Kevin Baxter writes about soccer and other things for the Los Angeles Times, where he has worked for 27 years. He has covered seven World Cups, four Olympic Games, six World Series and a Super Bowl and has contributed to three Pulitzer Prize-winning series at The Times and Miami Herald. An essay he wrote in fifth grade was voted best in the class. He has a cool dog.
The U.S. and Mexican soccer federations are loaded with young talent that could alter the future of the teams for years to come. Here is a look at the top 10 Under-24 players on the Mexico and U.S. rosters:
Roberto Alvarado, 22, MF, Cruz Azul (Liga MX) ... Has appeared in 20 games for Mexico, including all six of El Tri’s matches in the last Gold Cup. ... Has three international goals. ... Helped Mexico qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Games.
Edson Alvarez, 23, D, Ajax (Eredivisie) ... Has made 35 appearances with the senior national team. ... Started three of Mexico’s four games in the 2018 World Cup and nine of Mexico’s last 10 Gold Cup matches. ... Played on consecutive league champions with Ajax, for which he has made 10 Champions League appearances. ... One of four under-24 players on the Nations League roster.
Uriel Antuna, 23, MF Guadalajara (Liga MX) ... Former Galaxy midfielder… Has played 16 times for the national team, picking up three goals and an assist in his first competitive game in 2019. ... Scored three times for Mexico in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, including the only goal in a 1-0 win over the U.S.
Gerardo Arteaga, 22, D, Genk (Belgium) ... Has played seven times for the senior national team. ... Made his professional debut for Santos Laguna as a 16-year-old and appeared in 19 games in his first season in Belgium.
Sebastian Cordova, 23, MF, América (Liga MX) ... Has played six times for the senior national team, scoring twice. ... Led the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament with four goals, helping Mexico earn a berth in Tokyo.
Diego Lainez, 20, MF, Betis (La Liga) … Made his first international start against the U.S. in 2018, the second of nine international appearances. ... His only international goal was a game-tying score in the final four minutes of a 2-2 draw with Algeria in 2020. ... Made his professional debut for América at 16 and then jumped to Betis two years later on a $15.4-million transfer, becoming the youngest Mexican player to emigrate from Liga MX.
Jose Juan Macias, 21, F, Guadalajara (Liga MX) ... Has four goals in five games with the national team. ... Saved Mexico with a game-tying score in the final nine minutes of regulation in the championship game of the Olympic qualifying tournament. ... Won the CONCACAF Champions League in Guadalajara in 2018.
The U.S. and Mexico national soccer federations took different paths to building their rosters. Nations League and World Cup qualifiers will show whether investment in youth worked.
Jorge Sanchez, 23, D, América (Liga MX) ... Has 12 appearances with the national team. ... Has won three leagues titles in Liga MX. ... Played in both of Mexico’s first two games this season.
Johan Vásquez, 22, D, Tigres, (Liga MX) ... His only international appearance was a 27-minute stint off the bench in a 2019 friendly with Trinidad & Tobago. ... Won the CONCACAF Champions League with Monterrey in 2019. ... Scored Mexico’s penultimate goal in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying competition, making the all-tournament team.
Alexis Vega, 23, F, Guadalajara (Liga MX) … Made the first of seven appearances with the national team in 2019. ... Scored his only senior international goal that summer against Cuba in the Gold Cup. ... Converted the winning penalty kick in the championship of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, where he was named best player.
Brenden Aaronson, 20, MF, Red Bull Salzburg (Austrian Bundesliga) … Made the first of four international appearances in 2020, scoring his first goal in his second game. ... Made the jump from MLS to Salzburg in January, scoring the second goal in his team’s win over Wien in the Austrian Cup in May.
Tyler Adams, 22, MF, RB Leipzig (Bundesliga) ... Played 35 times for U.S. youth national teams and made his senior debut in 2017 as an 18-year-old. ... Has 12 senior international caps. ... Scored the goal that sent Leipzig on to the Champions League semifinals last summer.
Reggie Cannon, 22, D, Boavista (Portuguese Liga) … Played the first of 14 games for the U.S. in 2018. ... Spent one year at UCLA before signing with FC Dallas as a teen. ... Moved to Portugal on a transfer last September.
Sergiño Dest, 20, D, Barcelona (La Liga) ... Has one goal in seven appearances with the national team. ... Became the first American to play for Barcelona last fall, going on to make 30 appearances last season. ... The son of an American father, he turned down his native Netherlands to play for the U.S.
Weston McKennie, 22, MF, Juventus (Serie A) … Has six goals in 21 games for the U.S. ... The Texas native spent seven years in the FC Dallas youth system but never played in MLS, making his pro debut in Germany with Schalke. ... Completed a $22.2-million transfer to Juventus last March. ... Had the fastest hat trick in U.S. history in 2019, scoring three times against Cuba in the first 13 minutes of a Nations League rout.
Yunus Musah, 18, MF, Valencia (La Liga) … Played the first of four games with the senior national team last fall at 17. ... Also made his first-team debut for Valencia last year. ... Played for youth national teams in England and was eligible to play for Ghana and Italy as well before choosing the U.S.
Christian Pulisic, 22, F, Chelsea (EPL) ... Turned down Croatia to play for the U.S. and made the first of 36 appearances with the national team in 2016, becoming, at 17, the youngest American to play in a World Cup qualifier. ... Two months later, he notched the first of 15 international goals, making him the youngest goal scorer in U.S. history. ... He is also the youngest American, at 20, to wear the captain’s armband. ... Jumped from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea in 2019 for a U.S.-record $73-million transfer fee.
Gio Reyna, 18, F, Borussia Dortmund (Bundesliga) … Made his national team debut the day before his 18th birthday. ... Has two goals in four games with the U.S. ... Is the son of former national team player Claudio Reyna. ... Passed up chances to play for Argentina, England and Portugal.
Josh Sargent, 21, F, Werder Bremen (Bundesliga) … Played 56 times for U.S. youth national teams. ... Made his senior debut in 2017, becoming the only American to be called up by the U-17, U-20 and senior team in the same calendar year. ... Made his senior debut in 2018 at 18, scoring in the second half of his first game.
Timothy Weah, 21, F, Lille (Ligue 1) … Made the first of 10 senior international appearances in 2018, a month after his 18th birthday. ... Scored his first goal two months later. ... Father George, the 1995 FIFA player of the year and widely regarded as the best African player of his generation, is the current president of Liberia. ... Timothy, born in New York, was eligible to play for France, Jamaica and Liberia before declaring for the U.S.