Five Young American Soccer Players Destined to Become USMNT Stars in 2020

By Ben Morris in Soccer
| April 6, 2020 2:10 am PDT
5 Young USA Players to Watch in 2020

After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, American soccer hit an all-time low. The USMNT was under fire, and it was clear that the squad was in need of a serious revamp.

Fortunately, there seems to be a flourishing crop of young players emerging at the moment, and the new generation is ready to fly the flag.

US soccer fans will be well aware of Christian Pulisic’s exploits. The poster boy moved from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea in a whopping $73 million deal, becoming the most expensive American player in history. But at 21, Pulisic is already a fully-fledged USA international.

In this post, I assess the next batch of up-and-coming players and look at five teenagers who are destined to become USMNT stars in 2020.

Sergino Dest

The nation blew a collective sigh of relief when Sergino Dest chose the US over the Netherlands.

  • Age: 19
  • Club: Ajax
  • Position: Right-Back

When Sergino Dest officially committed his international future to the USMNT, American soccer was given a huge boost.

Born in the Netherlands to a Surinamese-American father and a Dutch mother, Dest had a big decision to make. He could either play for the US, whom he’d represented at youth level, or the Netherlands, the country of his birth.

But after making his competitive senior debut for USA in November 2019, there was no turning back. And as if that wasn’t proof enough, Dest was named US Soccer’s Young Male Player of the Year a month later.

Dest has enjoyed a remarkable breakthrough campaign with Ajax. The youngster only made his debut at the beginning of 2019/20, but he has since established himself as the Dutch outfit’s first-choice right-back.

Like all top modern-day full-backs, Dest is a genuine threat in attack. His composure in the final third has seen him notch up five assists in 20 Eredivisie appearances this term, while his energy enables him to get up and down the pitch effortlessly.

But Dest is also very strong defensively. His awareness is excellent, and he never shies away from his responsibilities. It’s clear that he has benefitted from the world-class soccer education that Ajax provides.

Dest is reportedly a major target for German giant Bayern Munich, and it’s easy to see why. The young right-back has an exciting future ahead of him, and he looks set to be a USMNT mainstay for years to come.

Giovanni Reyna

The son of USMNT legend Claudio Reyna has a lot to live up to, but he’s already writing his own story.

  • Age: 17
  • Club: Borussia Dortmund
  • Position: Attacking Midfielder

Giovanni Reyna is another youngster who recently pledged his commitment to the USMNT. The 17-year-old has been making waves in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund, and now he’s ready to take the international scene by storm.

If the surname sounds familiar, there’s good reason for that. Giovanni’s father Claudio made over 100 appearances for USA and featured at four World Cups. Now it’s time for another Reyna to make a name for himself.

And if Giovanni’s early performances are anything to go by, American soccer has got a gem on its hands. Reyna has already made a big impact at Dortmund, and he’s only going to get better.

Reyna recently became the youngest-ever player to score a goal in the German Cup. But it was no ordinary goal. After skillfully weaving past a number of defenders, Reyna curled the ball into the top corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area. This moment of brilliance instantly announced Reyna to the world.

With two Champions League appearances under his belt already, Reyna is clearly a special talent. Furthermore, Dortmund is the perfect place for the creative midfielder to learn his trade, so he is likely to flourish over the next couple of years.

If Reyna can emulate his father’s achievements, he’ll certainly enjoy a successful career. However, early evidence suggests that he’s got what it takes to outshine his predecessor.

Ulysses Llanez

Ulysses Llanez is one of the latest in a long line of American youngsters tearing it up in Germany.

  • Age: 19
  • Club: Wolfsburg
  • Position: Right Winger

Born and raised in the Los Angeles suburb of Lynwood, Ulysses Llanez rose to fame in LA Galaxy’s academy. Naturally, his outstanding record of 48 goals in 79 youth-team games didn’t go unnoticed, and it wasn’t long before Europe’s top clubs came calling.

In the end, German side Wolfsburg won the race for Llanez’s signature, and he signed his first professional contract with the Bundesliga outfit on his 18th birthday.

It’s no surprise that Llanez has hit the ground running in Germany. The exiting young forward is yet to make a senior appearance for the Wolves. But after registering eleven goals and six assists in just 16 appearances for the Under-19s, it’s surely only a matter of time before he gets his opportunity in the first team.

Llanez’s dribbling ability has seen him compared to Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho. He is more than happy to run with the ball and take on opponents, while his fearless approach leads to a frightening number of goals and assists.

A goal on his USMNT debut immediately endeared him to American soccer fans, and he’s destined to have many more memorable moments for the Stars and Stripes.

Konrad de la Fuente

Can Konrad de la Fuente become the first-ever American to represent Barcelona at senior level?

  • Age: 18
  • Club: Barcelona
  • Position: Left Winger

Konrad de la Fuente was born in Miami to Haitian parents. But when he moved with his family to Spain at the age of 11, he was given an opportunity that very few American soccer players are fortunate enough to get.

After making a name for himself at local team Damm, de la Fuente was snapped up by Barcelona. The winger joined La Masia, Barcelona’s famous academy that produced none other than Lionel Messi, and he hasn’t looked back since.

Of course, it’s not going to be easy for de la Fuente to break into Barcelona’s senior side. It goes without saying that Barca is one of Europe’s elite clubs, so the competition for places at Camp Nou is extremely fierce.

But with three goals from five UEFA Youth League appearances in 2019/20, there is no denying that the Florida native has got bags of potential.

Not only is de la Fuente super quick, but his decision making also is top-drawer for someone so young. The speedy winger is comfortable on either flank, while his ability to beat defenders in one-on-one situations makes him very dangerous.

If de la Fuente continues his rapid rate of progression, he is on course to become the first US international to play for Barcelona’s first team.

Richard Ledezma

A technical midfielder with an eye for a killer pass, Richard Ledezma is destined to go far.

  • Age: 19
  • Club: PSV Eindhoven
  • Position: Attacking Midfielder

A Real Salt Lake City youth product, Richard Ledezma crossed the pond in January 2019 to hook up with Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, and his European switch has proved to be a huge success.

Ledezma spent the first six months with PSV’s U19 squad, working with former Real Madrid and Manchester Unites striker Ruud van Nistelrooy. And after impressing the Netherlands legend, Ledezma was quickly promoted to the U21s.

The attacking midfielder has been in sparkling form for Jong PSV this season, netting four goals and recording three assists in the Dutch second tier. Ledezma’s efforts were even rewarded with a spot in PSV’s senior squad earlier in the campaign, although he was an unused substitute on that occasion.

Still, you can’t help but feel that Ledezma is on the verge of breaking into PSV’s first team. His versatility means he is capable of playing anywhere across the midfield, while his technical talent makes him lethal with the ball at his feet. His intricate passing also unlocks defenses with ease, so he’s got all the right attributes to become a world-class midfielder.

Ledezma is yet to make his USMNT debut. But having bagged two goals in three appearances for the U23s, his inclusion in the senior team is surely a formality.

Final Words

Is the USMNT about to hit a golden generation? Following years of disappointment, it finally looks like the future of American soccer is in safe hands.

Christian Pulisic is obviously leading the way, but there are plenty of other exciting youngsters ready to turn the national side into a force to be reckoned with.

If you can think of any other US teenagers that deserve their name on this list, feel free to share your suggestions in the comments section below.

Also, head over to our soccer blog for more content like this.



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