Ten of the Best young MLS Players to watch in 2021

Discussing the young players that could shine during the upcoming campaign is always fun. But with Major League Soccer seemingly producing more promising youngsters than ever before at the moment, choosing just ten young MLS players to watch in 2021 is hard than you might think. However, I’m pretty confident that the young MLS stars in this post are going to enjoy plenty of success when the new season kicks off on April 17. So, without further add, here are ten of the best young MLS players to watch in 2021.


Jesus Ferreira – FC Dallas

  • Age: 20
  • Position: Forward

Jesus Ferreira enjoyed an eye-catching breakthrough season back in 2019, notching up eight goals and five assists while helping FC Dallas reach the playoffs. But in 2020, the forward only managed to contribute one goal and one assist in 19 MLS appearances.

However, if his recent showing for the USMNT is anything to go by, Ferreira looks set to light up Major League Soccer in 2021. In just his second game for the national team, Ferreira scored twice and assisted three goals as the US thrashed Trinidad and Tobago 7-0 in early February. Needless to say, Dallas supporters will be hoping for more of the same this year. The Colombian-born prodigy is quick, physical, and confident with the ball at his feet. If he continues to add more goals to his game in 2021, there is no reason why he can’t challenge for the Golden Boot.


Efrain Alvarez – LA Galaxy

  • Age: 18
  • Position: Attacking Midfield

It is often easy to forget that Efrain Alvarez is still just 18.

Despite making his MLS debut in 2019, the silky midfielder has already made 34 appearances for the Galaxy – and his return of three goals and five assists is pretty good, too! Alvarez’s creativity saw him become a key member of a struggling Galaxy side last season. But with Greg Vanney now at the helm in Carson, I’m expecting Alvarez to get even more opportunities to show what he can do this year.

Alvarez netted 13 goals in 25 matches for Mexico U17 but gained a USMNT call-up towards the back end of 2020. The prodigy is yet to represent either country at senior level, although it’s safe to say that US soccer fans are eager for him to pledge his allegiance to the country of his birth. Regardless of what happens on the international stage, Alverez is definitely one of the top young players to watch in MLS in 2021.


Dayne St. Clair – Minnesota United

  • Age: 23
  • Position: Goalkeeper

Okay – we all know that 23 isn’t young in the world of soccer.

I mean, Lionel Messi won his first Ballon d’Or when he was 22. But it wouldn’t exactly be fair to measure an MLS youngster against Messi, would it?

However, at 23, Dayne St. Clair is young in goalkeeping terms – and I can see the Minnesota United shot-stopper enjoying plenty of success in 2021. As you can see from the table above, St. Clair recorded the best shutout percentage in Major League Soccer last season, keeping a clean sheet in exactly half of his 16 regular-season outings.

Despite playing ten games less than Joe Willis, St. Clair only finished three shutouts shy of the Nashville gloveman on the overall leaderboard. If the Canadian continues to post those kinds of numbers in 2021, the Loons will stand an excellent chance of emulating last season’s run to the conference finals.


Jeizon Ramirez – Real Salt Lake

  • Age: 19
  • Position: Right Winger

After making a name for himself at Deportivo Tachira, big things were expected of Jeizon Ramirez following his switch to Real Salt Lake last year.

The Venezuelan prodigy was signed as a Young Designated Player prior to the start of the previous campaign, with many believing that he would become an instant hit in Major League Soccer. But as it turned out, he only ended up playing 81 minutes of soccer for RSL in 2020.

Ramirez was limited to just nine substitute appearances last term, meaning that he wasn’t really given enough time to prove his worth. Still, I can see the young winger featuring more prominently for Real Salt Lake this year. I’m backing Ramirez to be one of the young breakout players in MLS this year.


Cole Bassett – Colorado Rapids

  • Age: 19
  • Position: Central Midfield

Just like Alvarez, it feels like Cole Bassett is another young MLS star who has been around for a while now. Having made his Colorado Rapids debut back in 2018, the 19-year-old is already closing in on a half-century of appearances in Major League Soccer. In 2021, he looks set to become one of the youngest players in history to surpass that landmark.

To give you an idea of just how good Bassett is – the teenager racked up the most goal involvements for a player under the age of 20 in MLS last season. After earning a place on the 46-man shortlist for the 2020 MVP Award, Bassett has clearly got what it takes to be a star. He is already one of the top young players in MLS – and he will surely further cement his status in 2021.


