FC Dallas placed themselves in the race for top spot in the Western Conference, defeating Los Angeles Galaxy 3-1 in the MLS on Saturday.

Three goals in the opening 23 minutes, including a brace from Jesus Ferreira, set the Toros up for a critical three points after slip-ups from both Austin FC and Los Angeles FC.

Douglas Costa's well-taken free-kick in the 67th minute proved to be mere consolation, as the Galaxy failed to break Dallas down and force their way back into the contest.

Dallas now sit second in the West, a point off LAFC, who conceded two penalties in the opening 30 minutes to lose 2-0 to Colorado Rapids.

With the win, the Toros were able to go past Galaxy and Austin, who let slip a 1-0 lead at half-time following Daniel Pereira's red card to lose 2-1 to Real Salt Lake.

There were goals galore elsewhere in the West, with Portland Timbers giving Sporting KC a 7-2 trouncing while Houston Dynamo defeated Nashville SC 2-0. The Vancouver Whitecaps and SJ Earthquakes played out a 3-3 draw.

Elsewhere, Philadelphia Union's 1-1 draw with New York RB has made for up a three-way tie atop the Eastern Conference.

Daniel Gazdag put the Union ahead after some neat combination with Sergio Santos at the top of the penalty area in the 47th minute, but Luquinhas managed to restore parity with his goal in the 66th minute.

They are joined at the top of the East following respective wins for CF Montreal and Orlando City over Charlotte and Toronto FC.

New York City were able to make up ground with their 2-0 win over Columbus Crew and Cincinnati beat Chicago Fire 2-1, while Inter Miami and DC United played out a 2-2 draw. 

 

Los Angeles FC and Philadelphia Union remain top of the Western and Eastern Conferences respectively despite playing out a 2-2 draw on Saturday.

Franco Escobar's goal in the 82nd minute salvaged a point for LAFC, who went down twice at home to eventually restore parity in the top-of-the-table clash.

Daniel Gazdag was on hand at the back post to score in transition in only the ninth minute for the Union, who looked to absorb pressure from there.

Kwadwo Opoku equalised in the 56th minute, but Julian Carranza restored Philadelphia's lead nine minutes later with a lovely curling finish, only off a step after stopping the ball dead with his first touch.

Escobar was the unlikely source of an equaliser despite LAFC's 66.5 per cent possession for the match, slotting home the rebound after a Jose Cifuentes header from a corner.

Philadelphia remain top in the East on 19 points, a point ahead of New York RB, who could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Portland Timbers.

CF Montreal took the three points and third spot from Orlando City in a 4-1 thumping, with Joao Moutinho's goal in the 72nd minute failing to stop a two-goal surge in the final 10 minutes. Atlanta United won with the same scoreline against Chicago Fire, who are now bottom of the conference.

With only nine points separating the 14 places in the East, Inter Miami also remain on 10 points after their 1-0 loss to Charlotte. New York City and Sporting KC played out a goalless draw.

New England Revolution and Columbus Crew finished with a 2-2 draw after substitute Erik Hurtado grabbed an 89th-minute equaliser for the Crew, while DC United defeated Houston Dynamo 2-0.

Cincinnati moved to fifth in East with a 1-0 win over Minnesota United via Brandon Vazquez's stoppage-time winner in the 93rd minute.

Meanwhile in the West, FC Dallas moved to third and returned the Seattle Sounders back to Earth after their CONCACAF Champions League triumph during the week, claiming a 2-0 victory.

In the other all-Western matchup, Nathan's goal in the 63rd minute was sufficient for the San Jose Earthquakes against the Colorado Rapids, taking a 1-0 win.

New York RB momentarily moved to the top of the Eastern Conference in the MLS on Saturday, coming from behind to claim a gritty 2-1 win on the road to the Chicago Fire.

A Patryk Klimala brace secured the win for New York, including a penalty in the 91st minute, as they claimed top spot in the East on goal difference over Philadelphia Union. Both are on 17 points, but Philadelphia are still to play Nashville on Sunday.

Chicago also scored from the penalty spot to hit the lead, with Xherdan Shaqiri converting in the 16th minute after Ashley Fletcher was judged to have handled the ball.

New York regrouped after a weather delay which forced the two sides off, and substitute Klimala eventually restored parity after a fine assist from Luqinhas in the 75th minute.

A clumsy challenge at the death from Miguel Navarro handed New York the chance to snatch an otherwise even contest, and Klimala calmly put his penalty away for the three points.

Orlando City also moved to 17 points with a 2-1 victory over Charlotte FC on Saturday, but have played 10 games in comparison to NYRB's nine and Philadelphia's eight.

Montreal CF and Columbus Crew kept within touching distance after respective wins over Atlanta and DC United meanwhile, and in Saturday's other Eastern Conference matchup, Cincinnati beat Toronto 2-1.

