The 2026 Class in Arizona is shaping up to be one for the record books. The players have not made their full impact felt quite yet on the high school yet, but there is plenty of quality from the club…
The 2026 Class in Arizona is shaping up to be one for the record books. The players have not made their full impact felt quite yet on the high school yet, but there is plenty of quality from the club game to show this will be a special class for the future. Even with some of the top talent out of the state with other MLS academies (for instance, Bruno Luna, who previously played for RSL-AZ Yuma now plays for FC Dallas so he will be in the Texas rankings for this class when those are released).
Barca Academy in Casa Grande, Arizona leads the way in this age group in the state and on a national level. Barca’s scouting efforts landed a number of top talents to the Residency Academy.
Even though Barca sits at top the table, there is plenty of talent from the other clubs in the state. Take a look at 10 players to know from the freshman class.
Thomas is a terrific attacking talent from the 2008 team at Barca Academy. He is originally from New York and joined Barca last season. He has done exceptionally well in his first seasons. He is skillful with elite pace. He is a nightmare for outside backs to defend. He has this move that freezes the defender and then he bursts to the end line before hitting in a cross into a dangerous area. It’s been remarkably effective at the U15 level. Thomas has big-time potential and will be one to watch moving forward at Barca Academy as he earns opportunities to compete against older players.
I’m listing Kaakoush as a midfielder for now, but he did play center back in a game during the MLS Next season. There are some reasons to believe he could be a great center back (strong, smart, and does well organizing the defense). He does seem more comfortable when stepping up – and there were times where it felt like he over-chased the ball for a center back and left holes. At defensive midfield, he can take that destructive role and have cover behind him, which really lets him flourish. Kaakoush is one to watch because he is the captain of the Barca team. The coaching staff highly rate the intangibles he brings to the field. He previously played for RSL AZ.
Zepeda is a center midfielder for Barca Residency Academy. He is an excellent two-way player with a little more flair for the attacking side of things. The Barca style of play utilizes the speed on the wings and Zepeda is a good piece in the center as he can pick out those wingers with his passing. He is also good at making runs into the box to finish off chances. His goal against LAFC is a perfect example of what he can bring to the team. Zepeda wins a tackle in the middle of the field and immediately starts the counter. He out hustles the opposition and gets to the far post to finish off the cross from Omar Hassan.
Zenk is another midfielder in this class, but he is one of the few who is really making a name for himself at the U16 level this season. While playing mostly against 2025 graduates, Zenk has held his own and put together a pretty impressive campaign. He is a defensive midfielder who has a well-rounded game. He is calm on the ball and makes quick decisions. He has good instincts on when to put in a challenge and when to stand a player up. Zenk already has a key role with his side and is making an impact, which makes him a top target for this class.
Garcia is the lone player born in 2008 who is featuring regularly with Barca Academy U16, playing up a year. He is a No. 8 on that team. His two-way play has been a bright spot for the squad. He is a smart player who is calm and collected on the ball. He has the enthusiasm off the ball to make runs and press the opposition. He is a player to put on the radar as one of the top 2008s in the country.
There are three players from the class of 2026 who are playing regularly with the Barca Academy U16 team. Orejarena, previously with Chicago Fire, is the biggest name of the group. The US Youth National Team midfielder is one of the most skillful players in MLS Next. He has already scored some unreal goals early in his career.
Harris a solid all-around center back. He reads the game and anticipates where to be in order to support his teammates. He is smooth on the ball and does well in his decision-making while in possession. Harris has been a consistent performer in MLS Next. He should be considered among the top center backs in the state in this class.
Chacon is another standout from Phoenix Rising. He is a center midfielder who is instrumental to the success of his club team. He is an intelligent player and dons the captain’s armband for his side. He is an excellent passer and has a variety of ways to break down the opposition with his quality on the ball. Chacon will be one to watch this MLS Next season as Phoenix Rising makes a run at a playoff spot.
Ziegler previously played for LAFC, but he joined Barca Academy this offseason. He is a left back for the 08 team. Both of the outside backs for that team are players to note from the 2026 class, and both are from Southern California. Dane Frisch Dane Frisch D AZ is the right back. Frisch is the technical player with excellent passing skills. Ziegler is the more attack-minded. He has the pace to fly up the left channel. He has combined well with Thomas during the season. Both Ziegler and Frisch are highly rated outside backs with a lot of potential.
Apparently Ping is one of the top runners in the state as well – as discovered while verifying graduation years for this list. He finished eighth overall, first among freshman in the City of Chandler Cross Country Championships in October with a sub 16-minute time. On top of being an elite runner, Ping is the captain of his Phoenix Rising MLS Next team. He plays as center forward, as the team utilizes that amazing work rate and race to put the opposition under constant pressure. He is not all speed. He is a pretty good finisher and does play in the midfield as well. The fact that he never gets tired on the field has to be frustrating to his opponent.
Others to watch: Connor Kirkpatrick Connor Kirkpatrick GK ASU Prep, AZ Casa Grande | 2026 AZ , Bora Elder, Gabriel Eicher Gabriel Eicher M AZ , Dominic Lopez Aceves Dominic Lopez Aceves F AZ , Marcus Warren Marcus Warren M AZ