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USL Top Five – Under-20 Players

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/22/17, 6:17PM EDT


Top young talent continues to emerge; who’s next for the spotlight?

Photo courtesy Charis Wilson / Seattle Sounders FC 2 launched its first edition of the USL 20 Under 20 in 2016, and the interest level was well received. The series, which features the top young players in the league, showcases those who are about to break into the spotlight in North American soccer. A number of players ended up starring for both their clubs and their respective countries at the CONCACAF U20 Championship this offseason.

The 2017 edition of the 20 Under 20 will be back this June, following the conclusion of the 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup in South Korea, but for now here are five players who would be eligible to appear in that tournament we’ll be keeping an eye on this season.

Kadin Chung, Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2

Chung got a cup of coffee with WFC2 late in the 2015 season, but in his first full season for the club became an integral member last year as it reached the USL Cup Playoffs for the first time, and then made a run to the Western Conference Final in the postseason. Making 19 regular-season appearances and starting all three playoff contests, the 18-year-old was named in the ’16 edition of the 20 Under 20.

This offseason, Chung was among the Canadian contingent that competed at the CONCACAF U20 Championship, with the side winning the lone game he appeared in. This week he was named in the Canada U23 squad that will head to Qatar, another indicator of the future those who have seen him believe he has in the game.

Photo courtesy Phoenix Rising FC

Photo courtesy Martin Bazyl / Toronto FC II

Liam Fraser, Toronto FC II

Quick quiz – which player completed more passes than any other in the group stage of the 2017 CONCACAF U20 Championship? You probably guessed Fraser because his name is sitting right on top of the question, but be honest, unless you’re a hopeless nerd like we are you probably wouldn’t have known that.

Fraser is coming into his third season with TFC II, and with 32 regular-season appearances under his belt could be primed for a big step forward this season alongside a number of players in a similar position like Shaan Hundal, Malik Johnson and Luca Uccello. Fraser’s composure on the ball, and increasing eye for goal, will be a key factor as to whether Toronto will be in the picture for a playoff berth this season.

Christian Lucatero, Rio Grande Valley FC

Christian Lucatero played just 271 minutes a season ago for Rio Grande Valley FC, but it was what he did in three of those minutes that helped push the thought that he could be due for plenty of time and production this season. Coming on as a late substitute against the Swope Park Rangers, Lucatero produced two quick assists, highlighting his big potential.

The Dynamo Homegrown Player will have to battle quite a few players from last year’s second-place finisher in the Western Conference to earn those minutes, but with the upside he appears to bring, Lucatero could bring great creativity to the Toros as they move into their new home at H-E-B Park.

Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

Photo courtesy Charis Wilson / Seattle Sounders FC 2

Victor Mansaray, FC Cincinnati

Seattle Sounders FC Homegrown signing Victor Mansaray was named the No. 1 player in the inaugural edition of the 20 Under 20, and was one of the final cuts from the U.S. U20 squad for the CONCACAF U20 Championship this offseason. What Seattle did next, though, was a fascinating move that could pay off in a big way for all three parties concerned.

A season-long loan to FC Cincinnati, which enters the new season with championship aspirations after a great inaugural season, will put pressure on Mansaray to earn his minutes every week in a loaded FCC squad. That in turn could raise Mansaray’s level higher, keeping him in U.S. U20 National Team Head Coach Tab Ramos’ thoughts as the countdown to South Korea commences. If that happens, then Seattle will get a potential difference-maker back in its squad for the 2018 MLS season.

Ethan Zubak, LA Galaxy II

The Galaxy II’s proficiency in front of goal has been one of their hallmarks over the past three seasons, with Chandler Hoffman (2014), Ariel Lassiter (2015) and Jack McBean (2016) all recording double-digit goals in the regular season to lead Los Dos to a place in the USL Cup Playoffs.

This year the burden for that could fall on the 19-year-old Ethan Zubak, who recorded two goals and one assist in 22 appearances for the Galaxy II a season ago after signing professionally with the club in May. A member of the U.S. U19 National Team a year ago, Zubak has shone at the Academy level for the Galaxy, and could take the next step this year to helping Los Dos maintain their standard of success under new Head Coach Mike Munoz.

Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

Five Others to Watch: Eric Ayuk, Bethlehem Steel FC; Ben Swanson, Pittsburgh Riverhounds; Devin Vega, San Antonio FC; Amirgy Pineda, Orange County SC; Nansel Selbol, Swope Park Rangers

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