New England Revolution joined Inter Miami as one of the six teams on 10 points in the East, with Damian River and Adam Buksa giving them a 2-0 victory.

In the West meanwhile, Austin FC also came from behind to go top of the conference, beating Texan rival Houston Dynamo 2-1 but in much less dramatic circumstances than NYRB.

Sebastian Ferreira put the Dynamo ahead in only the fifth minute, but Daniel Pereira was able to equalise before the interval.

Sebastian Driussi kept up his recent goal-scoring form and provided the eventual winner for Austin in the 66th minute, finding a pocket of space in the penalty are before rifling into the top corner.

Los Angeles Galaxy lost ground despite dominating the game, losing 1-0 to Real Salt Lake after Marcelo Silva's goal in the 49th minute.

A Mark-Anthony Kaye goal on the counter in injury time secured a 2-0 win for the Colorado Rapids over the Portland Timbers, while Sporting KC and FC Dallas played out a 2-2 draw.

Inter Miami kept in touch with the mid-table in the tightly packed Eastern Conference after beating Atlanta United 2-1 on Sunday.

The home side had to come back from an early deficit after Atlanta's Ronaldo Cisneros broke the deadlock in the 13th minute, but a well-directed DeAndre Yedlin cross found Leonardo Campana for the equaliser 15 minutes later.

Campana then turned provider for the second goal, setting up Bryce Duke for the eventual winner in the 64th minute.

The hosts survived their second VAR review as Atlanta pleaded for a penalty in the closing stages, but it was not to be.

It was a gutsy effort from the Miami side, with just 37 per cent possession – including just 28 per cent in the second half – and seven shots, compared to Atlanta's 20.

Miami goalkeeper Nick Marsman kept his side in the contest with six saves, while it was a very different game at the opposite end for Atlanta's Bobby Shuttelworth, who was not credited with a save.

It was an absolute barn-burner when New York City FC hosted Toronto FC, with the home side holding on for a 5-4 win.

Incredibly, Toronto scored the first two goals of the game to lead 2-0 in the 27th minute thanks to a Jesus Jimenez brace, before a Valentin Castellanos reply kept New York in the game, trailing 2-1 at half-time.

In a remarkable start to the second half, New York added three goals in 13 minutes after Keaton Parks' finish made it 4-2 in the 58th.

When Gabriel Pereira made it 5-2 after 75 minutes, it seemed like icing on the cake, but it turned out to be crucial as Toronto snatched back two late goals in the 87th and 91st, ultimately running out of time.

It was much smoother sailing for New York Red Bulls, beating Orlando City 3-0 away from home to move up to second in the Eastern Conference.

Luquinhas delivered the only goal in the first half, before Cristian Casseres doubled the advantage shortly after play resumed, and Lewis Morgan put the finishing touches on with a late penalty.

Meanwhile, an Acosta scored for both teams in Los Angeles FC's 2-1 win against Cincinnati.

Cincinnati's Luciano Acosta broke the deadlock deep into first-half stoppage time, before Los Angeles' Kellyn Acosta equalised in the 59th minute.

Carlos Vela put Danny Musovski in to net the winner for Los Angeles in the 79th minute, holding onto top spot in the Western Conference.

LA Galaxy withstood a second-half barrage to win El Trafico, claiming a dramatic 2-1 win over LAFC on Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park.

Two goals in the opening half hour seemingly had the Galaxy on their way to a comfortable win, but the outcome arguably belied the overall performance, with LAFC on the wrong end of three disallowed goals.

Carlos Vela was ruled offside twice along with Latif Blessing, whose late equaliser was chalked off in the eighth minute of injury time, after Cristian Arango pulled one back in the 79th minute.

Samuel Grandsir assisted twice for the Galaxy, with his first a pinpoint cross at the back post for Javier Hernandez, who cunningly drifted off Mamadou Fall's shoulder in 13th minute.

A second from Sega Coulibaly ultimately proved sufficient, as the Galaxy moved to four wins and one defeat in games where they scored the opening goal in the MLS this season.

The win puts them a point off LAFC in the Western Conference and tied for second with Real Salt Lake, who failed to move to top spot with a 2-2 draw to Toronto.

Philadelphia Union remained top of the Eastern Conference, meanwhile, after their 1-0 win over Columbus Crew.

Union took the lead in only the second minute and in calamitous circumstances, with Crew keeper Eloy Room mishandling a cross into the box, before the ball trickled into his own net.

Jim Curtin's side was content to absorb pressure as the Crew spent the rest of the match trying to break them down, and failed to create anything of substance.

Orlando City moved to second in the East with a 1-0 win over a ten-man Chicago Fire, leapfrogging New York Red Bulls, who lost 2-1 at home to Montreal.

In the other early game on the East Coast, a Leonardo Campana hat-trick gave Inter Miami their first win of the season, in a 3-2 victory over New England Revolution.

