Commentary

The American youth soccer of USMNT's World Cup players


The USA was the youngest team to qualify for the 2022 World Cup and is the second youngest (average age: 25 years, 175 days) of the teams in Qatar, after Ghana. Four members of Coach Gregg Berhalter's squad were raised abroad, while 22 grew up playing American youth soccer. Here's a look at their experiences.

Brenden Aaronson
He grew up in Medford, New Jersey, playing with Medford SC and Real Jersey FC. At the age of 10, Aaronson joined the Union Juniors, which was affiliated with the  Philadelphia Union’s Academy he moved up to. In 2018, shortly before his 18th birthday, Aaronson signed an MLS Homegrown contract with the Union. Aaronson professional career started with Bethlehem Steel, Union’s professional reserve team. Now 5-foot-10, he was always the smallest on the team until he hit his growth spurt at age 16. "In the United States, we have to get past this idea that only the fastest and the strongest and the biggest are the ones that make it in soccer," Union head coach Jim Curtin said. "Brenden has a lot of physical tools and qualities, but he's not the 200-pound, 6-foot-3, muscle guy. He has to do it by thinking fast." Focusing on his first touch and playing smarter and faster against bigger kids paid off. 


Kellyn Acosta
The Texan hooked up with coach Zequinha, a former Brazilian international who played for the NASL's Dallas Tornado, while he played rec soccer. Coach Zee became a big influence on Acosta's love of soccer and skill development. Acosta played in FC Dallas’ Academy and joined U.S. Soccer’s U-17 Residency program (2010-11). “The range that he had in those few first trainings, it was amazing,” said then FC Dallas Academy’s coach Oscar Pareja of a 13-year-old Acosta. “And I said, if this kid has that range with that intelligence and technical ability at an early age, it just tells you that he has a lot to provide and that he has a high ceiling.” Acosta signed a Homegrown contract with FC Dallas at age 16.

Home states:
California (4), New York (4), Georgia (3), Texas (3), Missouri (2), New Jersey (2), Washington (2), Colorado (1), Pennsylvania (1).

Tyler Adams
When 11-year-old Adams showed up for Red Bulls Academy U-13 tryouts, the coaches were sure he was ready to play above his age. “We knew he was pretty special,” then-Red Bulls youth director Bob Montgomery said. “We figured out quickly he didn’t belong with these kids. But because you’re dealing with a young player, you want to make sure emotionally he’s OK. We asked his parents to think about Tyler playing up, because it would be better for him.” Adams played in the Red Bulls youth system until the age of 16 when he signed with the club's first team. He represented the USA in the 2015 U-17 World Cup and 2017 U-20 World Cup.

Luca de la Torre
He grew up in San Diego. His soccer career began with local youth clubs Carmel Valley Sharks and Carmel Valley Manchester Soccer Club. In 2011-2013, De la Torre played in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy with the Nomads and San Diego Surf. In 2013, he moved abroad, joining the Fulham academy. De la Torre played for the USA at the 2015 U-17 World Cup and 2017 U-20 World Cup.


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10
Represented the USA at a U-17 World Cup.
Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Adams, Luca de la Torre, Sergino Dest, Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Josh Sargent, Joe Scally, Tim Weah, Haji Wright.

7 
Attended U.S. Soccer's U-17 Residency Program (which existed in 1999-2018) in Bradenton, Florida:
Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Shaq Moore, Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Haji Wright.

9
Represented the USA at a U-20 World Cup.

Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Adams, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Luca de la Torre, Sergino Dest, Sean Johnson, Shaq Moore, Tim Weah, DeAndre Yedlin.

* * * * * * * * * *

Jesus Ferreria
Born in Colombia, he moved to Texas with his family at the age of 10 when his father David signed a contract with FC Dallas. Ferriera played in FC Dallas' academy in 2009-2016. He went pro with FC Dallas' reserve team in 2016 and then made his MLS debut a year later. In 2019, Ferriera received his U.S. citizenship, allowing him to represent the US at the international level.

Ethan Horvath
He spent his formative years playing with U.S. Soccer Development Academy club Real Colorado and is the first player to represent his home state in the men's World Cup. His father Peter Horvath played for the MLS’s Denver Avalanche and his mom played soccer in high school. Horvath’s family moved to Norway in 2013 to secure a family visa so he could play for Molde FK, the team with which he started his professional career.