Frankie Amaya – FC Cincinnati

  • Age: 20
  • Position: Attacking Midfield

When Frankie Amaya became the first overall pick at the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, American soccer was ready to welcome a new star. But it’s fair to say that Amaya is yet to fulfil his potential. It is no secret that FC Cincinnati has struggled since joining the league two years ago. In fact, Jaap Stam’s side became one of the worst teams in MLS history last season, ending the campaign with a points per game ratio of 0.69.

As a result, Amaya has only managed to contribute one goal in 43 games for the Ohio franchise. Still, there is absolutely no denying that he can be one of the best young players in MLS in 2021. As the first overall draft pick, Amaya was always going to be under huge pressure to succeed in Major League Soccer. But now that the hype has died down, I’m expecting the 20-year-old to prove what he is capable of this year.


Michael Baldisimo – Vancouver Whitecaps

  • Age: 20
  • Position: Defensive Midfield

Michael Baldisimo is the latest success story to come out of the Whitecaps’ academy – and I can see the young gun becoming one of Vancouver’s most important players in 2021. The gifted defensive midfielder found himself in and out of Marc Dos Santos’ starting XI for much of last season. But in my opinion, when Baldisimo is in the team, the Caps feel like a much more complete outfit.

It is difficult to think of another MLS youngster with a better passing range than Baldisimo. The Canada U23 international is capable of spraying the ball all over the pitch, making him a serious threat from a deep-lying midfield position. Put it this way – if soccer teams had quarterbacks, Baldisimo would fit the role perfectly.


Luis Binks – CF Montreal

  • Age: 19
  • Position: Centre-Back

Luis Binks joined CF Montreal from EPL club Tottenham in February 2020 but earned himself a move to Serie A side Bologna just a few months later.

Fortunately for Theirry Henry’s team, the talented defender will spend the 2021 MLS season back on loan at Saputo Stadium.

Binks is the ideal modern-day centre-back, mixing physicality and awareness with pace and passing. The England U19 international became a pivotal figure for Montreal last year – and he will almost certainly play a key role again in 2021.

Having come through the Spurs academy, Binks’ quality is clear for all to see. He made the transition from England to Major League Soccer look easy, so I’m looking forward to watching him develop further this year.


Andres Perea – Orlando City

  • Age: 20
  • Position: Defensive Midfield

American soccer fans were over the moon with Andres Perea’s recent decision to swap Colombia for the USMNT. The Orlando City youngster represented Colombia at U20 level before making his US debut in that 7-0 thrashing of Trinidad and Tobago.

Now, the 20-year-old will aim to establish himself as one of the best young players in MLS.

Perea’s versatility saw him become a favorite under Lions head coach Oscar Pareja last season. The adaptable prodigy featured everywhere from defensive midfield to center-forward in 2020, although he looks most comfortable in a deeper role. Not only did Perea appear in all but one of Orlando’s 29 matches last term, but he also played a key role in his side’s push to the conference semi-finals. 2021 is destined to be an exciting year for Perea.


Ayo Akinola – Toronto FC

  • Age: 21
  • Position: Forward

After netting five goals in TFC’s first two games at the MLS is Back Tournament, people were talking about Ayo Akinola as a potential Golden Boot winner last season. Unfortunately, a couple of injuries prevented the Detroit native from challenging the league’s top scorers in 2020, although he still managed to bag four more goals in 13 subsequent appearances last term.

If Akinola can stay injury free this year, the sky’s the limit for the young Toronto striker. Having shown everyone glimpses of what he is capable of last season, I’m expecting Akinola to hit the ground running in 2021. With rumours continuing to circulate regarding Jozy Altidore’s future, Akinola could soon be the Reds’ main goal-getter.

Closing Thoughts on Young MLS Players to Watch in 2021

Major League Soccer is churning out more young players than ever before right now – and so many of them are worth keeping an eye on in 2021.

During the offseason, we have already seen MLS youngsters like Brendan Aaronson, Bryan Reynolds, Mark McKenzie, and Daryl Dike earn European transfers. Who knows, maybe some of the players on my list will be next in line. Whittling down the best young MLS players in 2021 is no easy task, but I’m sure you’ll agree that all the youngsters in this post could go on to achieve big things this year.

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