In the later games on Saturday, Nashville defeated Sporting KC 2-1, while Houston Dynamo fought from a 2-1 deficit to defeat San Jose Earthquakes 4-3.

Goals from Brandon Servania and Jesus Ferreira on either side of the interval handed Dallas an eventual 3-1 win over Colorado Rapids.

Los Angeles FC maintained top spot of the Western Conference in the MLS on Sunday, claiming a gutsy 4-2 win away to Orlando City.

LAFC led twice in the first half at Exploria Stadium but were pegged back on both occasions, first by a finely taken goal from Alexandre Pato in the 36th minute.

Sensing where the ball would drop following Mauricio Peyeyra's delivery into the penalty area, Pato set himself and calmly volleyed past Maxime Crepeau.

But Ilie Sanchez rifled in a third LAFC goal six minutes into the second half and the visitors were able to absorb Orlando pressure thereafter.

After some important saves from Crepeau, substitute Kwadwo Opoku sealed victory in stoppage time, moving Steve Cherundolo's side to 13 points from five games after four wins and a draw.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Union were also able to keep their place atop the Eastern Conference with a 2-0 win at home to Charlotte FC.

The Union took the lead in uncomplicated fashion after only four minutes, with Sergio Santos running onto a ball over the top and crossing for Julian Carranza from the byline.

Daniel Gazdag doubled the lead a minute into the second half, with that two-goal margin enough for the Union to see out the win and themselves move to 13 points.

New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United stayed within three points of Philadelphia in the East with respective 1-0 victories over New England Revolution and DC United. Columbus Crew lost at home to Nashville, with Alex Muyl's lone goal the difference.

A Gonzalo Higuain penalty counted for little for Inter Miami, who remain rooted to the bottom of the ladder in the East after Phil Neville's side lost 3-1 to Houston Dynamo. Chicago Fire and FC Dallas played out a goalless draw, while Toronto FC beat reigning MLS Cup champions New York City 2-1.

CF Montreal edged FC Cincinnati in a seven-goal thriller, trailing twice in the first half before recovering to win 4-3.

In the Western Conference, Real Salt Lake fell two points behind with a 1-1 draw away to Colorado Rapids, while Austin FC conceded two goals in as many minutes to draw 2-2 against San Jose Earthquakes.

Ryan Raposo's 73rd-minute winner was enough for Vancouver Whitecaps at home to Sporting Kansas City, while Brent Kallman's own goal ultimately condemned Minnesota United to their first defeat of the season, losing 2-1 to Seattle Sounders.  

LAFC maintained top spot of the Western Conference in the MLS on Sunday, claiming a gutsy 4-2 win away to Orlando City.

Though the visitors hit the lead twice in the first half at Exploria Stadium, the Lions equalised as many times, including a finely taken goal from Alexandre Pato in the 36th minute.

Sensing where the ball would drop following Mauricio Peyeyra's ball over and into the penalty area, Pato set himself and calmly volleyed past Maxime Crepeau.

Ilie Sanchez rifled home a mere six minutes into the second half and from there, LAFC were able to sit and absorb Orlando pressure.

After some important saves from Crepeau to deny a third equaliser, substitute Kwadwo Opoku was able to score an injury-time sealer in transition, moving Steve Cherundolo's side to four wins and a draw from five games.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Union were able to keep their place atop the Eastern Conference, with a 2-0 win at home to Charlotte FC.

The Union took the lead after only four minutes and in uncomplicated fashion, with Sergio Santos running on to a ball over the top and assisting for Julian Carranza from the byline.

Daniel Gazdag doubled the margin a minute within the restart, and similarly to LAFC, absorbed pressure in their defensive half to see out the win to move to 13 points from five games.

NY Red Bulls and Atlanta stayed within three points of Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference with respective 1-0 victories over New England Revolution and DC United. Columbus Crew dropped points at home to Nashville, with Alex Muyl's lone goal the difference.

A Gonzalo Higuain penalty would not suffice for Inter Miami, who remain rooted to the bottom of the ladder in the East, after Phil Neville's side losing 3-1 to Houston Dynamo. Chicago Fire and FC Dallas played out a goalless draw, while Toronto FC beat reigning MLS Cup champions New York City 2-1.

In the Western Conference, Real Salt Lake fell two points behind with a 1-1 draw away to Colorado, Austin FC conceded two goals in as many minutes to eventually play out a 2-2 draw against San Jose Earthquakes.

Ryan Raposo's 73rd-minute winner was enough for Vancouver Whitecaps at home to Sporting KC, while Brent Kallman's own goal eventually condemned Minnesota to their first defeat of the season, losing 2-1 to the Seattle Sounders.  

