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Players That Impressed Jun 26, 2023

Players That Impressed: 2023 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs

By Sean Maslin
SoccerWire Staff Writer

The top youth boys teams in the country wrapped up their 2022-2023 season over the weekend with the MLS NEXT Cup Finals taking place for the U15-U19 age groups.

The New York Red Bulls (U15), Atlanta United FC (U16), Los Angeles Galaxy (U17), and the New England Revolution (U19) claimed top honors over the weekend at Toyota Park in Frisco, Texas.

Here are some of the top performers from all four age groups (U15, U16, U17, and U19), sorted by graduation year.


Colton Swan | Forward
Michigan Jaguars (MI)

Led all players in goals in the U16 age group and helped propel the Jaguars to the MLS NEXT Cup semifinals. Swan likes to use his size and strength to take on defenders directly, but is also an expert passer and can find teammates out on the wings. He also bagged a brace in the Jaguars opener to help overcome a tough LA Surf side.



Julian Hall | Forward
New York Red Bulls Academy (NJ)

Earned Most Valuable Player honors for the U15 age group after a strong MLS NEXT Cup tournament. After CF Montreal took the lead in Saturday’s U15 final, Hall immediately countered, delivering a cracking strike to equalize. Scored five goals throughout the tournament and was a key cog for the Red Bulls attack all season. Hall has represented both the United States and Polish Youth National Teams.


Bobby Jacobs | Forward
Strikers FC-Irvine (CA)

Was the leading goalscorer in the U15 age group and scored several key goals for Strikers FC en route to their semifinal appearance. His ability to shake off defenders and deliver lightning quick strikers from both short and long range spelled trouble for defenders all season. Jacobs was called in the USYNT U15 ID Camp last August.


Julian Placias | Forward
LA Galaxy (CA)

Bagged six goals for the Galaxy in the U17 Division, including a brace in the final to lift the side over Real Colorado 4-2. At 6’2″, he is an asset both in the air and on the ground for the Galaxy. His second goal against Colorado showed that he can also create chances for himself, peeling past the final defender down the flank and slotting a low, hard shot past the goalkeeper.


Lucca Adams | Goalkeeper
LA Galaxy (CA)

Led the Galaxy to two clean sheets over the Philadelphia Union (0-0, 5-1 in penalties) and Total Futbol Academy (2-0) while making several key stops in their 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes in the U17 semifinals. Adams possesses limitless athleticism and makes even the most precarious diving stop look pedestrian. His field vision is also on point, allowing him to make the long throw out into space.


Harbor Miller | Forward
LA Galaxy (CA)

Sparked the Galaxy attack early in the final against Real Colorado with a scintillating strike to give the side the advantage in the final. Miller is a leader in every sense of the word and can seen in big games constantly talking to his teammates to keep them organized and composed.


Rocket Ritarita | Forward
Atlanta United Academy (GA)

Scored the second goal in Atlanta’s 3-1 win over Strikers FC to win the U16 MLS NEXT Cup. As his first name implies, Ritarita has a rocket of a shot and can hit shots on frame from a variety of spots on the pitch. His breakaway speed made him a dangerous piece on counter-attacks during the tournament and went a long way towards him earning Most Valuable Player honors for the age group. Has already made multiple appearances for Atlanta United 2’s MLS NEXT Pro side.


Mason Kutch| Midfielder
Solar SC (TX)

Scored a critical goal for Solar in their 2-0 win over Breakers FC in the U16 Quarterfinals. Throughout the tournament, Kutch’s distribution both to the outside and in tight spaces helped open up play for Solar. He is also a real weapon on set pieces and can help set up teammates and also make the decisive finish, when necessary.


Ashton Gordon | Forward
Atlanta United Academy (GA)

Led United in goals with four during the U16 playoffs and capped a tremendous 2022-2023 campaign with a strong effort throughout the sides time in Frisco. The Jamaican Youth International is always moving while on the pitch, always looking for a little wrinkle of space to exploit. His brace against Weston FC in Atlanta’s 3-1 win in the Quarterfinals helped the eventual champions overcome a very difficult defensive opponent.


Cooper Hineline | Forward/Midfielder
Real Colorado (CO)

Found the equalizer for Real Colorado in the U17 final against Los Angeles Galaxy and helped set up a frenetic final half on Sunday. Hineline has a clever right foot that he can use to hit accurate shots on target (including Colorado’s first goal against St. Louis in the Quarterfinals) or to find his teammates in open space.


Zachary Smuck | Forward
Barca Residency Academy (AZ)

Hammered home the game-winning penalty kick for Barca Residency Academy in their U17 playoff opener over Bethesda SC. Smuck provided a major spark for Barca in the final minutes of the match and has been a clinical penalty kick taker for the side all season long.


Jackson Delkus | Forward
St. Louis CITY SC (MO)

Scored three goals in St. Louis’ first two matches to lift CITY to wins over FC Boston Bolts (4-0) and Los Angeles Football Club (4-2). At the winger position, Delkus can use his speed to break through defenses and not only hit shots from inside the eighteen, but also create chances for his teammates. Has verbally committed to playing college soccer in 2024 at Saint Louis University.


Anchored the FC DELCO backline throughout the tournament and was instrumental in holding Weston FC to a 1-0 win in the U19 semifinals. The University of Maryland-College Park commit is also an asset on the attack, as evidenced by his coolly-placed game-winner in the Quarterfinals over South Florida Football Academy.

Hit the go-ahead goal for DELCO in the finals against the New England Revolution, earning him top scorer honors in the U19 age division. His goal scoring prowess aside, it was his leadership throughout the tournament that stood out, including the 3-2 nailbiter in penalties against SYC Springfield (1-1 in regulation). Reis has committed to playing college soccer next season at Northwestern University.

Anchored the Revolution defense throughout the tournament and made several key clears in the finals alongside Steban Betancur. Burkhardt makes efficient, tidy tackles in one-on-one situations and can make the narrow cross in tight spaces to help open up play. Has committed to playing college soccer next season at Boston College.

Max Weinstein


Earned Best Goalkeeper honors for the U19 age group after blanking FC Dallas 3-0 in the semifinals and Strikers FC 1-0 in the Quarterfinals. His best work may have been saved for the finals though where he held the potent DELCO attack to just a goal. In addition to leading the Revolution U19s to their second consecutive MLS NEXT Cup final, has also signed a professional contract with the club’s MLS NEXT Pro team.