Josh Sargent is my beautiful perfect son and I will fight you if you say otherwise.
NUMBER TEN: HOPE YOU LIKE KIDS WAIT THAT CAME OUT WRONG
Defining different central midfield slots is slightly silly since most players suited for the center of the field are at least somewhat flexible, but in an effort to organize our thoughts we'll do it anyway. So: the USA hasn't had a Central Attacking Midfielder or Number Ten or Trequartista or Guy Who Tries To Be Messi of much note pretty much ever. (Clint Dempsey was always a striker.) There were some promising folks over the last two cycles but for whatever reason Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan existed on the fringes of the national team.
American 10s in MLS include those rapidly aging guys, a couple more even fringier members of the pool, and File Not Found. Inserting Pulisic here is an obvious option and may be the way it ends up, or the US could just roll out a couple box to box types like they did when Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones were freed to run by the insertion of Kyle Beckerman behind them. I bet one dollar that's this cycle's solution, with a really fast right back who overlaps and frees Pulisic to tuck inside.
But a speculative name or five here anyway, all of whom are absurdly young. Maybe one of these guys will get good enough fast enough to be relevant. All ages are as of 2022, so... yeah.
Andrew Carleton (22), Atlanta United. Carleton has been a next big thing for a couple years now but he's stuck behind a boatload of expensive South Americans in Atlanta and only gets scattered matches for them. Intra-MLS loans aren't really a thing so Carleton's in a bit of a tough spot.
Richie Ledezma (21), RSL. Ledezma is trialing with Dutch powerhouse PSV and turns 18 in September so wouldn't have a full limbo year if he does go. Ledezma is getting semi-regular minutes in the USL already.
Josh Pynadath (20), Ajax. Pynadath had a couple of years with Real Madrid's academy and is now at Ajax—his mom's job got moved to Holland. He plays on both wings for Ajax but a dual-footed guy with the kind of ball skills Pynadath has is a natural candidate to move inside. He could realistically play anywhere across the attacking midfield level of a 4-2-3-1, but he's 16 so he could also be a potato you never hear about again.
Giovanni Reyna (19), NYCFC. Yes, that Reyna. He'll hook up with a European club as soon as his EU passport goes through and from there will hope to bust into a starting lineup. Realistic best case scenario is another Pulisic type rise where he plays a bunch for a big team and gets integrated the year before the WC.
Gianluca Busio (19), Sporting KC. Youngest MLS signing since Freddy Adu, and it's appropriate to mention Adu in a section in which the oldest guy is 18. Can get an Italian passport so could be another quick move across the Atlantic.
By 2021 everyone except Carleton should be pushing to break through at a high(ish) profile Euro club. There's no better example of the academy effect than the next gen of potential 10s; previously American 10s have been limited in numbers and opportunity since MLS tends to target foreign players at that spot. USL opportunities for teenagers have the potential to break out a number of skilled attackers both here and abroad.
This has been the most crootin' section of this post.
[After the JUMP: still fairly crootin sections.]