Sean Johnson
Grew up playing with his local youth club Atlanta Fire and was part of the U.S. 2009 U-20 World Cup team. He played two seasons of collegiate soccer (2007-2008) at the University of Central Florida. Johnson played soccer and basketball at Brookwood High School in Snellville, Georgia, the same high school as U.S. teammate Walker Zimmerman. In 2010, he made his MLS debut with the Chicago Fire after playing for the USL Premier Development League’s Atlanta Blackhawks in 2009.

Aaron Long
Long started played soccer at Serrano High School where he also lettered in football. During his youth, he attended camps run by former U.S. national team defender Carlos Bocanegra. "The career path that he’s had to get to where he is is incredible so it’s fun to root for him," Bocanegra. said. "I remember seeing him before he had that terrible mullet. He was always a good kid, and comes from a good family, so I couldn’t be happier for the kid because he just kept grinding, kept going, believing in himself.” Long played collegiate soccer at UC Riverside from 2010-2013. In 2012 and 2013, he also played for the USL League Two club FC Tucson. Long was drafted by the Portland Timbers in 2014 but broke though with the New York Red Bulls via USL ball with Seattle Sounders 2 and Red Bulls 2 while working construction in the USL offseason.



Weston McKennie
Born in Texas, he lived in Germany from age 6 to 9 while his father served in the U.S. Air Force. McKennie started playing soccer because there was no football for his age in Germany. Shortly after returning to Texas, McKennie joined the FC Dallas Academy at age 11 and played with the club though U-18 levels. "I still brag about our 2015 U15/16 [Development Academy] national championship season," McKennie said. "We went undefeated, 0 goals scored against us, in the playoffs, and won it out in Cali. That's something I get into arguments with some of the other academy guys in the national team." He joined the U.S. Soccer's U-17 Residency in Bradenton, Florida in 2013. In 2016, McKennie turned pro with German Bundesliga team Schalke 04 after spurning a college soccer scholarship from the University of Virginia.


Shaq Moore
The Georgia native spent time at the IMG Academy, FC Dallas' academy and in U.S. U-17 residency. In August 2014, Moore joined the youth setup of Huracán Valencia CF, the now defunct Spanish club where he made his senior debut the following year. He represented his country at various youth levels, captaining the U-17 team in the 2013 Concacaf U-17 Championship and playing in 2015’s U20 World Cup.




Jordan Morris
Played with the youth club Eastside FC B94 Red from 2004-2012 (U11-U17), winning six Washington state titles. In 2012, Morris was named the Washington State Player of the Year and a High-School All-American. He played in the Seattle Sounders Academy for a year (2012-2013) before heading to play soccer at Stanford University. He led the Cardinal to an NCAA Championship and won the Hermann MAC Trophy in his final collegiate season, his junior year.


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8
Played college soccer
1. *Tim Ream (2010, Saint Louis), 18th draft pick by NY Red Bulls.
2. Sean Johnson (2010, UCF), 51st draft pick by Chicago.
3. DeAndre Yedlin (2013, Akron), Homegrown signing by Seattle.
4. Walker Zimmerman (2013, Furman), 7th draft by by FC Dallas.
5. *Aaron Long (2014, UC Riverside), 36th draft pick by Portland.
6. Cristian Roldan (2015, Washington), 16th draft pick by Seattle.
7. Jordan Morris (2016, Stanford), Homegrown signing by Seattle.
8. *Matt Turner (2016, Fairfield), signed by New England (undrafted)
*Played four seasons.
* * * * * * * * * *




Christian Pulisic
Both parents of the Pennsylvania product, who made his Bundesliga debut in 2016 at age 17, played college ball at George Mason. When Christian was eight years old, his father Mark Pulisic played for and coached the Detroit Ignition of the Major Indoor Soccer League. “The Brazilian players would challenge the youngster to learn ball tricks (which he would perform the following week)," said Mark. Christian played for the Northville Soccer Association (now affiliated with Michigan Rush) until joining PA Classics at age 11 when the family moved back to Pennsylvania. He joined U.S. Soccer's U-17 Residency in Bradenton, Florida in the fall of 2013 and played in the 2015 U-17 World Cup.

