When it comes to lists of the best women's football, this year's edition has divided many opinions. And rightly so, there is so much talent emerging throughout the globe it becomes simply impossible to fit all talent into one list that with please everyone. After deliberating the many possibilities for our VAVEL Top 50 Players List, it was decided that there was so much talent among the youth of WoSo that there should be a list to celebrate said players.
Narrowing down 20 players that have stood out in a year that saw the first Women’s tournaments take place in new regions: the U-17 Women's World Cup in Jordan and U-20 Women's World Cup in Papa New Guinea, and also a year that saw many players younger than 20 years break into their national squads and at club level.
Without further ado, the first installment of VAVEL Top 20 Under 20 of 2016...
At the heart of huge feats for the U-17 England side side has been captain Lotte Wubben Moy, leading her country to their first U-17 WWC qualification and earning bronze in the European Championships.
Tall, strong and quick; Wubben-Moy has established herself as a classic English defender. Her vision for the game can keep even the most prolific of strikers at bay. The centre back's class especially showed in a goalless draw with Nigeria. The African outfit piled the pressure onto England but the cool and composed skipper handled the menace of Rasheedat Ajibade with ease while calming the rest of her team.
As she will turn 18 until January, which marks the end of a successful reign as England U-17 skipper but she is no doubt on Mo Marley's radar for the next generation of U-20 stars, alongside Arsenal's Pedro as the youngster continues to impress through the development ranks.
19. Klara Bühl (SC Freiburg/Germany)
It was an interesting year for Germany among the youth levels, particularly for Klara Bühl who featured in the German squad that won the European Championship over Spain, but were then knocked out by the same opponents in the quarter final of the World Cup some months later. Proving her worth to the squad, Bühl netted five in Europe and once in Jordan on the world stage, while being selected to play in all games. Her passing ability in dangerous areas and movement off the ball became a real highlight for the German side.
At club level Bühl has made early moves as she made her debut in September. Playing at SC Freiburg national teammates such as Giulia Gwinn and Janina Minge. Now with nine caps for the U-17 squad - all in tournaments, and four for Freiburg in the Frauen Bundesliga, 2017 looks promising for the 16 year old whose pace and finishing ability already impressed in the past 12 months.
18. Ashley Sanchez (USA)
2016 has been a winning year for forward Ashley Sanchez. At the ripe age of 17 Sanchez captained her country in Jordan for the U-17 WWC, despite the Sanchez impressed Michelle French enough with three goals and assist to land herself a spot on the U-20 roster and headed off to Papa New Guinea the following month - where she slotted in with ease to accompany Mallory Pugh in attacking prowess.
The striker's U-17 tenure has now come to an end, as she asserts herself among the next age group, and with an incredible record of 21 goals in 21 appearances it comes as no surprise that Sanchez was awarded the USWNT Youth Player of the Year. Surprisingly, the Star and Stripes goal scorer does not play football at High School but has made a verbal commitment to UCLA where she will look to excel in experience for both College and Country.
17. Maria Sanchez (Mexico)
Since featuring in the 2015 Women's World Cup and impressing with a high goal tally at High School level, Maria Sanchez was offered a scholarship to Idaho State University but in April of 2016, after scoring 22 goals in 37 appearances, she left to pursue of glory elsewhere. It is no wonder the forward sought a greater challenge; the striker is well versed in both scoring and creating chances. Her pace and strength opens up the flanks but her unrivalled dribbling ability can pick apart the best of defensive walls.
Glory has came in 2016 for Sanchez as she was integral to Mexico's U-20 WWC campaign in Papa New Guinea, with er skill and determination becoming a winner with the crowd. To have attracted the attention of her national team from a mere trial, this talent will surely be picked up for 2017 as after all, it is why she left her University.
16. Cinzia Zehnder (SC Freiburg/Switzerland)
Before 2016, Cinzia Zehnder already had experience beyond her years. Having growing up playing for her hometown club, FC Zürich alongside names such as Inka Grings, in addition to an early call up to the Switzerland national squad, it is no surprise that each year the midfielder goes from strength to strength.
