The IMG Academy Top 150 rankings for girls in the 2019 graduating class debut today, and our first No. 1 for this age group is Slammers midfielder Jenna Nighswonger. Nighswonger led her team to an ECNL national championship from her central role, receiving MVP honors for the tournament from TopDrawerSoccer in the process. Though she may not yet have as many national team accolades as some of the others on the list, she received more No. 1 recommendations from our network of coaches and scouts than any other player.
The rest of the top five belongs to Richmond United midfielder Jordan Canniff, New Mexico Rush right back Brianna Martinez, Tophat defender Natalia Staude, and Sporting Blue Valley defender Maycee Bell. Caniff, a member of the U.S. U15 Girls National Team, is a skillful dribbler with talent galore who netted 16 goals for Richmond’s U14 and U15 teams this season. Martinez is a dynamic right back who likes to get forward and is a member of the U16 GNT. Staude, also a member of the U15 GNT, plays on Ted Colburn’s Tophat U15s that went undefeated in USYS National League play, and completed a USYS Region III championship run conceding just one goal. Bell is a lanky center defender on the U16 GNT, is good on the ball, and was recommended by opposing coaches in the ECNL as one of the best in the country.
Other players dotting this initial list include HBC midfielder Julia Hannon, Oklahoma FC forward Megan Nielsen, Match Fit Academy midfielder Leah Scarpelli, Dallas Kicks forward Jaida Thomas, and Solar SC goalkeeper Tatum Sutherland.
Hannon is a member of the U15 GNT and was chosen as the best player on the field at the U14 USYS Region I Championships. Nielsen, a U16 GNT member, was the leading scorer at the U14 USYS Region III Championships with eight goals, and is a discovery player for Dallas Sting. U15 GNT member Scarpelli played up several age groups with Match Fit’s U16s at the ECNL playoffs, earning a best xi nod for her efforts.
The final two, while not (yet) members of a youth national team, amassed some impressive statistics in their respective leagues during the 2014-15 season. Thomas finished the National League tied for leading scorer with six goals, and will try to help earn her team a USYS national championship later this month. Sutherland was the starting goalkeeper on a Solar squad that allowed just 10 goals all season in the ECNL while earning 14 shutouts, finishing tops in the Texas Conference.
In addition to the IMG Academy 150 update, we will unveil the regional rankings throughout the week. Some of the players on our initial list include Cincinnati United/CUP center back Kennidy Belle, Bethesda SC midfielder Dani Fuentes, Mustang SC goalkeeper Angelina Anderson, FC Stars forward Alex Panaggio, and many, many more.
Keep checking back throughout the week to see who else made the lists.
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 three times per year. 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.