The Guardian releases a list every year of what it dubs the “Next Generation” of promising young players in world football. Americans rarely make the cut and even fewer of them from MLS academies.
This year’s list of 60 players born in 2005 includes two from MLS, with the Seattle Sounders’ Reed Baker-Whiting being the only American.
Curious about how big of a deal that is, I asked an MLS talent evaluator. He told me “It’s a big deal” and estimated there’s probably $500 million worth of future transfers on the list. None of that means there’s an imminent transfer offer coming for Baker-Whiting, but simply being identified, the evaluator told me, effectively puts him on the radars of some of the biggest clubs in the world. Werder Bremen, a team that traditionally competes in the Bundesliga, recently inquired about Baker-Whiting, for instance.
Here’s part of what the Guradian said about Baker-Whiting:
Baker-Whiting made his debut with the Tacoma Defiance in 2020 as a 15-year-old and signed with the Sounders just a couple of months after turning 16 in 2021. He has now compiled about 2,400 minutes between the Sounders and Defiance in his career, mostly playing as a midfielder. More recently, he’s been getting minutes as a wingback with the United States U19 team, even scoring and assisting during his most recent call-up last week.
Internally, the Sounders seem to be considerably higher on the potential of Obed Vargas, another 2005 player signed to the first team. Vargas, who has logged about four times as many first-team minutes as Baker-Whiting, was recently named No. 15 on MLSsoccer.com’s annual 22-under-22. Perhaps hurting his prospects, though, is the fact that he’s missed the last three months with a back injury.