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USL 20 Under 20 – Then & Now

By Staff, 10/04/19, 2:00PM EDT


After revealing this year’s list, we look at the progress made by the top alumni from previous editions

Current United States Men's National Team midfielder Tyler Adams prior to the 2016 USL Championship Final with the New York Red Bulls II. | Photo courtesy Ben Solomon / New York Red Bulls II

The top five players in the 2019 USL 20 Under 20 were revealed earlier today with Haiti international Ronaldo Damus of North Texas SC selected as the No. 1 player after his standout season for the USL League One regular season title-winner.

This is the fourth edition of the series, however, which means we can now look back to the opening three years and chart the progress some of those players have made. Here are five players who have gone on from their starts in the USL Championship and quickly risen on both the club and international stage. 

Alphonso Davies

THEN: Expectations were understandably high for the leading player in Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s Academy when he signed as a 15-year-old before the 2016 Championship season, but after becoming the youngest goalscorer in the league’s history – a title he still holds – and being selected to the 2016 20 Under 20, it’s arguable whether anyone could have foreseen how quickly Davies has risen to the top of the sport.

NOW: Davies is not only one of the centerpieces for Canada’s Men’s National Team, but in 2018 he made the move to one of the world’s greatest clubs in Bayern Munich. With one goal in four appearances for the side so far this season, the 18-year-old is still reaching new levels in his game. It’s going to be fascinating to track Davies’ growth as Canada prepares to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup alongside the United States and Mexico, where he could be one of the spotlight players of the tournament.

Jeremy Ebobisse 

THEN: Jeremy Ebobisse’s path into the professional ranks was an unconventional one. He made his professional debut for the Charleston Battery in 2016 on loan from Major League Soccer, with which he had signed after leaving Duke University, and was then selected in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft by the Portland Timbers. Competing with T2 and at the FIFA U-20 World Cup that year, Ebobisse was named to the 2017 edition of the 20 Under 20.

NOW: Ebobisse has become a regular for the Timbers in Major League Soccer, this year recording double-digit goals for the first time while helping the side remain in contention for the MLS Cup Playoffs as Decision Day arrives this Sunday. On top of that, the 22-year-old has also made his full international debut for the United States, starting against Panama this past January.

Erik Palmer-Brown

THEN: As the United States U-20 National Team’s captain when it won its first Concacaf U-20 Championship two years ago, Erik Palmer-Brown had already established his bona fides as one of the country’s top young players before he competed for the Swope Park Rangers early in the 2017 season, so it was no surprise that he was the No. 2 selection in the 2017 USL 20 Under 20 as his passing ability and reading of the game helped the side to early-season success before another run to the USL Championship Final.

NOW: By the time the USL Championship Final arrived for the Rangers, Palmer-Brown’s next move had already been set with the defender having agreed a pre-contract with Manchester City to join the club the following January. Now on loan with Austria Vienna in the Austrian Bundesliga, where he’s made four appearances so far this season, Palmer-Brown has also made his first steps in the full international ranks, appearing twice for the side after making his debut in May last year.

Jackson Yueill

THEN: The No. 6 selection in the MLS SuperDraft in 2017, Yueill arrived at Reno 1868 FC to make his professional debut early in the season, and while his first professional goal or assist didn’t arrive until he returned to the San Jose Earthquakes, the impression he left while competing for Head Coach Ian Russell – including 10 key passes and a 85.1 percent passing accuracy rate – saw him named to the 2017 20 Under 20.

NOW: After making 15 starts for the Earthquakes last year – and even returning to Reno for one more appearance – 2019 has been a breakout campaign for the 22-year-old. Praised by new Quakes Head Coach Matias Almeyda, Yueill has made 28 starts for San Jose this year and earned his first three appearances for the United States National Team. A key role in 2020 Olympic Qualifying later this year is likely next for the talented young midfielder.

Tyler Adams

THEN: As the first signing in New York Red Bulls II history, Tyler Adams made 11 appearances in the club’s first season in 2015 while also competing for the United States U-17 National Team at the FIFA U-17 World Cup that year. In 2016, Adams showed why he was such a prized talent, making 22 appearances as the Red Bulls II won both the USL Championship regular season title and the USL Championship Final.

NOW: Adams has barely looked back since leaving Red Bull Arena a champion in 2016. The following two years he made a combined 51 appearances in the MLS regular season, helping the Red Bulls win the Supporters’ Shield in 2018, and last December was transferred to RB Leipzig in the German Bundesliga. Having made 10 appearances for the United States Men’s National Team since his debut on November 17, 2017 – barely a year after his final game for the Red Bulls II – Adams is one of the brightest in the current crop of talented young players coming from these shores.

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