Buying or developing young players and then selling them on for profit is the new ethos of MLS clubs (read: Miguel Almirón record-setting transfer to Newcastle).
The benefits are growing clearer as players like Miguel Almirón (above) and Alphonso Davies head to Europe:
- MLS teams add significant funds to use on youth development and player acquisition
- Both domestic and international players will see MLS as a destination for growth
- MLS’s international reputation will increase
Today, we’ll look at the players who could be next to go to Europe and continue the cycle.
Alberth Elis, Houston Dynamo
Rumors swirled about Elis going to Fenerbahce in Turkey this winter, but the two sides couldn’t agree on a price and the deal fell dead, at least until the summer transfer window. Big performances in the Concacaf Champions League and this summer’s Gold Cup for Honduras could further increase the 23-year-old’s value.
As a fast, skillful winger, Elis excels in counter-attacking systems that release him into space. His goal-scoring production is elite in MLS, though he can be streaky; he went cold for much of the second half of last year.
Ezequiel Barco, Atlanta United
MLS’s most expensive signing was a dud for much of 2018. By the end of the season, he was mostly a sub as Atlanta shifted to a three-at-the-back, and Tata Martino much preferred Julian Gressel. Off-field situations overshadowed much of Barco’s debut campaign.
He’s still only 19, though, and with Almirón sold to Newcastle and a new manager in the fold, Barco could see his role increase again. He was a prized prospect worldwide when Atlanta originally signed him, so chances are European teams will continue to think highly of him when ATL decide to start fielding offers.
Luciano Acosta, D.C. United
Acosta came within a thread of being sold to PSG at the end of the January transfer window. The French juggernaut will likely continue tracking the Argentine’s progress on a promising D.C. team, with Wayne Rooney continuing to prop him up. His scoring numbers skyrocketed when Rooney arrived last summer, and they promise to continue climbing in 2019.
Diego Rossi, LAFC
Alongside Carlos Vela at LAFC, Rossi put up 12 goals and nine assists in 32 games last year, scoring three goals and four assists in his first three games. Rossi, who will turn 21 in early March, scores his goals by slashing in from the wing and combining with Vela and Adama Diomande.
A Uruguay international who came through Penarol’s youth system, he fits the profile of a player who will draw the attention of European clubs. The rumors haven’t quite started yet, but continued elite production alongside a perennial MVP candidate in Vela will give LAFC some decisions to make.
Reggie Cannon, FC Dallas
Cannon, at the age of 19, carved out a regular role as FC Dallas’s regular starting right back last year and excelled, starting 33 games and emerging as one of the league’s top full backs. He earned a call to Gregg Berhalter’s initial USMNT January camp roster for his efforts.
Now 20 and firmly entrenched in the US’s right back pool, Cannon should start to gain attention from bigger clubs. FCD, prepping for an increased emphasis on youth this season, could look to sell for the right price at some point. A best XI-level performance this season, which is in the realm of possibility, could accelerate the process.