The IMG Academy Top 150 update for girls in the 2018 graduating class is out today, and we already have a new No. 1. Like on the boys’ side, there are a lot of changes in this young age group, most notably at the top, where Michigan Hawks forward Alexa Spaanstra is the new No. 1. Spaanstra impressed at the ECNL National Finals, earning praise as the top player at the event. She then travelled with the U.S. U17 Women’s National Team to Korea with fellow top 10s Rachel Dorwart (No. 2), Jaelin Howell (No. 3), Jordan Taylor (No. 4), and Brooke Bollinger (No. 9).
Spaanstra’s performance was only one of many that made an impression over the course of the summer. Tophat forward Rachel Jones, Legends FC midfielder Emily Knous, Cleveland FC center back Janiece Joyner, Mustang forward Sydney Shepperd, and FC Dallas midfielder Ashley Friedrichs, all showed us enough to improve their ranking in the IMG Academy 150.
Jones is a quick, strong forward who received her first invitation with the U17 WNT on their trip to Korea in August, and raised her ranking from No. 53 to No. 20. Knous, who makes her debut near the top at No. 38, is a forward who excels at connecting well with teammates. She received top marks at US Youth Soccer Nationals and showed well at Nike ECNL NTC/id2 Portland. Joyner, debuting at No. 81, is a commanding center back who moves well, and along with Knous, was chosen a Best XI at USYS Nationals. Shepherd, at No. 87, plays defense for her club team Mustang, but was unstoppable at forward during this summer’s TDS NorCal Combine, earning high marks from coaches and our staff in attendance. Also debuting in the top 100 at No. 100 is FC Dallas product Ashley Friedrichs. Friedrichs has received multiple call-ups to the Mexican U15 Women’s National Team and is captain of her FC Dallas ECNL squad.
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 TDS Chicago Combine standout and St. Louis Scott Gallagher midfielder Lauren Welker, Team Chicago midfielder Jordan King, FC Stars of Massachusetts forward Elayna Grillakis, TSC Hurricane forward Olivia Basnett, Carolina Elite Soccer Academy defender Kennedy Temple, 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. Simply click on the Summer 2014 option on the pull-down menu.