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January 2023 Transfer Window Preview

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December 2023
The January transfer window is fast approaching and this window is typically the most action packed for MLS players . Unlike most leagues,the January Transfer window is in the middle of their offseason. Here at US Soccer Collective, we focus on young American prospects, so this transfer window preview will have our own twist on it. We are going to look at the top U21 players, those born in 2003 or later, and opine on whether they should stay at their MLS club or look for a move to Europe. In many cases it is a nuanced question that depends on a set of circumstances. 
Jalen Neal, center-back for LA Galaxy


CB, Jalen Neal, LA Galaxy (2003)

Neal became a first team starter for the first time in 2023 and was having a very positive campaign until an abdominal injury in the Gold Cup ended his season. Neal was the youngest starting CB in MLS last year and I think he would benefit from another year in Los Angeles to gather first team minutes before making a move. 

AM/WING, Brian Gutierrez, Chicago Fire (2003)

In an ideal world, Chicago moves on from Shaqiri and gives the offensive keys to young Brian Gutierrez. He plays much better without Shaqiri on the pitch and a full season as the primary playmaker for Chicago would be beneficial to him and the organization. Chicago just gave Gutierrez a new contract, so it’s highly unlikely he leaves this January and another season of high offensive output and growth will help increase his demand and potential transfer fee in the future. 

GK, Chris Brady, Chicago Fire (2004)

This one is simple — keep stacking first team minutes and experience. Unless somebody comes in with an offer Chicago cannot refuse, there is no reason for Brady to leave yet. 

LB, Caleb Wiley, Atlanta United (2004)

I want to see Wiley get an entire season playing at left-back and see if he has it in him to become one of the better left-backs in MLS at the age of 19. If he can, I think Atlanta could sell him next January for 7-8M.

LB, Noah Allen, Inter Miami (2004)

Not very many young left-backs will ever have the chance to learn under one of the great left-backs of their generation (Jordi Alba). Alba is 34 and while he will be the first choice left-back, it’s not likely that he will be able to play more than 1,500 minutes this year given his age and the likelihood that he will play through minor injuries while in MLS. There should be minutes for Allen and I think one more year in Miami would serve him well. 

CM, Benja Cremaschi, Inter Miami (2005)

I don’t think Inter Miami will have the budget to go out and add significant pieces to their midfield so I think Cremaschi is in store for another involved season. A full season with Messi and friends should further increase Cremaschi’s star and development. If he develops and puts up good performances Miami will be able to sell him for quite a bit next January. 

DM, Obed Vargas, Seattle Sounders (2005)

It’s time for Seattle to turn a page and give more opportunity to their talented young players. Vargas should play over 1,500 minutes next season and continue to develop as a midfielder. 


CM, Jack McGlynn, Philadelphia Union (2003)

I am leaning towards a “Go” for McGlynn. Whilst Bedoya may be leaving and that would open up even more minutes for McGlynn, I don’t really have a lot of questions left about what McGlynn can do in Major League Soccer.f the right opportunity came about in Europe, I wouldn’t mind seeing him test himself abroad. Eventually he will need to move to Europe and succeed in order to break into the USMNT midfield. 

The right level: Top of the table in Belgium or Netherlands or mid-table Italy

WING/AM, Diego Luna, Real Salt Lake (2003)

Luna became one of the most important players for Real Salt Lake down the stretch and if RSL is committed to starting him consistently next year I have no problem with him staying. If the right offer comes in, I’d also be open to him leaving because I think his game could translate really well in Europe and succeeding in Europe could give him the juice he needs to break into the USMNT.

The right level: Top of the table in Belgium or Netherlands

RB, Kayden Pierre, Sporting Kansas City (2003)

2023 was a super unfortunate season for Pierre who lost almost all of it to hamstring troubles. Had he stayed healthy, we might be talking about him as a true breakout player. Instead, Jake Davis got an opportunity at right-back for SKC. The big question here is if SKC is committed to Davis long-term or if they are open to Pierre competing for the starting spot. Pierre is the more talented player, but Davis now has a full season under his belt as a starter. If they are committed to Davis, they should shop Pierre. 

The right level: Mid-table Belgium or Netherlands, top of the table Denmark or Austria

RB/LB, Reed Baker-Whiting, Seattle Sounders (2005)

Baker-Whiting started to display his serious potential towards the end of last season and hopefully Seattle is ready to give him a bigger role. He can play at right-back or left-back and I am hoping Seattle makes a move to free up a starting spot at either position so he can really grow. If Seattle doesn’t do that, I wouldn’t mind him making a move. 

The right level: Top of the table Belgium or Netherlands


WING, Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes (2003)

Cowell has been rumored to leave San Jose for the last few seasons and I think this might be the window it finally happens. Cowell has struggled to improve his decision making and production over the last two seasons and I think a change of scenery is needed to rejuvenate his career. 

The right level: English Championship

CM, Owen Wolff, Austin FC (2004)

I think Wolff needs to go prove that he can play for someone that isn’t his father and the good news is that he has the talent to do so. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if he gets 2,000 minutes in MLS next year, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him go to a good developmental league in Europe.

The right level: Mid-table Belgium or Netherlands, top of the table Denmark or Austria

AM/CF, Quinn Sullivan, Philadelphia Union (2004)

It sounds all but certain that Carranza is going to be sold, but I am not convinced that means that there will be more minutes for Sullivan. I’ve also never thought Philly’s system suited him well because of the wide positions that he has played and the frantic game model that Phill deploys. I think he’s better suited in a more central, attacking-midfield role in a system that relies more on possession. For these reasons I think it’s time to let Sullivan go. 

The right level: Mid-table Belgium, Netherlands or Germany with loan to 2nd tier

CB, Brandan Craig, Philadelphia Union (2004)

Somebody has made a mess of Craig’s early career. Is it Philly’s fault? Is it his agent’s fault? Is it Josh Wolff’s fault? The answer is probably yes. Craig lost a season of development after Philadelphia loaned him to Austin who apparently had zero interest in playing him. Because of league rules, that also meant he could not play for Austin’s second team in MLS Next Pro. The result, almost no match time. It’s possible that Craig didn’t show enough to either Philadelphia or Austin in training, yet whenever we see him play for USYNT, he plays well. It’s time for a fresh start. 

The right level: Top of the table Belgium or Netherlands with loan to 2nd tier

CM, Noel Buck, New England Revolution (2005)

Buck’s stock in England seems to be sky high after a breakout season in Major League Soccer and his integration into the English Youth National Team setup. For that reason, I think it’s time for New England to cash in and for Buck to make the move. 

The right level: Mid-table EPL with subsequent loan to a Championship side

Scouting Approach

How I approach scouting, grading and tiering youth prospects.