BEST YOUNG AMERICAN PLAYERS

PROFILING SOME OF THE UNITED STATES' EMERGING TALENTS

USA are an ever-improving football nation, now producing a number of high-level talents through their domestic development pathways and in Europe. Here are reports on some of their emerging generation. Each cover their backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses.

You can find more in-depth player reports in the Scouted Football Handbook, our quarterly magazine in which we profile 25 of the world’s best up-and-coming talents, with additional original features and exclusive interviews included.

LAST UPDATED: JANUARY 11, 2022

Gianluca Busio

Venezia's Gianluca Busio

DETAILS

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Gianluca Busio broke into Sporting Kansas City’s starting XI as a 16-year-old in 2018, immediately announcing himself as one of the premier talents of the US’ emerging 2002 generation. A further two seasons of semi-consistent involvement preceded a milestone move to US-owned Venezia, newly-promoted to Serie A, for a fee that could top out at €10 million. Busio is now a starter in Italy and a regular with the USMNT.

STYLE OF PLAY

Only one Venezia player has racked up more Serie A minutes than Busio this season, which says a fair bit. Busio is a pretty typical hybrid midfielder – neither a six nor an eight, he sits somewhere in between the two. In tandem with Ethan Ampadu, Busio is one of Venezia’s more frequent passer and regular ball-winners.

He gets around the pitch pretty well, moving vertically down the left channel to cover spaces in defensive phases and support moves in attacking sequences. He has a good engine to keep covering space throughout games, but his mobility is a little one-paced.

In possession, he has solid fundamental skills. Busio’s is a comfortable receiver of the ball, even on the half-turn, and moves the ball with adequate speed and tempo. His range isn’t expansive, but he keeps links play through his channel instead. All of this must be assessed within the wider context of Venezia’s lowly standing within Serie A. All told, Busio doesn’t look out of place at this level.

Weston McKennie

Juventus' Weston McKennie

DETAILS

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Initially breaking through in the Bundesliga with FC Schalke 04, Weston McKennie made a headline move to then-Serie A champions Juventus in 2020. It came as a little bit of a surprise, with his skillset not immediately suited to the elite level, but Andrea Pirlo carved out a niche role which he performed pretty well.

Since the return of Massimiliano Allegri, though, McKennie has struggled to be as impactful in a more conventional midfield role.

STYLE OF PLAY

McKennie is an energetic midfielder that adds a high intensity approach to every phase of the game. That was something Pirlo accentuated while coachig Juventus; he maximised his strengths and mitigated his weaknesses.

In possession phases, McKennie is at his best off the ball, seeking out spaces to burst into. He likes to break forward from deep, either running the channels or crashing the box. He has a good sense of timing when arriving into the penalty area, and it has been a semi-consistent source of goals throughout his career.

His weaknesses come to the fore then the American is on the ball. He can be very clunky in his movement and touches, lacking the required technical control to play quickly under pressure. He lacks range in his passing; his execution is erratic as well. His skillset doesn’t suit the typical match dynamic that top-level teams are faced with, unless he’s tasked with a very specific off-ball role. He also doesn’t like espresso and puts ranch dressing on pizza.

Yunus Musah

Yunus Musah playing for the USMNT

DETAILS

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

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Despite representing England right up to under-18 level, Yunus Musah is one of the US’ most exciting young prospects. He made the switch of nationality not long after he made an important leap in his club career – leaving home, Arsenal’s academy, for Valencia in Spain.

Since moving to the Mediterranean coast, Musah has been a regular in Valencia’s first-team line-ups in La Liga.

STYLE OF PLAY

A number eight in youth team football, Musah has found a role on the right-side of Valencia’s four-man midfield. In that outside role, he is tasked with providing a valuable pressure-release

He fulfills that task by utilising his explosive athleticism and direct ball-carrying abilities. His balance and strength on the turn enables him to spin out of pressure, before driving into open spaces. His touch allows him to weave through bodies and link play into higher areas.

The next step in his developemt is becoming more accustomed to playing the final ball in attacking sequences. He’s much more of a link player in his current form; adding a final third threat will benefit everyone.

Defensively, Musah is hard-working and robust. That combined with his progressive abilities means he has a highly-valued skillset in modern football.

Ricardo Pepi

Ricardo Pepi playing for the USMNT

DETAILS

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

2021 was a whirlwind year for Ricardo Pepi, with the American striker first taking centre stage with some great form in MLS before being drafted into the United States men’s national team, where he has also impressed. Suitors flocked from everywhere, but it was eventually FC Augsburg – backed by a wealthy US investor – who secured a move for the American in a big money move from FC Dallas.

STYLE OF PLAY

There is no doubt that the Pepi hype was aided by a hot finishing streak in 2021, but despite this, he did show signs of being both a decent goal scorer, as well as a useful player out of possession.
Above everything else, Pepi works incredibly hard. He is a great athlete – and he will continue to develop in this area – that can stretch defences with speed, but he also has the potential to develop into a really strong physical body as well. This will help him in aerial duels which are currently a weakness.

To become a top tier striker though, Pepi will need to add a little bit more to his game when in possession. He is currently a fairly low touch player that does not look to attack defences with the ball at his feet, despite ostensibly having the athleticism to drive past players. There is undoubtedly a lot to work with though, as the 2003-born striker continues to develop at the senior level.

The USA have a strong core of young players that are already playing to high levels in European football –see Christian Pulisic, GIovanni Reyna, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Sergiño Dest. Of the emerging generation, Ricardo Pepi is an interesting prospect, as is Brenden Aaronson.

FC Dallas have one of, if not the best youth development system in US football. Its produced a number of international-level players, including Chris Richards and Ricardo Pepi, and has a direct link with German giants, FC Bayern München.