Players like Bryan Ruiz, Clint Dempsey, Javier Hernandez and Dwayne De Rosario (recently retired) have been leading their respective countries attacks for years now. With the 2018 World Cup qualifiers underway, these young forwards, aged 24 and under, will be looking to make massive contributions on the road to Russia.
So, how do the forwards stack up against each other? Which CONCACAF nation has the most promising goal scorer? Don't let your allegiance and bias cloud your judgement...or do. We won't stop you.
The Best Young CONCACAF Forwards:
Raúl Jiménez, Mexico
Age: 24 | Club: Benfica (Portugal) | Salary: $2 million annually
44 international caps | 9 goals
Raul Jimenez announced himself to all of North America during the 2013/14 Liga MX season. Scoring 19 goals in 39 appearances for Club América, Jimenez became a target for some of the biggest clubs in Europe. It wasn't long before Atlético Madrid, 10-time La Liga champions, were able to secure his signature.
He started slowly in Spain, scoring only a single goal for Atlético Madrid in 27 appearances. A loan move to West Ham United never materialized and Atlético subsequently sold him to Benfica at a fraction of the price they'd originally paid for the Mexican striker.
However, since being sold to Benfica he’s gone on to score 5 goals in 21 appearances, including 2 in the Champions League to go along with 2 assists. After a slow start, Jimenez has proved instrumental in Benfica climbing to third place in the Primeira Liga standings and qualifying for the Champions League Round of 16.
Jimenez is a classic center forward who possesses strength, speed and an eye for goal. At 6'3'', he's strong in the air and an excellent header of the ball. He's an absolute handful for every defense in CONCACAF and a player that Mexico can build their attacks around for years to come.
Gyasi Zardes, United States
Age: 24 | Club: LA Galaxy (MLS) | Salary: $223,000 annually
19 international caps | 3 goals
Gyasi Zardes has become one of the most complete forwards in the United States over a short period of time. He has phenomenal potential and is highly regarded by every coach he works with. In 2014, he totaled 19 goals in 44 appearances for LA Galaxy, becoming a fixture in the Galaxy side that went on to lift the MLS Cup.
Zardes' breakout year also caught the eye of United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann. While used primarily as an attacking winger for the US, Zardes is able to provide much needed speed, creativity and defensive work rate for his country. Zardes was named an MLS All-Star in 2015 and he's attracted the interest of English club Reading and Belgium side Genk.
The Galaxy are adamant that he'll remain in Los Angeles for the time being, going so far as to restructure their roster in order to keep the American foward beyond his current contract. Zardes has all the physical tools of a great forward: size, strength, speed and athleticism. He'll need to add more goals to his game if he wants to be feared throughout North America.
Cyle Larin, Canada
Age: 20 | Club: Orlando City (MLS) | Salary: $167,000 annually
14 international caps | 4 goals
The youngest and most inexperienced player on our list, Cyle Larin may just turn out to be the best. While playing for Canada, a country which has made the World Cup only once, detracts from the hype surrounding Larin, it wouldn't be surprising to see him spearheading Canada's push for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The first overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, Larin marked his debut MLS season with 18 goals in 27 appearances for Orlando. He was named the 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year and broke the rookie goal-scoring record. Larin has phenomenal power and a hunger for goals, he scored 23 goals in 39 games during his college career at Connecticut.
Reportedly the subject of strong interest from Liga MX club Tigres, Orlando will struggle to keep one of CONCACAF's best young talents in MLS.
Joel Campbell, Costa Rica
Age: 23 | Club: Arsenal (England) | Salary: $3 million annually
55 international caps | 11 goals
Joel Campbell, at only 23, is the most experienced and tested player on our list. Having signed for Arsenal in the Premier League, Campbell was subsequently sent out on loan on four seperate occasions by his parent club. While on loan at Olympiacos during the 2013/14 season, he scored 11 goals in 43 appearances for the Greek side.
He went on to have a wonderful 2014 World Cup for Costa Rica, forcing his way into manager Arsene Wenger's plans. He's now making regular appearances for Arsenal this campaign, having already played in 16 games while scoring 2 Premier League goals. Campbell's form has kept English wonderkid Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain largely on the bench.
Campbell isn't the tallest or strongest of forwards but has incredible speed, acceleration, agility and shot power. Without a doubt, he's the most explosive player in CONCACAF.