Carlos Vela scored and provided an assist while Ryan Hollingshead netted two goals, as LAFC came from behind to win 3-1 over Vancouver Whitecaps and move into top spot in the MLS on Sunday.

The Whitecaps took a 12th-minute lead from Tristan Blackmon's instinctive close-range finish, but the 2019 MLS champions rallied, led by former Mexico international Vela.

Vela's 27th-minute corner was met by Hollinghead with a powerful header for the equaliser before the ex-Arsenal attacker struck at the second attempt with a 38th-minute left-foot volley.

Hollingshead wrapped up all three points with the pick of the goals, unleashing a fine low right-foot strike from the edge of the box in the 70th minute.

The result means LAFC have collected 10 points from four games, to sit atop the Western Conference with the best record in the MLS. Winless Vancouver have one point from four games.

Darlington Nagbe poked home a dramatic 95th-minute equaliser as Columbus Crew snatched a 1-1 draw at New York Red Bulls, denying the hosts top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Tom Barlow had inadvertently put the Red Bulls ahead in the 84th minute from a scramble following a corner but Nagbe pinched a point late after reacting quickest from Steven Moreira's low cutback.

Diego Fagundez earned Austin a 1-1 home draw with Seattle Sounders with a 70th-minute strike, after Will Bruin opened the scoring in the 43rd minute from Cristian Roldan's assist.

Seattle's Kelyn Rowe came closest to a winner with a 74th-minute effort hitting the crossbar.

Atlanta United completed a 2-1 win over Charlotte FC in dramatic circumstances on Sunday, while the New York Red Bulls suffered a first defeat of the season at home to Minnesota United.

Josef Martinez put Atlanta in front with an hour played, converting from the spot for his first goal of the campaign – the Venezuelan having failed to score in his first two starts of a season for the first time prior to matchday three.

Adam Armour nodded Charlotte level from a Benjamin Bender delivery just six minutes later and that looked set to deprive Atlanta of the three points.

But in the sixth minute of stoppage time, a raking Marcelino Moreno pass found Jake Mulraney on the right and his left-footed effort was deflected out of Kristijan Kahlina's reach to spark bedlam in the stands.

There was no such late rescue for the Red Bulls, however.

Gerhard Struber's men were the dominant force, managing 18 shots to Minnesota's five, but they could not find a way past the inspired Dayne St. Clair in the visitors' net.

Patryk Klimala spurned the best chance of all after just 14 minutes, with his feeble penalty kept out by St. Clair, who was only starting due to first-choice Tyler Miller being ruled out with an illness.

That was one of eight saves made by St. Clair, the most made by any goalkeeper in a single game this season.

Minnesota were more clinical, with Luis Amarilla converting with a well-taken volley from 10 yards early in the second half.

The Red Bulls were unfortunate not to get a late penalty after John Tolkin's pass appeared to be handled in the box, but Minnesota survived that scare to claim their first win of the season and prevent the home side from becoming the only side in MLS to have a 100 per cent record after three matches.

Former New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips has re-signed with the club on a one-day contract, in order to officially finish his career and retire with the MLS outfit.

The ex-attacker is set to move to a new role in Harrison as Special Assistant to the Sporting Director, after two seasons with Los Angeles FC and Columbus Crew respectively.

After confirming his retirement this week, the two-time Golden Boot winner has now officially signed off with the side he helped fire to a hat-trick of Supporters' Shield triumphs over a seven-year stint.

"It wouldn’t have felt right retiring somewhere else, especially in America, it wouldn’t have felt right," Wright-Phillips said in a statement. "I am honoured to get the opportunity to retire here, it means a lot to me."

Sporting Director Denis Hamlett, who Wright-Phillips will link up with, paid further tribute, adding: "There was no question in our minds to bring Brad back to the club following his retirement.

"The expansive experience that Brad brings from the field will be helpful in the development with our young players, while at the same time, Brad getting crucial experience on the sporting side for his own professional development."

Having broken through alongside brother Shaun at Manchester City, Wright-Phillips spent several seasons in the second and third tiers of English football, claiming the League One crown with Charlton Athletic in 2011-2012.

But it was in MLS where he made his name, joining the Red Bulls ahead of the 2013 season and helping to establish them as regular contenders.

He still holds the record for the most goals at the club, with 125, and won the Supporters' Shield on three occasions, in 2013, 2015 and 2018.

Efrain Alvarez's stunning 77th-minute strike silenced the MLS record crowd of almost 75,000 fans as LA Galaxy got past newcomers Charlotte 1-0 on Saturday.

Expansion side Charlotte drew a single-game attendance record of 74,479 fans, eclipsing the 73,019 mark set by Atlanta United in the 2018 MLS Cup.

Galaxy had the better of the chances with Victor Vazquez hitting the woodwork in the 18th minute, while Javier Hernandez forced a good save from Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina.

