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Seven teenagers you need to know who’ve made their USL Championship debut this year

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 06/11/24, 12:52PM EDT


26 players born in 2006 or later have appeared in the Championship this season, here are some who’ve caught our eye

North Carolina FC's Julian Placias has scored two goals in 10 appearances across all competitions since joining the club and is on the radar of European clubs. | Photo courtesy Trevor Ruszkowski / Indy Eleven

The USL Championship and League One have been the launching point for successful careers across the U.S. Soccer landscape for going on a decade – 15 of the current squad aiming to be part of the Men’s Olympic Team this summer previously competed in the two leagues. That’s made it the place where you can get your first look at the next potential breakthrough star coming up in the pipeline.

So, who might be the next Jonathan Gomez, Diego Luna, Joshua Wynder or Korede Osundina? Here are seven players born in 2006 or later who’ve made the USL Championship debut this season who’ve caught our eye in the first three months of the season.

Ben Barjolo, MF, Orange County SC

Barjolo turned pro last summer with OCSC out of Atlanta United FC’s Academy and is part of the next wave of young talent coming through the club aiming to follow in the footsteps of Kobi Henry and Korede Osundina, both now at top-flight clubs in France and the Netherlands respectively. He’s seen limited action this season, but the 17-year-old’s potential upside is visible as he looks to break through at the club and youth international level.

Ramiz Hamouda, CB, Birmingham Legion FC

There were multiple suitors aiming to sign U.S. U-16s center back Hamouda this spring, but Legion struck a deal that appears set to pave a pathway to Europe for the 16-year-old in the next few years. Hamouda made his Championship debut against Miami in April, and has two additional Open Cup appearances to his name.

Cristian Ortiz, F, Tampa Bay Rowdies

Local product Cristian Ortiz signed his first pro deal with the Tampa Bay Rowdies after impressing as a USL Academy signing early this year. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

Ortiz made his debut for the Rowdies as a USL Academy signing on April 11 and since then has gone from strength to strength, which made signing the local product a priority for the club. The 17-year-old forward turned pro last month and has been knocking on the door of opening his professional account.

Julian Placias, F, North Carolina FC

Placias crossed the country to sign with North Carolina last offseason after previously being part of the LA Galaxy Academy. The 18-year-old is already making an impact with two goals in 10 appearances across all competitions. He’s on the radar of clubs in Europe for his next potential move.

Ian Shaul, MF, Hartford Athletic

A USL Academy signing, Shaul is currently committed to the University of Notre Dame, but he’s been lively when given opportunities in the Athletic midfield this season. The 18-year-old has an 86.4 passing accuracy rate and has one chance created and could be one that makes the jump to the pros before he arrives in South Bend, Ind. 

Landry Walker, MF, San Antonio FC

Last month, San Antonio native Landry Walker was at United States U-15 Men’s National Team camp. This Saturday, he was making his USL Championship debut for SAFC, becoming the youngest player to make a league appearance in club history aged 15 years, 24 days old. The central midfielder looked the part, too, completing 11 of 15 passes and winning 4 of 4 duels. Watch this space.

Blake Willey, F, Sacramento Republic FC

16-year-old Blake Willey made his first start for Sacramento Republic FC on the road against Rhode Island FC in May. | Photo courtesy Rhode Island FC

One of the latest pro products of Republic FC’s prolific academy, the 16-year-old midfield got his first start on the road at Rhode Island last month, one of four appearances he’s made this year. A previous call-up to the United States U-16s and U-17 National Teams, Willey and fellow 16-year-old teammate Chibi Ukaegbu are both top prospects to watch in the next few years.

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