This year’s list is arguably the best yet, headlined by players capped by the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Canada, Jamaica, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Others have played for youth national teams in Spain, Argentina, England, and Uruguay. Past winners of the 24 Under 24 vote include Portland Timbers midfield marvel Darlington Nagbe, Vancouver Whitecaps FC sparkplug Darren Mattocks, Orlando City SC and US men’s national team speedster Brek Shea, Tottenham Hotspur’s DeAndre Yedlin, and Sporting Clube de Portugal’s Freddy Montero.
Montreal Impact vs. Chicago Fire (Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET, TSN): Chicago’s midfield duo of Harry Shipp (watch Shipp partake in real-life FIFA skills) and Matt Polster is the envy of MLS. The pair’s combination of soccer IQ, acumen, and vision should have them anchoring the Fire’s midfield for years to come. Perhaps the most impressive part of their quick MLS success is the seamless transition both have made from the NCAA ranks to MLS.
Other candidates: Victor Cabrera (MTL), Eric Miller (MTL), Donny Toia (MTL), Maxim Tissot (MTL)
New York Red Bulls vs. Orlando City SC (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, UniMás): At 20-years-old, Red Bulls center back Matt Miazga (watch Miazga discuss his Olympic dreams) has already established himself as a franchise centerpiece. The American international has shut down the likes of David Villa and Sebastian Giovinco this season, but he’ll have his hands full with first overall SuperDraft selection Cyle Larin (Larin talks about how he got his start), who’s on the brink of setting Major League Soccer’s rookie goal scoring record. Miazga, Larin, and Kemar Lawrence—who earned a Group Stage Top XI bid while representing Jamaica at this summer’s Copa America—are candidates for the top 10.
Other candidates: Anatole Abang (NY), Sean Davis (NY), Rafael Ramos (ORL), Carlos Rivas (ORL), Cristian Higuita (ORL)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. New York City FC (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, TSN1): No match features more 24 Under 24 candidates as Vancouver paces all MLS clubs with nine players on the shortlist, while NYCFC boasts four. Whitecaps FC’s Kekuta Manneh (watch Manneh’s journey from The Gambia to MLS), Octavio Rivero, and Matias Laba are all threats to crack the top 10, while revelation Kwadwo Poku--who has gone from unknown to local cult hero—has made a strong case for a spot in the top 5 this season.
Other candidates: Deybi Flores (VAN), Kianz Froese (VAN), Sam Adekugbe (VAN), Russell Teibert (VAN), Cristian Techera (VAN), Nicolas Mezquida (VAN), Angelino (NYC), Shay Facey (NYC), Khiry Shelton (NYC), Patrick Mullins (NYC)
Sporting Kansas City vs. Seattle Sounders FC (Sunday, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes): Balancing high-school with a professional soccer career isn’t easy, but Erik Palmer-Brown (read this feature on how Palmer-Brown juggles school and soccer) did just that for three years. This summer, the 18-year-old was a key cog for the U.S. squad at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, where the team advanced to the quarterfinals.
Other candidates: Amadou Dia (SKC), Cristian Roldan (SEA)
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake (Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, FS1, FOX Deportes): This match features two players called up to the U.S. U-23 Olympic Qualifying roster: San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Fatai Alashe (watch Alashe bust out the whip celebration), who is tied with Chicago Fire’s Matt Polster among rookies for most league matches started (24), and RSL midfielder Luis Gil, the U-23’s assist leader in 2015.
Other candidates: Tommy Thompson (SJ), Justen Glad (RSL), Jordan Allen (RSL), Olmes Garcia (RSL), Elias Vasquez (RSL), Joao Plata (RSL)
LA Galaxy vs. FC Dallas (Sunday, 9:30 p.m. ET, FS1, FOX Deportes): Two of the league’s most exciting players will grace the field Sunday at the StubHub Center when FC Dallas’ Fabian Castillo, who recently earned his first call-up to the Colombian National Team, and LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, possibly this year’s best mid-season acquisition, go head to head.
Other candidates: Bradford Jamieson IV (LA), Jose Villarreal (LA), Alejandro Zendejas (DAL), Kellyn Acosta (DAL), Tesho Akindele (DAL), Moises Hernandez (DAL), Victor Ulloa (DAL), Walker Zimmerman (DAL)