In a football world filled with countless stars of today, so many of us are curious about who is waiting in the wings. That search for that next wonderkid; a youngster that has the potential to make us stand up and marvel at how they are masters of their craft despite their tender age, is always on the minds of millions of fans around the world.
With this in mind, we at 101 Great Goals will be bringing you another weekly series taking a look at players across the world that are 21-years-old or younger. Some of them you will have no doubt heard of, while we hope to bring you a few new names to spark your curiosities every now and then.
Name: Caden Clark
Position: Attacking midfield
Place of Birth: Medina, Minnesota, USA
Citizenship: United States
National team caps: 0 (capped at youth level up to and including U20)
Current club: NY Red Bulls (on loan from RB Leipzig)
Current Market Value (per Transfermarkt): €3.5million
Potential suitor(s): N/A
The narrative that surrounds MLS in the United States has become a quantum shift regarding its status in the footballing world in the last few years; one that many have long felt was always coming given the pedigree the country has historically had regarding its ability to produce top-level athletes across a wide range of sports.
Long-associated with Basketball, Baseball, and American Football as the key sporting triad, the States does have a much longer association with football than many know or understand, but the internal dynamics needed for youth development to truly thrive in the country have only very recently allowed for talent identification and fostering to truly take off.
Since 2020, at least ten homegrown players have left MLS development centers for clubs in Europe. The likes of Brendan Aaronson and Ricardo Pepi are two of the more prominent names people will point to, with lesser-known yet still talented individuals like Gianluca Busio and Tanner Tessmann also populating that list. Another young talent that many in Europe will not have heard of is Caden Clark.
Born in Minnesota, a state known in the sporting dynamic for producing ice hockey players but also with long-standing ties to both Germany and Scandinavia at large which have made football quietly popular, Clark is one of the brightest talents to emerge from the MLS youth ranks to date.
Welcome back, @iamcadenclark!
We’ve added Caden Clark on loan for 2022 — with an option to extend — from @RBLeipzig_EN.
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) February 9, 2022
Currently on loan at New York Red Bulls, his rise to stardom in MLS in 2020 had netted him a move to German upstarts RB Leipzig after bursting onto the scene scoring two goals in his first two appearances for NYRB as a 17-year-old while exhibiting high technical proficiency, his potential has been undeniable but the need for refinement has been just as evident.
It stands to reason to note that Clark has been on the right track throughout, however, after spending three years in the Barcelona Residency Academy based in Arizona before making his breakthrough with NYRB. For Leipzig to sign him, a club that has an outstanding track record of buying young talent and continuing their development, his loan return to MLS should not be seen as a criticism of his current ability.
He was recently ranked 24th in the latest NxGN50 via Goal for 2022 for good reason and has already placed himself on the radar screen of US manager Gregg Berhalter despite the cadre of young players that are currently on the rise across the domestic and European landscape. And though he is back on home soil, it is hard to discredit what value pitch minutes will mean for the 18-year-old given those would be near-impossible to come by in Saxony for the time being.
His tactical versatility is a real plus point for what he can bring to the table given his capability of slotting behind the striker or on either flank as a wide option, but it is his growing efficiency in front of goal that makes him a serious long-term threat.
Moreover, perhaps the most standout trait of Clark despite being an attacker is his ability to press but also win possession back in the tackle; both qualities which suit a system like that of Leipzig under current boss Domenico Tedesco, as well as former charges Jesse Marsch and Julian Nagelsmann.
His overall player profile and package are ideally suited to a high-octane attacking system where pressing is at the core remit on the defensive side of the ball, so it is no wonder that Leipzig wanted to tap into a player in their own global pipeline in a move that was similar to when they brought Tyler Adams across the pond.
Unlike some other players we have profiled in recent weeks, Caden Clark seems to be much more of a player for the future rather than someone who will shake the very ground in the immediate future. But when it comes to the future, expect Clark to be at the forefront of football in the United States.