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How Nathan Worth has become an integral part of FC Tulsa’s midfield | Young Player Spotlight

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 09/11/23, 2:00PM EDT


16-year-old turned heads when turned pro in Oklahoma out of Red Bulls Academy, now shows pedigree with passing, industriousness

16-year-old FC Tulsa midfielder Nathan Worth has made four consecutive starts for the side, completing more than 250 passes while showing off his industriousnes and quality on the ball. | Photo courtesy Victor Schwanke / FC Tulsa

When FC Tulsa signed Nathan Worth to a multi-year contract out of the New York Red Bulls Academy in March, it felt like a major coup for the organization.

Bringing in a 16-year-old talent with U.S. youth international experience who was eager to learn and grow in Head Coach Blair Gavin’s first season at the club was another move in the trend of young domestic talent choosing to turn professional with a club in the USL Championship.

“I’m excited to have the chance to continue playing in the USL Championship and play meaningful games with a team that wants to compete for the playoffs and the USL title,” said Worth upon his signing. “Playing in front of passionate fan bases across the league elevates the intensity to another level and I’m ready to work hard every day to earn a place in the squad.

“Blair and [assistant coach] Richie [Ryan] use a system that values possessing the ball and playing attractive soccer, which I find exciting.”

While the step from playing for the Red Bulls II as a USL Academy signing last year to breaking into a veteran lineup might have taken a little longer than expected, Worth is now making his mark in the middle of the park for Tulsa. Since coming on as a halftime substitute against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on August 18, he’s played every minute for the side, making four consecutive starts and showing the sharp ball-moving skills that made him a lauded prospect.

Worth’s industriousness was on display this past Saturday against Phoenix Rising FC, where he completed 73 of 79 passes – a 92.4 percent accuracy rate – and notched a pair of chances created. Worth’s passing accuracy rate only dipped a fraction in the final third of the field, where he completed 19 of 22 passes overall, the most of any player in the Tulsa lineup.

That quality on the ball appears to have drawn positive attention elsewhere, with Worth’s potential to be part of the United States’ squad at November’s FIFA U-17 World Cup by The Athletic’s Tom Bogert. 

If selected, Worth’s pathway – like that of other prospects who’ve made their path in the USL Championship – should certainly be of note to others looking to push their careers forward in a similar fashion.

Here are some other notable young players who stood out in the past week of action…

- Matthew Corcoran, Birmingham Legion FC – If Worth is getting U.S. U-17 looks, so should Corcoran. The 17-year-old put in another stellar display in Legion FC’s 1-0 win against New Mexico United on Sunday, completing 48 of 54 passes and winning 3 of 3 duels overall.

- Marco Rios, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – The 17-year-old’s second goal of the season earned the Switchbacks a 1-1 draw with San Antonio FC on Saturday night, with his play drawing praise from Head Coach Stephen Hogan.

- Mohamed Traore, Phoenix Rising FC – Another solid display by the 21-year-old center back, who completed 51 of 58 passes and won 3 of 3 tackles and 6 of 9 duels in his side’s shutout at FC Tulsa.

- Danny Rios, Las Vegas Lights FC – A two-assist performance for the 20-year-old helped lead Lights FC to a 3-1 win against Oakland Roots SC on Saturday night and continued his impressive recent form. That’s four goals and two assists in the past four games.

- Collin Smith, Birmingham Legion FC – The 19-year-old was strong again for Legion FC, winning 4 of 4 duels and 3 of 4 aerial duels, completing 40 of 44 passes and notching a pair of shots in Birmingham’s win against New Mexico.

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