Tim Ream
The oldest of five children, the 35-year-old is also the oldest on the World Cup Squad. At age 13, he joined St. Louis Scott Gallagher and then attended St. Dominic High School, where he also played basketball. "We always played in the backyard. We had a kick-back net," Ream said. "We were always shooting on each other. Always trying to make each other look foolish. We played four vs. one. Keepaway from the little ones to see what they can do." Ream's father played college ball at Maryville and coached at Washington University. "That’s when I got really into it," said Ream said. "I went to their games and practices. I went to their away games." Ream played collegiately at St Louis University where he graduated with a business administration degree before making his MLS debut with the New York Red Bulls in 2010.


Gio Reyna
Both of Gio Reyna’s parents represented the USA. His dad, Claudio Reyna, went to four World Cups, including captaining the USA to its 2002 quarterfinal finish and becoming the first American selected to a FIFA World Cup all-star team. His mother, Danielle Egan, won four NCAA titles at UNC. Starting at the age of 12, Reyna developed through MLS club New York City FC’s Academy. A few years later, he joined German club Borussia Dortmund’s academy at the U-19 level. On January 18, 2020, 17-year-old Reyna made his league debut for Dortmund, becoming the youngest American to ever play in Germany’s top division.

Cristian Roldan
The Southern Californian played youth ball for Union Independiente and high school soccer at El Rancho High School. He was named the 2013 Gatorade National Men’s Soccer Player of the Year. “His career really mirrored what El Rancho did every year,” El Rancho Head Coach Dominic Picon. said. "El Rancho became a little bit more competitive his sophomore year and a little bit more mature his junior year, able to play against some of the bigger squads. Likewise, Christian got a little bit better every year. One year it was working on his left foot, another year it was becoming better in the air.” After high school, Roldan played two seasons at the University of Washington before turning pro with the Seattle Sounders.

Josh Sargent
Both of his parents played collegiate soccer. Like Ream, he played for St. Louis Scott Gallagher Soccer Club from age eight to 16. “He spent a ton of time in front of the goal working on various finishing activities,” Scott Gallagher Soccer Club technical director Kevin Kalish said. Sargent attended U.S. U-17 Residency and in 2017 played in both the 2017 U-17 and U-20 World Cups. He went pro with Germany's Werder Bremen.

Joe Scally
Started playing soccer at the age of six. He began played with local Long Island teams Sachem Starburst, Sachem Falcons, Sachem Lynxes, Sachem Destroyers and the Mastic Destroyers. He also competed for the Eastern New York Olympic Development Program. In 2015-2018, Scally played for NYCFC's academy teams alongside good friend and international teammate Reyna. In 2018, 15-year-old Scally made his professional debut for NYCFC. "[Scally] is a very modern outside back who can cover the whole outside [flank]," said then-NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna to ESPN in 2019. "He's a right-back who creates and has a lot of assists." He was part of the U.S. team that competed in the 2019 U-17 World Cup. In 2021, he joined German Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach.



Matt Turner
The New Jersey product didn't get serious about soccer until he joined his high school soccer team as a freshman to stay in shape for basketball and baseball. He became a goalkeeper his freshman year when the starter got injured. He didn’t get much collegiate interest but landed a spot on the team at Fairfield University where he played from 2012 to 2015. “What I saw in Matt early on at Fairfield that made me think so highly of him,” Fairfield associate head coach Javier Decima  said, "was his mentality, work ethic, and desire to improve and learn.”

In the summer following his sophomore season, Turner played with USL League Two club Jersey Express. In 2016, Turner signed his first professional contract with MLS club New England Revolution. His superb performances in MLS, especially his last season in 2021, earned him a move to the English Premier League side Arsenal.



Tim Weah
Despite being the son of former Ballon d’Or winner and the current President of Liberia George Weah, his mom, Clar, was his first soccer coach. Weah played youth ball in Florida with West Pines United before moving to New York where he joined the Rosedale Soccer Club. In 2010-2013, Weah played for venerable Queens club BW Gottschee. He spent the next year in the New York Red Bulls Academy. In 2014, Weah took a massive leap, joining the Paris-St. Germain Academy, and three years later signed his first professional contract with PSG. Meanwhile, he represented the USA in the U-17 World Cup and scored a hat trick in his first game of the tournament. "Credit to his family, this is a kid that just comes to the training field every day with the desire to get better and with a smile on his face," said Weah’s U-17 coach John Hackworth. "Wherever we ask him to play, it's, 'Yes coach, whatever you need coach.' He just has an excellent attitude." In 2018, Weah made his PSG first-team debut and in 2019 he scored twice for the USA in the U-20 World Cup.

