MLS: Jordan Morris and other top young prospects to watch

CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Jordan Morris
CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Jordan Morris /

Seattle’s Jordan Morris will be just one of the talented young players looking to leave their mark in MLS in 2016.

Much has been said about Major League Soccer being a league for aging international stars looking for one last paycheck before retirement. Last season’s signings of Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo by New York City FC and Ashley Cole’s arrival to the LA Galaxy this year have done little to appease the label that MLS is a league for old men, especially considering that Lampard is set to miss NYCFC’s first game of the 2016 season.

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Still, there is a strong case to be made for the opportunities MLS presents to top young prospects looking to continue to make a name for themselves at the professional level. International players such as former Seattle Sounders forward Fredy Montero or young American defenders like DeAndre Yedlin are clear examples of players who developed their respective careers in MLS before making the jump overseas to join European clubs.

In Montero’s case, he moved on from the Sounders to join Portugal’s Sporting CP, where he went on to score 27 goals in 67 appearances. Yedlin, who is a regular in the U.S. National Team under Jurgen Klinsmann, currently features in the Premier League for Sunderland (on loan from Tottenham).

As the 2016 MLS season gets underway, there is once again a young crop of talented players, both American and international, who will be looking to shine as they debut in MLS. Here are the top prospects to keep an eye on this season:

Jordan Morris – Seattle Sounders (21 years old)

This is the obvious one. Morris needs no introduction as he went through an entire saga during the offseason that included rejecting an offer from German club Werder Bremen in order to stay at home in Seattle. The most anticipated young star to play in Major League Soccer since Freddy Adu, Morris already has an international goal to his name for the U.S. National team’s senior side.

Signed as a Homegrown Player, Morris is bound to feel right at home in Seattle, where his father is the team’s top surgeon. The young striker has already won the hearts of American fans after scoring against Mexico before turning pro:

Luciano Acosta – D.C. United (21 years old)

A crafty playmaker from Buenos Aires, Acosta joins D.C. United on loan from Argentinean powerhouse Boca Juniors, where he scored two goals in 25 appearances.

The young midfielder already showed flashes of class during the CONCACAF Champions League’s Quarterfinals. Despite his young age, Acosta has been exposed to the highest levels of the game, including seven games in Copa Libertadores. Fast and full of tricks, the Argentine will bring this kind of South American flair to D.C. United’s attack:

Lucas Ontivero – Montreal Impact (21 years old)

Ontivero is an attacking midfielder who played most recently for Galatasaray in the Turkish Süper Lig. Before then, the Argentine was developing his game at some of the best soccer academies in Europe, including Real Madrid, Tottenham and A.C. Milan.

In his fifth season as a pro athlete, Ontivero will provide another attacking option for Montreal, which includes dangerous long-range efforts, such as this one:

Brandon Vincent – Chicago Fire (21 years old)

Selected fourth in this year’s MLS SuperDraft, Vincent co-captained the Stanford University team that won the 2015 NCAA Men’s College Cup. A defender with the quality to push forward, Vincent was called up to the U.S. National Team’s January camp alongside former teammate Jordan Morris.

The defender, who grew up in Los Angeles, was named Pac-12 Defender of the Year on two occasions and was also Pac-12 Men’s Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2015.

Carlos Gruezo – FC Dallas (20 years old)

Expectations are high for the young Ecuadorian midfielder, who was signed as a young Designated Player by FC Dallas from Bundesliga side VfB Sttutgart.

Despite his age, Gruezo already has tons of experience. He was the youngest player in Ecuador’s squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and has accumulated 10 caps for the national team. Known for his versatility and strength, Gruezo is bound to cover some major ground in midfield for FC Dallas, just as he did for Sttutgart: