2002 (Atlanta United 2/USL Championship)
*2019 signing.

Chicago Fire (0)

FC Cincinnati (1)
*Frankie Amaya, 2000 (FC Cincinnati via UCLA)
*2019 signing.

Colorado Rapids (2)
*Matt Hundley, 2000 (Colorado Rapids via UCLA)
Cole Bassett
, 2001 (Colorado Rapids)
*2019 signing.

Columbus Crew (0)
*Aboubacar Keita, 2000 (Columbus Crew via Univ. of Virginia)
*2019 signing.

FC Dallas (4)
Jesus Ferreira, 2000 (FC Dallas)
Chris Richards, 2000 (FC Dallas, on loan to Bayern Munich/GER)
Bryan Reynolds, 2001 (FC Dallas)
Thomas Roberts, 2001 (FC Dallas)
*Ricardo Pepi, 2003 (North Texas SC/USL League One)
*2019 signing.

D.C. United (1)
Chris Durkin, 2000 (D.C. United)

Houston Dynamo (1)
*Erik McCue, 2001 (Houston Dynamo)
*2019 signing.

LAFC (0)

LA Galaxy (1)
Efrain Alvarez (Mexico), 2002 (LA Galaxy)

Montreal Impact (0)

New England Revolution (2)
Isaac Angking, 2000 (New England Revolution)
*Nicolas Firmino, 2001 (New England Revolution)
*2019 signing.

James Sands, 2000 (NYCFC)
*Justin Haak, 2001 (NYCFC)
Joseph Scally, 2002 (NYCFC)
*2019 signing.

New York Red Bulls (2)
Cristian Casseres Jr. (Venezuela), 2000 (NY Red Bulls via Deportivo La Guaira)
Ben Mines
, 2000 (NY Red Bulls)

Orlando City (2)
*Jordan Bender, 2001 (Orlando City B/USL League One)
*Luc Granitur, 2003 (Orlando City B/USL League One)
*2019 signing.

Philadelphia Union (5)
Brenden Aaronson, 2000 (Philadelphia Union)
Faris Moumbagna (Cameroon), 2000 (Bethlehem Steel/USL Championship via Montverde Academy)
Michee Ngalina (DR Congo), 2000 (Bethlehem Steel/USL Championship via Montverde Academy)
*Ben Ofeimu, 2000 (Bethlehem Steel/USL Championship)
*Selmir Miscic, 2003 (Bethlehem Steel/USL Championship)
*2019 signing.

Portland Timbers (0)

Real Salt Lake (4)
*Luis Arriaga, 2001 (Real Salt Lake)
*Lionel Abate Etoundi (Cameroon), 2001 (Real Monarchs/USL Championship via AS Fortuna)
*David Ochoa, 2001 (Real Salt Lake)
*Julian Vazquez, 2001 (Real Salt Lake)
*2019 signing.

San Jose Earthquakes (3)
Jacob Akanyirige, 2001 (San Jose Earthquakes)
Gilbert Fuentes, 2002 (San Jose Earthquakes)
*Cade Cowell, 2003 (San Jose Earthquakes)

Seattle Sounders (10)
*Modou Ndow (Gambia), 2000 (Sounders FC 2/USL Championship via MFK Vyskov, loan)
*Ben Numbi (Congo), 2000 (Sounders FC 2/USL Championship via MFK Vyskov, loan)
*Alec Diaz, 2001 (Sounders FC 2/USL Championship)
Azriel Gonzalez, 2001 (Sounders FC 2/USL Championship)
Marlon Vargas, 2001 (Sounders FC 2/USL Championship)
*Josh Atencio, 2002 (Sounders FC 2/USL Championship)
Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, 2002 (Sounders FC 2/USL Championship)
*Daniel Robles, 2002 (Sounders FC 2/USL Championship)
Ray Serrano, 2002 (Sounders FC 2/USL Championship)
*Danny Leyva, 2003 (Sounders FC 2/USL Championship)
*2019 signing.

Sporting KC (3)
Jaylin Lindsey, 2000 (Sporting KC)
Gianluca Busio, 2002 (Sporting KC)
*Tyler Freeman, 2003 (Sporting KC)
*2019 signing.

Toronto FC (11)
Ayo Akinola, 2000 (Toronto FC)
Julian Dunn
, 2000 (Toronto FC)
Jordan Faria, 2000 (Toronto FC II/USL League One)
*Terique Mohammed, 2000 (Toronto FC II/USL League One)
*Noble Okello, 2000 (Toronto FC)
Luca Petrasso, 2000 (Toronto FC II/USL League One)
*Jordan Perruzza, 2001 (Toronto FC II/USL League One)
*Mehdi Essoussi, 2001 (Toronto FC II/USL League One)
Rocco Romeo, 2001 (Toronto FC II/USL League One)
*Jayden Nelson, 2002 (Toronto FC II/USL League One)
*Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, 2004 (Toronto FC II/USL League One)
*2019 signing.

Vancouver Whitecaps (2)
Michael Baldisimo, 2000 (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Simon Colyn
, 2002 (Vancouver Whitecaps)

Photo: Concacaf.

3 comments about "Ranks of MLS teen signings grow rapidly".
  1. beautiful game, January 24, 2019 at 12:46 p.m.

    MLS parking young talent in USL...another roadblock to developing the talent unless of course there is a top youth coach in every MLS franchise. The people, process, product if not in place is a waste of talent.

  2. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, January 24, 2019 at 2:46 p.m.

    Bridging the development gap between academy and first team is the primary purpose of the "2" teams in USL.  Many other countries have bigger clubs' reserve teams in the lower divisions.  Seems like a reflexive anti-MLS comment.

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, January 25, 2019 at 1:24 a.m.

    BG I have to wonder about your comment too. You think playing in the amateur DA is better? The clubs are signing the under 18s for contracts to play in USL. Gets them under a contract that doesn't count against MLS roster numbers and salary and allows them to play soccer. This is a good solution for the kids and clubs. If the kids don't want to turn pro, they can choose not to sign and play elsewhere than USL. 

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