For Adams, remarkably, that senior national team debut came just 13 months after helping to win a USL championship title. The first signing in New York Red Bulls II history, and having not yet turned 18 as he played his last game for the team, Adams was the youngest starter on the pitch as New York won a 5-1 victory in October. 2016. Adams’ path to the USMNT is one that many other young players have followed since, first competing in the USL Championship, League 1 or League 2 before moving on to the top level of the international game.
In fact, of the 14 games that have made up qualifying since the start of last September, 29 players have made their World Cup qualifying debut, 16 of whom have previously played in one of the USL’s three senior divisions. . Overall, the 20 USL alumni who saw action in World Cup qualifying – including the likes of 2012 League Two All-League selection DeAndre Yedlin, who appeared in the previous cycle – combined for 109 appearances and 6,654 minutes of action, nearly half of the minutes played by the team as a whole.
For some like Adams and Brenden Aaronson, the path from championship to top-flight football and then to the USMNT was a straightforward one the duo took with aplomb. More recently there has been the rise of Ricardo Pepi, 2019 USL League One title winner and All-League selection who currently plays in the Bundesliga for FC Augsburg.