The TopDrawerSoccer Player of the Year presented by IMG is almost upon us. Which means the player vetting process is only heating up as we move toward our early August release for the two top boys and girls club players in the country.
The criteria is simple. To be considered, a player must be eligible for a U.S. youth national team, and they must be college eligible and have retained their amateur status at the time the award is bestowed. Players who’ve signed professional contracts or have already begun their college careers are not eligible for consideration. Otherwise, we’re picking out the best of the best based on their performances both either club, country or both.
Since the cutoff for consideration is on July 31, we’re driving toward the ultimate conclusion with the ECNL and Development Academy both wrapping up play. Here’s a glimpse at two prospects who will get their due once it comes down to vote time in a few weeks.
Boys: Carson Vom Steeg, Real So Cal
The U18 group in the Development Academy has been an absolute blender in the postseason. Of the teams that qualified for the final four, none were seeded higher than 18th, and the LA Galaxy qualified despite snapping up the 32nd and final playoff spot after the regular season. One of the teams that fell just short was Real So Cal, which trekked all the way to the quarterfinals before falling just short against the Rapids.
One of Real So Cal’s most important cogs in that process was the strapping figure of Carson Vom Steeg, who might well be one of the top five center backs in the entire Development Academy.
Vom Steeg’s size is his most obvious tool, but his most valuable is in his movement. He’s a whip-smart defender who will ship off to Stanford in the fall. As the top-rated 2017 graduate in the country (No. 6) committed to college, Vom Steeg should have little trouble fitting in immediately on the next level on a team that just won a national title without giving up a single goal in the NCAA tourney. Vom Steeg’s had some sparse appearances with the U18 MNT this cycle, but his future is bright at the college level and beyond.
Girls: Alexis Missimo, Solar Chelsea
There’s a general precedent in choosing these player of the year candidates that the older the player, the better. And that generally holds true most of the time. Older players are more developed, tend to have more outsized impact on their respective teams and tend to do more on the international stage as well. But to then ignore the sort of season Alexis Missimo’s had, despite the fact that she’s just a 2021, would be negligence in the highest.
Missimo’s been a mainstay on the YNT level, moving from U14 camps at the start of the year to a U16 WNT camp in Belgium by May. She’s gradually developed into an indispensable attacking cog as a primary creator in the middle. In fact, she’s rapidly developed into one of the most promising recruits on any YNT level in a desperately short amount of time.
But it’s her club impact that really shines out. Playing up a year with the Solar Chelsea U15s, Missimo exerted supreme influence as the attacking fulcrum and helped guide Solar into the ECNL Finals in California in July. She’s always been a heady creator, but in the playoffs she showed an ability to get involved with the goal-scoring as well, further diversifying an already diverse game. Whether or not a 2021 can win the POTY trophy, Missimo’s certainly deserving of being in the conversation.