First there was Fredy Montero. Now DeAndre Yedlin has followed in the former Sounders FC dynamo’s footsteps as the top-rated player in MLSsoccer.com’s 24 Under 24 feature. On Thursday, Yedlin topped the illustrious list after being rated third in last year’s ranking, climbing to the top this year after a meteoric rise to stardom in 2014.
However, as with last year, Yedlin’s goals remain not to be just the best young player, but the best player.
“It’s pretty big. There are a lot of pretty amazing players on that list and just to be included on the list is an honor,” Yedlin said after returning from Sounders FC’s 12-day road trip that saw Seattle win a fourth Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title. “There’s a lot more that I need to do to reach that. Every day is another step. Getting this recognition doesn’t change that. Every day I’m working to get better. Whether I got this achievement or not, it wouldn’t matter.”
Yedlin had a standout year in 2013, earning a spot on the U.S. U-20 World Cup squad in June and the MLS All-Star team in August. He finished the year as a finalist in MLS Rookie of the Year voting, leading Sounders FC in minutes played and finishing with one goal and two assists.
However, That just scratched the surface for the Sounders FC Academy product and Seattle’s first Homegrown player signing.
He followed that up with his U.S. National Team debut in February and a second straight All-Star appearance. Most notably, though, he had a breakout performance in three matches off the bench for the U.S. National Team in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. That helped catch the eye of Tottenham Hotspur, prompting the Premier League club to sign Yedlin with the intention of having him in London in 2015. In the meantime, he remains a pivotal player for Seattle.
Now, as Montero prepares for UEFA Champions League with Sporting Lisbon in Portugal, Yedlin hopes to continue to follow in his footsteps when he joins Tottenham Hotspur next year.
“Fredy had an amazing career here and he was able to take his talents to Europe and he showed well there when he was starting. Hopefully I can follow that same path,” Yedlin said. “He’s a guy that I look up to and it’s pretty cool to be in the same category as him.”
Yedlin is the third consecutive player from the University of Akron to hold the top spot in MLSsoccer’s 24 Under 24 list. In 2012, Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Darren Mattocks earned the honor and last year it went to Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe.
That was a point of pride for Yedlin, who noted that there are plenty more former Zips in the pipeline like Columbus Crew midfielder Wil Trapp that can continue that tradition.
“It’s awesome for the school. It shows that they’re able to produce top talent,” he smiled. “Hopefully more will come out.”
With a healthy stock of players that have graduated from the Sounders FC Academy and many more that remain in the system, the future is bright for many more to follow the trail blazed by Montero and Yedlin.