We take a look at the combined XIs of the top performing players and U23 talents in four of the top leagues across the Americas, based on data from Wyscout’s Ranking indexes.
With 2023 drawing to a close, it provides the perfect opportunity to analyze the star performers from the top leagues in North, Central and South America.
Using Wyscout’s Rankings indexes, which sorts and rates players in a competition for each position based on their stats, we are able to see who has made the best combined XIs - both for all senior players and just those under the age of 23 - from Brazil’s Serie A, Argentina’s Primera Division, Mexico’s Liga MX and the United States’ MLS.
For each position there is a specific set of parameters used to calculate a final ranking, purely based on Wyscout data. For example, a winger’s ranking will be determined by key metrics such as goals, chances created, dribbles won, assists and crosses, as well as a plethora of other positionally-relevant statistics.
Brazil Serie A
Palmeiras mounted a spectacular comeback, coming from 17 points behind early leaders Botafogo, to retain their title and win a 12th Serie A with a late flourish. O Verdão won eight and drew two of their final 11 games in a momentous run-in to emerge victorious in a thrilling title race.
Despite important goals from Endrick, Palmeiras’ star man was midfield maestro Raphael Veiga. The 28-year-old contributed 9 goals and 8 assists, as well as placing in the top three for shots (82) and through passes (41), and can lay a claim to one being one of the best players on the continent.
Palmeiras’ Paraguayan centre back Gustavo Gómez also makes it for his leadership and heading ability, having averaged 6.15 aerial duels per 90, while Leonel di Plácido is selected thanks to his high number of defensive duels (311) and 4 assists, even if Botafogo contrived to win just two of their last 17 games and drop to fifth, having led the league from the third round of fixtures until the 34th.
Up front, Atlético strike duo Hulk and Paulinho earn their places in the combined XI thanks to a combined 35 goals in the league - 67% of Galo’s total haul for the season.
Paulinho finished as the Brasileirão top scorer with 20 goals and outperformed his xG by 6.51, while his veteran partner Hulk was both finisher and provider with a combined 26 direct goal involvements (15 goals, 11 assists). The burly striker also led the way for dribbles (253) and smart passes (41) and was only second to Luis Suárez in terms of shots (119).
Brazil Serie A U23
One of only two players to make it into both XIs, Gabriel Pec stands out after his 8 goals and 4 assists helped steer Vasco da Gama away from the threat of relegation in their first season back in the Brasileirão. No U23 player made more dribbles (187) than the tricky right winger.
The second Vasco inclusion comes in the form of left back Lucas Piton, who made more crosses (194) than anyone else in the league - 46 more than his nearest competitor. The 23-year-old also topped the charts for key passes with 38 and provided 4 assists.
São Paulo - one of the most successful sides in terms of developing and exporting young talents - are the only other team that contributes multiple players to the combined U23 XI.
Pablo Maia anchored the São Paulo midfield that won the Copa do Brasil, while teenage centre-back Lucas Beraldo had a breakthrough debut campaign, with both players in the top three passers of the ball among U23 players. Beraldo also boasted the highest ball progression in the age group at 5.25 per minute.
Another notable inclusion is Santos striker Marcos Leonardo. The 20-year-old looks to be the latest in the seemingly never-ending production line of forwards from Vila-Belmiro, scoring 13 goals - the fifth highest in the league. His goals accounted for 33% of his team’s overall total but couldn’t save Santos from being relegated for the first time in their 111-year history.
Cincinnati won their first-ever Supporters’ Shield after topping the regular season standings, while Columbus Crew emerged victorious in the MLS Cup for the second time in four seasons.
Unsurprisingly, playmaker Luciano Acosta and full back Álvaro Barreal make it into the combined XI after guiding the Orange and Blue to their first piece of MLS silverware and the Conference final.
Barreal was a great source of creativity from deep, providing assists (5), crosses (140) and key passes (32), while Acosta was Cincinnati’s principle attacking threat with a career best 19 goals and 11 assists. The diminutive Argentinian also ranked in the top two for dribbles (255), smart passes (95) and key passes (42).
