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Messi and Inter Miami will give Charlotte FC's youngsters a chance to shine

By Brian Maurer

Kerwin Vargas (Photo courtesy of Cisco's Art)

Charlotte FC head to South Florida to play in the biggest match in the club's history on Friday. The Crown has made it further in the Leagues Cup than they have in any other competition. Their reward? A chance to play Inter Miami and the Argentine legend Lionel Messi.

While the spotlight will be on Messi, this is an opportunity for several young Charlotte FC prospects to put themselves on the international map. In a recent article for The Athletic, John Muller mentioned the value young players are having in MLS. He stated that MLS clubs give 15% of their minutes to players 21 or younger. The kids are being given an increased role in MLS, now they have the added boost of the Messi spotlight to show their value.

Young players from FC Dallas just had this opportunity and took advantage of it. Bernard Kamungo and Alan Velasco (both 21) scored in style with all the cameras and a packed house versus Messi's Miami.

Young prospects Patrick Agyemang, Ben Bender, Jaylin Lindsey, Kerwin Vargas, Adilson Malanda, and Andrew Privett have all shone during the Crown's Leagues Cup run. The upcoming match against Miami will provide them all a chance to shine brighter than ever before.

Privett was entirely off everyone's radar until the start of the Leagues Cup. Now he has started four straight and has been a valuable asset slotting in at center back. Privett's stock would boom exponentially if he can hang as a defender against Miami's star-studded attack.

Malanda was earning hype pretty much as soon as he landed in Charlotte last summer. A strong performance on Friday would help legitimize the high-level prospect many around MLS see him as.

Lindsey has demonstrated time and again his ability to distribute dangerous chances. This match provides him an opportunity to highlight his attacking skillset. He will also have an opportunity to show that he can be a stout defender.

Bender has struggled to earn the minutes he was accustomed to in year one. The reduction in minutes hasn't slowed his goal-scoring production at all. He scored the late equalizer against Dallas in the Leagues Cup Group Stage. If he scored a similarly crucial goal against Miami he would rocket up watchlists.

Vargas has been a regular contributor for Charlotte since joining the team last spring. Since arriving he has had both highs and lows in terms of performance. If he can put out a high-level performance against Miami it would show that his inconsistencies don't force him away from the spotlight.

Agyemang is the current man of the hour for Charlotte FC. The 2023 First Round SuperDraft pick set social media on fire with his deft touch and finish against the Houston Dynamo. If he scores a late goal against Miami there is no way of knowing how much higher his potential could go.

Charlotte's head coach, Christian Lattanzio, has used these six youngsters regularly throughout the Leagues Cup. If they can rise to the occasion again in the Quarterfinals their lives as prospects could change massively.