Featuring a fine collection of current and prospective youth national team stars, League One continues to provide opportunities for rising talents. With the development of structured academies and by utilizing USL Academy contracts, a number of League One clubs are realizing the potential of investing in youth.
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Leading a number of promising NCFC youngsters, 17-year-old Nicolas Rincon has an incredibly high ceiling. The USL Academy signing just extended his deal with NCFC, confirming his return to League One in 2023. In his first professional campaign a season ago, Rincon saw action in the second half of North Carolina's season, scoring once and assisting twice in 11 League One appearances. An eye-opening one-goal, one-assist performance against Central Valley on Sept. 28, 2021 earned Rincon Player of the Week recognition, becoming one of the youngest players to earn the honor. Before he landed in Cary, the Colombian midfielder moved to Spain at a young age and developed with the RCD Espanyol youth academy in Barcelona before relocating to the United States in 2020. Showing promise with NCFC’s USL Academy and USL League Two teams earlier in 2022 - even being named to the 2022 USL Academy League Finals All-Tournament Team, Playoff Division - Rincon was signed to a professional contract with the first team in Aug. 2022.
After developing in North Carolina FC's youth programs for over 13 years and excelling with the first team on a USL Academy contract, 20-year-old Cole Frame was signed to his first professional contract with the club in Sept. 2021. The promising winger tallied three goals and two assists in 26 appearances during the 2021 season. In 2022, Frame saw action in 15 League One contests and NCFC's lone 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against Rio Grande Valley FC. Frame joined the NCFC youth program in 2009 and has received a number of accolades throughout his young career including a 2016 USYS National championship, a 2019 SuperCupNI Globe Cup championship in Northern Ireland, and ECNL First Team All-Conference honors for his performance with NCFC's U-19 academy team.
Luis Álvarez (right) | Image Credit: Diario Deportivo MÁS
Lining up alongside the likes of veterans Gabriel Obertan, Miguel Ibarra and Dane Kelly, 20-year-old Luis Álvarez is the youngest player on Charlotte's roster. The Honduran midfielder developed collegiately at Instituto España Jesús Milla Selva before joining the youth ranks of top-flight Honduran side Lobos UPNFM. Álvarez made his professional Liga Betcris de Honduras debut in August 2021 and went on to make 18 top-flight appearances with UPNFM between 2021 and 2022. Previously called into Honduras youth national team training camp, Álvarez makes the move to the United States to gain experience in League One in hopes of solidifying a position with Honduras in FIFA U-20 World Cup Indonesia 2023 should Los Catrachos qualify for the tournament.
Yoskar Galván | Image Credit: Union Omaha
The youngest professional player in Union Omaha's short history is back in Papillion, as Yoskar Galván returns for his third season. The 19-year-old Lexington, Neb. native has seen a sizeable jump in his playing time from year to year, going from two appearances and 39 minutes in Omaha's 2021 title-winning campaign to 10 appearances and 259 minutes across all competitions in 2022. Galván was also a part of the group of players to wear the Union Omaha crest for the first time, participating in the 2019 USL Academy Western Conference Regional Event in San Antonio, Texas. Galván has also been called into national team camp for the Guatemala youth national team.
Australian winger Jackson Khoury is heading to Statesboro to help Tormenta FC defend its crown. The 20-year-old spent a year with Sydney United 58 FC in Australia's second-division National Premier Leagues NSW. Between 2019 and 2021, Khoury made nine appearances with United 58's first team, scoring twice and assisting twice. Khoury helped United 58 claim a NSW State League title in 2020 with a goal in regulation and penalty kick conversion in the shootout. In 2022, Khoury spent time with the Central Coast Mariners Academy, which currently competes in the Y-League and National Premier Leagues. Khoury has also spent time with the Lebanon youth national team in previous camps.
Julio Benitez | Image Credit: Laura Dearden / Real Salt Lake
Forward Madison FC is adding some midfield depth with the addition of 17-year-old Julio Benitez who joins the 'Mingos on a season-long loan from Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake. Benitez kicked off his club career with the Real Salt Lake academy in 2019, where he spent two seasons and logged four goals in 17 appearances. At the age of 16, Benitez joined RSL's affiliate Real Monarchs. Across USL Championship (2021) and MLS NEXT Pro (2022) play with the Monarchs, Benitez made 14 appearances and totaled 686 minutes. In 2022, the Chandler, Ariz. native was signed as RSL's 29th all-time Homegrown Player. A former United States youth international, Benitez made two appearances in 2019 with the U.S. U-15 Boy's National Team against Russia and Poland as part of the UEFA Development Tournament.