Making up an all-Argentinian centre midfield is MLS Young Player of the Year, Thiago Almada. The Atlanta Utd talisman capped an incredible year with a league-topping 16 assists, as well as 12 goals - many of which were spectacular efforts. Indeed, no player scored more goals from outside the box (7) or direct free kicks (3), and Guayo also led the pack for progressive runs (154).
The MLS combined XI is certainly not lacking when it comes to attacking threat. Denis Bouanga - beaten finalist with LA FC - finished as top scorer with 25 goals in his first season, whilst also ranking first for dribbles (309) and touches in the box (220).
Not far behind is MLS Cup MVP, Juan Camilo ‘Cucho’ Hernández, with 29 direct goal involvements (21 goals and 8 assists), followed by Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar with 24 (15 goals and 9 assists) and Cristian Espinoza on 21 (13 goals and 8 assists).
At the other end of the pitch, Seattle Sounders’ excellent defensive record across the year sees Yeimar Gomez and Jackson Ragen partnering each other again in the heart of defence.
Turning our attention to the best combined U23 XI, the team has a very South American feel. The fruits of many MLS clubs’ recruitment strategies are on display, demonstrating the importance of scouting in foreign leagues and youth tournaments to bring the best talent before your rivals.
On top of the aforementioned Almada and Barreal, the inclusions of Alan Velasco and Julián Carranza make it four Argentinians in the line-up. Ex-Independiente star Velasco ranked second highest for U23 dribbles (179), while Carranza was second for U23 shots (83) and scored 14 goals.
Two Uruguayans make it into midfield, after Facundo Torres made 17 direct goal contributions and 29 key passes for Orlando City, while compatriot Santiago Rodríguez was in the top 5 among all U23 players for smart passes (28) and deep completions (48).
The continental connection continues with Colombian Yerson Mosquera and Brazilian Micael in the centre of defence. Mosquera, on loan from Wolves, in particular stands out with the highest number of interceptions (235) and aerial duels in his own area (43) for a U23 player - stats that put him in the top three across all age ranges for the same metrics.
Three US players feature, with Colombian-born Jesús Ferreira perhaps the perfect embodiment of the Latin influence on the MLS XIs. The Dallas forward registered 13 goals and was among the top U23 players when it came to through passes (60) and smart passes (32).
In between the posts, goalkeeper Roman Celentano played the second most minutes of any other U23 player and, at right back, Cameron Harper’s attacking insights are highlighted by his number of crosses (112), dribbles (177) and progressive runs (88) - all of which were third highest among all U23 players.
Argentina Primera División
In Argentina's top flight, River claimed their first league title under the stewardship of Martin Demichellis, while Rosario Central were crowned winners of the Copa de la Liga - their first piece of silverware since 2018.
As such, two River players make it into the combined XI, with Leandro González Pírez enjoying a redemptive season in central defence and classy playmaker Ignacio Fernández pulling the strings in midfield. Fernández came joint top for assists (9), deep completions (75) and second for key passes (28).
Talleres are the only other club who provide more than one player to the combined XI and in midfield maestro Rodrigo Garro they had arguably the best player in the league.
The 25-year-old made 16 direct goal involvements (7 goals and 9 assists) as La T finished as runners up in the regular season. Garro was a threat from long range, with 6 of his 7 goals coming from outside the box, and he topped the league for through passes (84) and smart passes (48).
Córdoba’s other clubs are also represented, with Belgrano’s Ulises Sánchez and Instituto’s Adrian Martínez included. No-one made more assists (9) or second assists (6) than Sánchez, while Martínez had joint most goal involvements with 16 goals and 4 assists.
San Lorenzo enjoyed a much improved season, which was firmly rooted in their defensive solidity, and as such goalkeeper Augusto Batalla earns a much deserved place between the sticks. Batalla epitomised Los Cuervos rearguard action, only conceding 20 goals from 36 games and topping the league for prevented goals (13.38).
Argentina Primera División U23
Three players make it into both XIs with Luciano Gondou, Jaminton Campaz and Kevin Zenón all rewarded for their fine form.