Alvarez made the decisive breakthrough with a spectacular left-foot shot from outside the box which nestled into the top corner to spoil the Charlotte party.

Scottish forward Lewis Morgan netted a first-half hat-trick as New York Red Bulls won 4-1 away to Toronto.

Morgan's finishes for his opening two goals were similar, set up by Patryk Klimala with curling right-foot shots in the 17th and 24th minutes.

Jesus Jimenez pulled one back for Toronto, before Klimala released Morgan on halfway and the Scot raced forward to slot home for his treble.

Carles Gil's penalty on the stroke of half-time earned 2021 Supporters' Shield winners New England Revolution a 1-0 home win over Dallas. The victory meant Revs head coach Bruce Arena became the all-time leader among MLS coaches for regular-season wins.

Francisco Calvo scored twice in the final 10 minutes as 10-man San Jose Earthquakes salvaged a 3-3 draw with Columbus Crew.

Ola Kamara netted a stoppage-time winner for DC United as they beat Cincinnati 1-0, while Chicago Fire and Orlando City drew 0-0 and Real Salt Lake won 1-0 over Seattle Sounders.

Colorado Rapids won 3-0 over Atlanta United at home and Vancouver Whitecaps held on for a goalless draw with reigning MLS Cup champions New York City.

Sporting KC got past Houston Dynamo 1-0 while 10-man Philadelphia Union edged Montreal 2-1 and Minnesota United drew 1-1 with Nashville.

Former Arsenal forward Carlos Vela netted a hat-trick as LAFC crushed Colorado Rapids 3-0 on the opening day of the 2022 MLS season on Saturday.

Vela struck twice within six first-half minutes, first from the penalty spot before getting in behind the Colorado defence and calmly finishing past goalkeeper William Yarbrough.

The former Mexico international produced his best goal of the game to complete his hat-trick in the 50th minute, curling in a fine left-footed shot from just inside the box.

Vela only managed five goals from 20 MLS appearances last season with LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo cautiously optimistic about his potential impact this term.

“We will have to wait and see what it does. But I think we all know what he can do,” Cherundolo said. “He showed it again today and he worked very hard in preseason to get to where he is today. I'm very happy for him and the group that we're all rewarded for it.”

Yimmi Chara's spectacular 78th-minute goal earned Portland Timbers a 2-2 draw with 2021 Supporters' Shield winners New England Revolution.

Portland, who reached the MLS Cup final last year, found a way back with Chara firing home a stunning overhead goal while Jozy Altidore debuted for the Revs as a 79th-minute substitute.

Ex-Liverpool and Bayern Munich midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri made his debut for Chicago Fire as they drew a blank in a 0-0 draw at Inter Miami.

Leonardo Campana's 10th-minute header from Gonzalo Higuain's cross hit the crossbar for Miami, while Chicago's Stanislav Ivanov struck the upright in the 31st minute. Shaqiri was impressive throughout, with a long-range first-half chance his only major goal attempt.

Toronto, who made a major off-season signing with Lorenzo Insigne to join in July, only managed a 1-1 draw at Dallas.

Philadelphia Union started its new season with a 1-1 home draw against Minnesota United, with Cory Burke levelling Robin Lod's 23rd-minute strike.

New York Red Bulls won 3-1 at San Jose Earthquakes, while Columbus Crew swept aside 10-man Vancouver Whitecaps 4-0.

Cecilio Dominguez netted a double as Austin won 5-0 over last year's bottom side Cincinnati, while Michael Estrada scored a brace as DC United eased past newcomers Charlotte 3-0.

2021 is dead – long live 2022.

It's a new year, and while the one changing to a two literally overnight may seem arbitrary, it gives us an excuse to look ahead and what's on the horizon.

Of course, we're now into a World Cup year – 12 months from now, we'll have newly crowned world champions and, who knows, maybe a new superstar or two will have emerged.

While there's no guarantee about a player's trajectory, Stats Perform have at least put together a list of 22 under-22 players who could be worth keeping an eye out for in 2022.

GOALKEEPERS

Etienne Green, 21, English – Saint-Etienne

Honestly, he's not included just because of the perfection of a player called Etienne Green playing for Les Verts, Saint-Etienne – though that certainly warrants a mention. Colchester-born Green has played 23 times in Ligue 1 for the club, making Leeds United's Ilan Meslier the only goalkeeper born after 2000 to play more often (53) across the top five leagues. In April he became the fourth Ligue 1 keeper since Opta records began (2006-07) to save a penalty on his debut and he's since gone on to nail down a starting spot. Having recently declared for England over France, Green could be an outside bet for Gareth Southgate's squad at Qatar 2022.

Maarten Vandevoordt, 19, Belgian – Genk

In 2019, Vandevoordt became the Champions League's youngest ever goalkeeper at 17 years and 287 days old – it proved to be a bit of a nightmare as Genk lost 4-0, with youngster at fault for two goals. It would've been enough to shatter the confidence of most young players, but Vandevoordt's since gone on to become first-choice, playing 16 league games in 2020-21 and all 21 this term.

