Major League Soccer voted 20-year-old Columbus Crew SC defender Milton Valenzuela as the 12th-ranked player in this year's 22 Under 22, an annual list put out by the League highlighting the top 22 MLS players under the age of 22.
An expert panel consisting of four anonymous technical staffers, 10 members of the MLS Digital team, and five soccer media members across North America submitted votes to determine the rankings, which were based on the following criteria: technical ability, tactical IQ, physical attributes, and future potential.
Valenzuela, who signed on loan with Columbus as a Young Designated Player from Newell's Old Boys on January 26, 2018, has been among the most productive left backs in the League this season.
The Argentine defender, who played for the same academy that produced Lionel Messi, Gerardo "Tata" Martino, Marcelo Bielsa, and Gaston Sauro, is tied for first in MLS for most successful crosses from open play amongst defenders and tied for fifth overall. Additionally, Valenzuela holds top-10 marks in chances created and tackles won amongst defenders and has tallied at least two chances created (including assists) in eight matches this season, led by a season-high four in Crew SC's 2-1 win over Colorado on Sept. 22.
In 26 starts on 27 appearances for Columbus, Valenzuela has garnered one goal and five assists, the latter of which ranks tied for third amongst the team. Valenzuela scored the game-opener on March 10 in Crew SC's 3-1 win over D.C. United and delivered the team's season-opening assist as part of a 2-0 defeat over reigning MLS Cup champion Toronto FC on March 3.
At age 20, Valenzuela is the youngest of four Crew SC players to earn a spot on the annual list since its inception in 2008. Robbie Rogers earned the No. 15 selection in 2010 at age 21, while Wil Trapp earned three consecutive nods in 2014-2016, ranking as high as No. 4 in 2015 at age 22. Most recently, Kekuta Manneh was named the 23rd-best young player back in 2017 at the age of 22.