Haji Wright
He grew up playing in the house and backyard with his younger brother, Hanif, in Los Angeles, Calif. He watched YouTube clips to emulates stars such as Thierry Henry. The forward played with the LA Galaxy’s Academy before going to U.S. Soccer’s U-17 Residency Program. He scored 27 goals in 34 games for Galaxy's U-17s and played in the 2015 U-17 World Cup with Pulisic, Adams and de la Torre. In 2015, at 18-years-old, Wright moved to Germany's Schalke 04 via the New York Cosmos, with which he signed his first pro contract. 

Deandre Yedlin
Growing up in Seattle, Washington, Yedlin started playing soccer since age 4 with Emerald City FC and Northwest Nationals (2004-2008). Yedlin was also part of Washington Youth Soccer's State ODP team from 2006-2009 and played for U.S. Soccer Development Academy club Crossfire Premier from 2008-2010. For the 2011-12 season, Yedlin moved to the Seattle Sounders’ youth academy. He spent the next two years playing for the University of Akron before returning to the Sounders in 2013 to begin his professional career. He played in the 2013 U-20 World Cup.

Walker Zimmerman
He played with Gwinnett Soccer Association's youth academy in Lilburn, Georgia, under the tutelage of Nuno Piteira. The Portuguese coach had his team play plenty of futsal in the gym — and play with a futsal ball on grass to eliminate the long-ball option — to focus on foot skills and possession. Zimmerman also played at Brookwood High School and collegiately at Furman University in 2011-2012. In 2013, FC Dallas selected Zimmerman in the MLS SuperDraft.

Four members of the USA's World Cup squad were raised abroad: Cameron Carter-Vickers (England), Sergino Dest (Netherlands), Antonee Robinson (England) and Yunus Musah (Italy, England). Carter-Vickers spent his formative years at Tottenham Hotspur's academy, joining it at age nine. Dest is a product of the Ajax youth setup, Musah spent much of his youth career with Arsenal's academy, and Robinson played with Everton's academy for seven years before going pro with the Merseyside team in 2015.

4 comments about "The American youth soccer of USMNT's World Cup players".
  1. frank schoon, November 24, 2022 at 9:48 a.m.

    Ben, Thank You for the history and backround of these players. This gives one a better of their backround and development...What would be interesting read if you found out what weaknesses or strengthx these players have according to Europena Scouts, how they view the American players, technically speaking. For example, Christian Pulisic's strengths and weaknesses as a player, considered a star in the US but a bench warmer in Europe....  The American fan, coach, trainer, have no idea about our players other than what they read in American soccer press which is seriously lacking in that dept...

  2. Kevin Leahy, November 24, 2022 at 2:39 p.m.

    Jim Curtin needs to explain to GB about skill over speed and strength. Morris has no place taking minutes away from any of the attacking players in this squad. Tomorrow's match will tell the tale. You should be able to find a start for Aaronson & Reyna. The former is starting in the Premier league and should be a thorn in England' side. The latter has the skill to break them down. Win, lose or draw, would kill for a 90 minute total effort.

  3. Chris Wasdyke replied, November 28, 2022 at 2 p.m.

    I cannot foresee any moment where Jordan Morris would start over Aaronson, Reyna, Pulisic et all.  Morris will come on if we're winning to hold the ball and win position.  He has a purpose, we unfortunately have not needed him yet.  I'm not sure there is much complaining that can be done about Berhalter choices so far.  

  4. frank schoon replied, November 28, 2022 at 6:04 p.m.

    Chris , I can foresee Morris starting over Aaronson, if you need someone to stay in one position, with purpose and play right wing, but only right wing and give crosses that bend away by the endline...Aaronson lacks the discipline, runs everywhere and I don't think he's everseen the endline from up close...

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