DEFENDERS

Kaiky, 17, Brazilian – Santos

If there's any area of the pitch that one might consider to be the hardest to establish yourself in as a young player, most would say centre-back. Yet, despite not turning 18 until January 12, Kaiky has racked up an impressive number of appearances there for Santos. He played more minutes in the 2021 Brasileirao (1,334 minutes) and the Libertadores (495) than any other under-19 player and has impressed with his comfort in possession, aerial ability and demonstrable appetite for defending. He has a long way to go, but he sure has made a promising start.

Becir Omeragic, 19, Swiss – FC Zurich

Omeragic is among the most highly rated young centre-backs in Europe and was in Switzerland's Euro 2020 squad – despite still being only 19, he's already played 71 Swiss Super League games for Zurich. This season he ranks highly in numerous metrics among defenders, such as tackle attempts (29, fifth-highest), interceptions (26, seventh-highest) and possession won (105, fifth-highest), while he offers good progression on the ball, his carry progress of 1,796.6m upfield being the fourth-best among all defenders – two of those are full-backs. Expect to see him in one of Europe's biggest leagues fairly soon.

Ilya Zabarnyi, 19, Ukrainian – Dynamo Kiev

Previously linked with Chelsea, among other major clubs, Zabarnyi caught the eye at Euro 2020 with some mature displays. Despite being the joint-youngest player in the squad, Zabarnyi was one of the five players to play every minute for Ukraine, and among those to feature for at least 100 minutes, he ranked in the top three for touches (72.8) and passes (60.6) on a per-90 basis. Similarly, only four played more passes into the final third than him (4.7), and three of those were midfielders. A move to a bigger league will give us a better idea of just how good Zabarnyi is, but the promise is there.

Ethan Laird, 20, English – Swansea City (on loan from Manchester United)

Manchester United have rated right-back Laird highly for a while – he actually made his senior debut for them as far back as November 2019 in the Europa League. Since then, he showed great promise at Milton Keynes Dons and then followed coach Russell Martin in making the jump to the Championship with Swansea City, where he's continued to impress. Only three defenders in the division have created more chances than him in open play (23), while his five big chances created is the second-most in the Swans squad. With Aaron Wan-Bissaka seemingly unable to kick on at United, Laird's opportunity may arrive in 2022.

Alex Balde, 18, Spanish – Barcelona

Barcelona have seemingly once again become great trusters of youth – not that their situation has given them much of a choice. Balde's not yet one of those to become a regular, and you'd think he will struggle to dislodge Jordi Alba at left-back, but in his four LaLiga appearances the 18-year-old has shown real promise with his ability on the ball and pace. Given his skillset and Xavi's desire to play with classic wingers, he may find himself used further up the pitch – either way, he's definitely one to watch.

George Bello, 19, American – Atlanta United

Nigeria-born Bello may not be 20 until late January, but he's already made a strong impression in MLS, so much so that he became a regular part of the USA's senior side in 2021. Added to that, his 2,433 minutes played was the most of any MLS player to end the season as a teenager. An attack-minded left-back, Bello is excellent on the ball and possesses great pace, and he may well be on the move soon given his contract expires at the end of 2022. If anyone takes a punt, they could be rewarded handsomely.

MIDFIELDERS

Yacine Adli, 21, French – Bordeaux (on loan from Milan)

Milan fans have every reason to be excited about Adli. The kind of silky playmaker that makes almost everything look effortless, he has created more chances after a carry (11) than any other midfielder in Ligue 1 this term. He may not be a great goal threat himself, but his six assists is the second-most among the same group of players (Dimitri Payet has seven) – all of Adli's were from open play, however, which is the most the league's midfielders. Whether he can keep that up at Milan is unclear, but if he can, they'll have a real asset on their hands.

Unai Vencedor, 21, Spanish – Athletic Bilbao

Athletic are one of LaLiga's stranger teams in that they don't win, lose, score or concede very often, yet that's not stopping Vencedor from thriving. A controlling presence with satisfying calmness on the ball in centre midfield, Vencedor is mature for his age and already has significant influence over Athletic's play. Just Iker Muniain and Inaki Williams have been involved in more open-play shot-ending sequences than Vencedor (47) among Athletic players, while the former (eight) is the only one with more instances of being involved in build-up and taking the shot (five) at the end, highlighting his importance to not only keeping them on the ball but also posing an attacking threat.

