Is MLS (Major League Soccer) a championship that attracts or exports talent? Is it a place to end a career or to start it? While these questions are part of the process that the league itself seeks to answer by changing the fan’s perception, the fact is that more and more players do not see MLS as a step backwards. The average salary is significantly lower than in many traditional European leagues, but even for emerging talents, MLS may be establishing itself as an interesting league.
With this potential in mind, scouting young talent in MLS can be a good opportunity. A lot of South American talent that imagines a journey to Europe while growing up in secondary leagues on the same continent is now less hesitant to go to the United States, a league that is perceived as a league on par with other more recognised leagues.
Searching in our database and crossing several visualizations, we find players under 22 years old who for some time or more recently are standing out and leaving great sensations.
Known for being the youngest player to make his debut in an MLS Cup final in 2021, Aidan Morris is more of a European profile than a North American one. In a league that is rife with carrying, constant attacking, one-on-one play and plenty of space to run and carry the ball, Morris is a midfielder who holds up, builds play and influences decisive possessions. He has already played for the US youth teams, including the U-20s, and is one of the best midfielders in the tournament at the age of 21. With American talent finding its way into European projects such as Red Bull and Leeds United, Morris could soon have a chance in European leagues. In this scatterplot we put together passing percentage with the metric ‘Build xG’ (being involved in possessions that end in a shot) where Morris appears close to players like Thiago Almada or Riqui Puig.
Gabriel Pereira and Kerwin Vargas
Similar is the case with Gabriel Pereira and Kerwin Vargas, two U-22s who are excelling in generating chances, imbalance in the final third and the ability to generate potential assists, also finding themselves among the best in the entire MLS 2023 competition (unfiltered by age, counting everyone).
As shown on the radar and also in the comparison with MLS wingers and midfielders, the Brazilian and Colombian are already among the best when it comes to producing expected assists and passes that end up inside the box.
Lucas Calegari and Alvaro Barreal
As is the case wherever competitive football is played, the full-backs of the teams with the most possession have wingers or wingers with good touch, ball retention, quality passing and ball progression, including good crossing ability.
Founded in 2017 as a consultancy, Driblab has driven innovation through data in all aspects of professional football. Thanks to a transversal model, its database collects and models statistics in all directions. From converting matches and videos into bespoke data for training academies to developing cutting-edge technology, helping clubs, federations and representative agencies in talent scouting and transfer markets. Driblab’s smart data is used by clubs all over the world, with success stories such as Dinamo Zagreb, Real Betis and Girondins Bordeaux among others. Here you can find out more about how we work and what we offer.