The IMG Academy Top 150 update for girls in the 2018 graduating class is out today, and based largely on her performance at the NTC Invitational, Real Colorado defensive midfielder Jaelin Howell is the new No. 1. Howell performed exceptionally well with the U.S. U17 Women’s National Team at the recent tournament in California, her efforts against Japan in particular, elicited glowing remarks from head coach B. J. Snow. When not on national team duty, Howell commands the midfield for Real’s U15s, the No. 7 team in the Grande Sports Academy TeamRank Top 25. Tophat SC forward Rachel Jones and CASL midfielder Brianna Pinto performed for the U17s as well, climbing to No. 3 and No. 5, respectively. Jones finished her USYS National League season with a league-leading 12 goals, six ahead of her closest competitor with one weekend remaining.
Scattered among the rest of the rankings are players who came highly recommended based on their play since the last update, or with national and regional teams in the last couple of months. These players either increased their ranking or make their debut with the IMG Academy 150 with this update.
Indiana Fire midfielder Cassidy Lindley, FC Stars of Massachusetts forward Olivia Wingate, Eclipse Select midfielder Amanda Rapaduski, Oklahoma FC goalkeeper Hensley Hancuff, and Real Colorado left back Shae Holmes are a few to be highlighted here. Lindley, who has been in the top 100 for this age group since the rankings began, earned her first youth national team invitation from U.S. Soccer with the U16 GNT, after several appearances with US Club Soccer’s id2 program, and climbs to No. 42. Also id2 alumnae, Wingate and Rapaduski earned appearances with the U.S. U16 GNT this month as well, and land at No. 55 and No. 83, respectively. Hancuff, at No. 99, plays for Oklahoma FC’s USYS National League squad, has already caught the eye of top college programs and along with the others in this group, spent a week in February with the U16 GNT. And finally, Holmes is the assist leader while playing left back for Neil Payne’s Real Colorado U15s with Jaelin Howell and No. 8 Sophia Smith. Holmes lands at No. 134.
Not only has the IMG Academy Top 150 received scrutiny, but the regional lists have been updated as well. Keep checking back this week as we unveil newcomers such as FC Dallas center back and Mexico U17 WNT member Kristen Calderon, MVLA midfielder Emily Tomz, Connecticut FC goalkeeper Natalie Kelchner, FC Portland midfielder Maya Fernandez-Powell, Continental FC Delco defender Brooke Ritchie and many, many more.
As far as how we arrive at the rankings, it’s no simple task.
We keep a national database of players as the starting point for our rankings (if you’re not in it, enter a profile here).
We track an extensive list of selections to national team camps and other honors including USSF Development Academy (Boys), ECNL (Girls), and U.S. Youth Soccer National League event and season awards, plus U.S. Soccer Training Centers, ODP, id2 and other player identification programs.
From there we look at additional signs of top player performance in a club environment, with the help of an extensive network of observers around the country. The priority here is for club, college, national team and other select team coaches on the ground, but especially when we can gain corroborating opinions. The more layers of opinions we can gain accumulate the better, as our role is primarily to aggregate those viewpoints, rather than making our own determination as to a player’s quality.
As a matter of policy, we never share which coaches said what about whom so that coaches will be freer to share their assessments. Another policy is that parents’ opinions about their own children are not considered, but you are welcome to provide feedback about honors and other details that may be of help to us in keeping their profiles up to date as well as our challenge of sifting through thousands of players nationwide. That kind of data can be helpful, but the: “How can you not have rated my kid? He is awesome” communique, while compelling, will be consigned to the virtual trash.
In the end, there’s always some level of subjectivity about players, because after all, how good someone is relative to someone else is largely a matter of opinion, but we do our best to make our rankings as educated an opinion as can be.
The rankings will be updated every quarter. Keeping current rankings for 8 classes of 150 players each is no small task, and it is counterintuitive to think the rankings would change daily or weekly. We will announce each update.
So that’s it. You can see the newest version of the rankings here.