Nicolo Rovella, 20, Italian – Genoa (on loan from Juventus)

Granted, Rovella's hardly a hidden gem given Juve signed him in a deal potentially worth €20m last January, but he's still not quite a household name. Nevertheless, he looks a real prospect. A deep-lying midfielder, Rovella is elegant on the ball, hard-working without it and excellent at set-pieces. For struggling Genoa this season, his 4.0 possession wins every 90 minutes in the middle third is the 15th highest among Serie A midfielders (min. 500 minutes played), as is his 1.4 successful tackles – though only four players from the same group who have attempted at least 20 boast a better success rate than him (71.4). There's talk he could be recalled by Juve in January, which highlights the impression he's making.

Caden Clark, 18, American – RB Leipzig

With goals against Atlanta United and then Toronto four days later in October 2020, Clark became the youngest player MLS history to score in each of his first two games – the second was an absolute scorcher as well. The 18-year-old agreed a move from New York Red Bulls to RB Leipzig in 2021 and he officially makes the switch in January, with no return loan planned. The technically gifted midfielder has his chance to make it in the big-time, and the Bundesliga has previously been a good next step for MLS stars.

Hannibal Mejbri, 18, Tunisian – Manchester United

Some United fans are disappointed Hannibal didn't get more opportunities under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and he's been restricted with Ralf Rangnick because of his involvement in the Arab Cup and the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations. But when he returns, there's every indication he may get more chances, or at least that's what Rangnick recently intimated. A silky and creative midfielder, but one who has a tendency to lose his head, Hannibal might be able to provide the extra injection of craft often missing from United's midfield.

WINGERS

Kayky, 18, Brazilian – Manchester City

There's every chance Kayky and Angelo could be challenging each other for a spot in the senior Brazil team one day. Now at Manchester City after joining from Fluminense in a deal apparently worth an initial £8.4million, Kayky's development is going to be fascinating to watch. With Flu, the talented winger became the club's youngest player and goalscorer in the Libertadores before making the switch to England in pre-season. He was on the bench for the Boxing Day win over Leicester City, and with COVID-19 cases proving an issue across the Premier League, there's every chance we may see a bit more of Kayky in the near future.

Angelo Gabriel, 17, Brazilian – Santos

Every year it seems there's a new Brazilian teenager causing a stir and subsequently being linked with a big move to Europe – the latest is Angelo Gabriel. The newest 'new Neymar', Angelo is actually a left-footed right winger but the similarities in style of play are at least comparable in that he's a good dribbler, skilful and likes to cut inside off the flank. Angelo's made the jump up to the first team a little earlier than Neymar, though – he only turned 17 in December but already has 51 first-team appearances to his name. In April, he became the Copa Libertadores' youngest-ever scorer (16 years, 105 days old) and was also the only under-17 player to feature in the 2021 Brasileirao.

Alan Velasco, 19, Argentinian – Independiente

Showing quality in Argentina's domestic league isn't always a guarantee of future greatness, but doing well as a tricky youngster does speak to a certain degree of bravery and resilience given the brutal reputation of the top flight. Velasco is among the league's most-promising young players, a skilful, quick and dangerous left winger. His 62 chances created this season is the fifth most in the division, while no player can better his 198 dribbles completed. Could he be a wildcard choice for Argentina at the World Cup? Don't rule it out.

Rayan Cherki, 18, French – Lyon

It feels like 2022 could be a massive year for Cherki. The versatile attacker is still nowhere near being a regular at Lyon, despite many feeling Peter Bosz's appointment might prove a boost to the teenager – after all, he played an important role in developing Kai Havertz and Florian Wirtz. Yet, the raw ability is undoubtedly there for Cherki – whether he'll be able to harness that properly at Lyon remains to be seen, with suggestions growing that he might seek a move away in the next year.

FORWARDS

Yuri Alberto, 20, Brazilian – Internacional

Yuri Alberto looks likely to be 'one who got away' for Santos. He left for Internacional in 2020 after initially showing promise at Vila Belmiro and has been a shrewd acquisition, scoring 22 times in 56 Brasileirao appearances, the most of any player currently 24 or younger. His 12 in the 2021 season was only bettered by four players and he scored more hat-tricks than anyone else (three) during the calendar year – one of those being netted in the late-finishing 2020 campaign.

Mohamed-Ali Cho, 17, French – Angers

A dynamic, exciting forward who is most comfortable out wide at the moment, Cho may only be 17 but he already has 39 Ligue 1 appearances under his belt. Where France seem to have lost out to England with Green, Les Bleus look to be winning the battle for Cho, who spent five years at Everton until 2020. Now a France Under-21 international, Cho is the youngest player to have scored in Ligue 1 this season having netted against Rennes back in August when he was aged 17 years and 222 days.

