Each year, Major League Soccer releases a list of its best players under the age of 22, titled ‘22 Under 22.’ The ranked list serves as a good reference for the most hyped-up young players in the league on a year-to-year basis, with the top few spots usually reserved for those who seem destined for bigger leagues in the future.
As a reference, the past three years have seen the likes of Alphonso Davies, Miguel Almiron, and Cyle Larin take the top spot of the list and currently, all three are plying their trade in Europe — Davies has moved to German giants Bayern Munich, Almiron is playing with Premier League side Newcastle United, and Larin (currently out on loan with Belgian side Zulte Waregem) is contracted to Turkey’s legendary Beskitas.
Heading into the 2020 season, New York City FC sees two of their brightest young stars among those listed on 2019’s 22 Under 22, them being forward Taty Castellanos and defender/midfielder James Sands where they are ranked at 6th and 12th, respectively.
#️⃣1️⃣2️⃣@jamessands_16 played 19 matches in a breakthrough season for @NYCFC, despite a broken arm and broken collarbone in 2019. If he stays healthy in 2020, attackers best watch out. #22U22 pic.twitter.com/zEBNWCbSP8— Major League Soccer (@MLS) December 3, 2019
Both Castellanos and Sands had breakout years in 2019.
Following a summer transfer from sister club Atletico Torque, Taty struggled to make a lasting impact in his half-season with NYCFC in 2018. Following a full preseason and the arrival of striker partner Héber, Castellanos emerged as a player to watch with an impressive stat line in 2019 that featured 11 goals and 7 assists, as well as a first-ever cap for Argentina’s U-23 team.
Sands — who arrived in 2017 from the team’s Academy — solidified himself as a perennial starter with NYCFC this past season in both the defensive midfield and along the backline. Unfortunately, a slew of midseason injuries derailed the young Homegrown’s momentum and forced him to watch from the sideline for most of the latter half of the 2019 campaign.