Powerful striker Gondou hit the ground running following his switch from Sarmiento to Argentinos Juniors and finished the year as third highest scorer in the league - and top of the U23s - with 15 goals. He also ranked highly for shots (84) and touches in the box (125) across all age groups.
Colombian wide man Campaz rediscovered the form he had originally showed at Deportes Tolima, scoring 9 goals, providing 8 assists, and inspiring Rosario Central to Copa de la Liga glory. No-one made more dribbles (314) than Campaz and the exciting 23-year-old placed in the top three in the league for crosses (165), shots (91) and progressive runs (111), as well topping key passes (27) for U23 players.
Following their Copa Argentina win, Estudiantes contribute the most players to the combined U23 XI, with roving midfielder Benjamín Rollheiser the stand out figure. The former River youth product scored 6 goals and made 4 assists and no other U23 player completed more through balls (52) or deep completions (49).
Young centre back duo Santiago Núñez and Zaid Romero - both in their first seasons in the top flight - impressed in defence and were responsible for Los Pincharatas conceding less than a goal a game (37 in 41 games).
Finally, Lucas Beltrán gets the other spot up top alongside Gondou, despite the fact he joined Fiorentina in the summer. His first half of the year, in which he scored 12 goals, was so sensational that he remained one of the top scorers. The ex-River man also boasted the highest combined expected goals and assists (0.79 per 90) in the league.
Mexico LigaMX Apertura
Club América left it late but emerged as deserving champions of the Liga MX Apertura after defeating Tigres UANL in the two-legged final. All three of their goals in the second leg came in extra time but it’s hard to argue against Las Águilas after they also topped the regular season standings.
Just one América makes the combined XI though. Attacking midfielder Diego Valdés earns a spot after his 8 goals and 2 assists helped his side to their 14th title. The Chilean was the creative hub of the team and also ranked in the top 5 in the league for smart passes (17).
By far the stand out performer of the Apertura, however, was Santos Laguna’s Juan Brunetta. The Argentinian contributed 21 direct goal involvements, 11 of which were assists - the highest in the league by some distance. Brunetta’s impressive performance was highlighted by the fact he outperformed his xG+A by 8.16, while also topping the league for shots (67), key passes (18) and deep completions (38).
Brunetta is joined up top by teammate Harold Preciado, who finished as top scorer with 12 goals and an impressive goals per 90 of 0.61. Despite their attacking prowess, Santos Laguna were only able to finish 9th.
Boasting one of the meanest defences in the league, it’s no surprise to see two Monterrey players feature at the back. Defender Sebastián Vegas and goalkeeper Esteban Andrada, who kept 6 clean sheets and conceded just 0.84 goals per 90, make the cut for their excellent rearguard displays.
Experienced campaigner Dieter Villalpando secures a place in midfield after helping Atlético San Luis to one of their best campaigns in the top flight. The number 10 ranked in the top 3 for through passes (37), smart passes (25) and passes to the final third (189).
Mexico LigaMX Apertura U23
The name that jumps off the team sheet straightaway is Pumas’ exciting winger Cesar Huerta. The 22-year-old Mexican international attempted more dribbles than any other player in the league, averaging 9.11 per 90, and was also the most fouled player (62) too. Huerta also had an end product, with 9 goals, and ranked highly for progressive runs (82) and touches in the box (73).
Making up a very attacking left flank is Toluca wing back Maxi Araújo. Thanks to his league form, the Uruguayan has quickly become an important asset for his national team under the guidance of Marcelo Bielsa and, for players under 23 during the Apertura, Araújo is second for expected goals and assists with 6.53.
Toluca teammate Marcel Ruiz slots into central midfield after laying on four assists, joint best of any U23 player along with right back Rodrigo Huescas. Ruiz was at the centre of everything, making the second most passes (717) of any U23 player, as well as making the most smart passes (11).
One of the biggest breakout campaigns came from 22-year-old Brazilian, Vitinho, who notched 7 goals in just 1204 minutes, an average of 0.52 per 90. It was a significant improvement from last season when he only managed half as many goals in nearly twice as many minutes. What’s more, he was also in the top 5 for U23 players for shots (38), dribbles (83) and touches in the area (41), despite being predominantly based on the right wing.