Ricardo Pepi, 18, American – FC Dallas

Yes, another American. While Clark may not make it into the United States' World Cup squad, Pepi almost certainly will. A very well-rounded striker who is tall, agile and hard-working, Pepi has also – perhaps most importantly – proven an able finisher, with his 13 MLS goals in the 2021 season being the joint-most ever managed by a teenager in the competition. Similarly, he's also the youngest player to ever score in consecutive World Cup qualifiers for the USA. He has a long-term contract at Dallas, but no one would be surprised to see him leave for Europe in 2022, with Germany a likely destination. Expect him to fetch the largest ever fee for an American leaving MLS.

Matias Arezo, 19, Uruguayan – River Plate (URU)

Uruguay has produced some truly great strikers down the years. After more of a barren spell in that regard since Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez came through, there is once again a cause for optimism with Darwin Nunez, Agustin Alvarez and, arguably chief among them, Arezo. He scored 13 times in 35 Uruguayan Primera appearances last term – he surpassed that haul with 15 from six fewer appearances in 2021. For comparison's sake, Suarez got 10 in 27 in his first full season in the division with Nacional, while Cavani recorded nine in 25 appearances for Danubio before moving to Europe. A well-built striker, he's definitely one to watch ahead of the World Cup – assuming Uruguay get there.

Julian Alvarez, 21, Argentinian – River Plate

A sensational last couple of months in 2021 elevated Alvarez to a new level, one which has seen him mentioned regularly in transfer gossip columns – United are apparently especially keen. The striker, now an Argentina international, scored a total of 24 club goals across 2021, while also setting up a further 12 in the league, showing both his ability to finish chances and create them. A move abroad seems highly probable – where that takes him and how he does will be intriguing to watch, particularly ahead of the World Cup.

Ralf Rangnick has strengthened his Manchester United staff by bringing in assistant coach Chris Armas and sports psychologist Sascha Lense.

Interim manager Rangnick has until the end of the season to make his mark at Old Trafford, with scope for two further years as a consultant, after club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked in late November.

Former RB Leipzig head coach Rangnick started with a 1-0 home triumph over Crystal Palace on Sunday, becoming the first German boss to win his opening game in the Premier League after five countrymen previously tried and failed.

United technical director Darren Fletcher and coach Kieran McKenna acted as assistants for that victory and Rangnick has now bolstered his backroom staff with new appointments.

Lense has worked alongside Rangnick previously, most recently at RB Leipzig, while United's new boss got to know former New York Red Bulls manager Armas while operating as Red Bull's global head of sport and development.

"It won't be that many [staff coming in]," Rangnick told a news conference on Tuesday. "So far I'm very happy to work with the staff I have met last week, and they gave me a lot of help in the last couple of days in preparation for the Crystal Palace game.

"We have decided to bring in a sports psychologist, with Sascha Lense. He's from Germany, he's a former second division player.

"I worked with him for three years at Leipzig, in the year I won promotion from the second to the first division myself and the following two years when Ralph Hasenhuttl was head coach and Zsolt Low – the current assistant coach of Thomas Tuchel [at Chelsea] – was assistant coach.

"I will also have one other assistant coach, with Chris Armas. Chris used to be the assistant coach at the New York Red Bulls under Jesse Marsch. That was five years ago, when I first met him. Since then, we have met quite frequently."

With United's spot in the next round of the Champions League already confirmed, Rangnick has hinted at heavy rotation for Wednesday's home clash with Young Boys, who have not won away in the Champions League or European Cup since August 1960.

The 63-year-old Rangnick confirmed that Donny van de Beek and Dean Henderson will start and told the club's official website that Nemanja Matic will captain the side.

Sporting Kansas City won through to the Western Conference semi-finals after accounting for Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 in the MLS Cup play-offs.

Khiry Shelton, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Graham Zusi scored as Sporting KC earned a showdown with either Seattle Sounders or Real Salt Lake.

Sporting KC entered Saturday's play-off with three straight defeats. The three previous times they lost their last regular-season match before the post-season, the club were eliminated in their first play-off tie (1997, 2014, 2017).

But Sporting KC defied that record thanks to their performance at Children's Mercy Park, where Shelton opened the scoring in the 17th minute.

The Whitecaps – who had won just one of their nine games away to Sporting KC, dating back to September 2017 – equalised via Cristian Dajome's 39th-minute penalty.

Sporting KC, however, restored their advantage when Isimat-Mirin struck in the third minute of first-half stoppage time and Zusi sealed the victory 13 minutes into the second period.

In the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia Union booked their spot in the semi-finals thanks to a last-gasp 1-0 win against New York Red Bulls after extra time.

Jakob Glesnes' thunderous and dramatic volley in the 123rd minute sent the Union through to the next round of the play-offs.

The Red Bulls had lost only one of their last 12 matches (W7 D4) en route to qualifying for their 12th straight postseason – the second-longest streak in MLS history (Sounders 13 in a row, 2009-present). The 25 points the Red Bulls also collected since September 17 were the most in MLS in that span.

Next up for the Union is a meeting with either Orlando City or Nashville.

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