The highlight of the year for the Swiss was being involved with her country's first ever qualification the the European Championship, which will take place next Summer, as they topped their group. Zehnder featured for the full 90 minutes in the match against, commanding more authority than would be expected from. This has mirrored into her performances for Freiburg, becoming a prominent part of the starting line up.
Defenders sometimes are absent from lists of the best, often as the attacking players provide those memorable moments with long range strikes - but the exceptional defensive ability of Hawa Cissoko is not easily forgotten. France managed to reach the final of the U-20 WWC while also winning the U-19 European Championship, and Cissoko was an undeniably key player to those successes. Her reliability can often be overlooked but earns her a spot in the VAVEL Top Youth List.
Throughout the tournament in Papa New Guinea, France became a shock to many teams with their defensive strength and the part that Cissoko played in the tournament was duly noted by FIFA, as they awarded her Player of the Match against Japan. While still too young to be pertinent in the PSG squad, her learnings among a more experienced squad has shown in a glorious 12 months.
14. Nicoline Sørensen (Brøndby IF/Denmark)
Having dipped her feet into senior level of playe early, with six minutes of playing time in the UEFA Women's Champions League with Rosengård early into her career, it has only been up for Danish international Nicoline Sørensen with Brøndby IF. 2016 has been jam packed for the forward, having featured heavily in the U-19 Denmark side that went to the European Championship and had some large victories
The main highlight of the 19 year old's 2016 was earning her first senior team cap as Denmark went on tour in China, as as her form with Brøndby soared, earning more playing time and netting three times in two fixtures against St. Pölten-Spratzen in the UWCL. In addition to this, she helped her team to the runner-up spot in the Elitedivisionen.
13. Mami Ueno (Japan)
The Japanese teams are renown for their team play and how difficult that is to break down. However, there has to be a clinical plauer in order to finish the goal and in Mami Ueno the Japan U-20 team have had that. In six appearances she made in the U-20 WWC, the forward netted five goals and bagged two assists - adding up to the Golden Boot award for the tournament.
Ueno has a striking ability that has matured quickly and was demonstrated in the tournament. She became the difference between a medal as she positioned her strike from an angle that even a very talented Casey Murphy could not reach - her ability and vision sending the spectators into a state of sheer awe. Japan have plenty of options for the future throughout their youth ranks but Ueno is by far the most prolific.
12. Deanne Rose (Scarborough GS United/Canada)
It has been a packed year for Deanne Rose who, at the age of 17, featured in the U-17 WWC, U-20 WWC all while helping the senior national side to winning a medal at the Olympics. Given the sheer experience, air-miles and world competition experience that Rose has picked up in 2016, it is impossible to leave her off the top 20 list. But the way in which she played for each team earns her a spot just outside the top ten.
Versatility is the key to Rose's game as with her speed and stamina, she is able to chase defensive balls while also being the difference when it comes to scoring - as she showed in the Olympics, scoring the opening goal in the battle for bronze The two youth tournaments did not go to plan, but Rose was a shining star, and will continue to be for many years to come.
11. Mylene Chavas (AS Saint-Etienne/France)
At club level, Mylene Chavas is already asserting herself as Saint-Etienne's preference, making seven appearances - which is five more than 24 year old Mélodie Carre. However, her highlights of 2016 come from playing for her country in the European Championships and the World Cup.
Now a U-19 European Champion, U-20 World Cup runner-up and Golden Glove holder, Chavas has consolidated her status as the future of French goalkeeping. Having made 15 crucial saves, most of which that took France through to the next stages of tournaments in narrow games there was no doubt that the 18 year old was the best goalkeeper in the tournament. Namely, in the quarter finals against European rivals Germany, where her heroic save from a multitude of ranges not only earned her Player of the Match but ensured that her country went through in the competition.