Young players who had the best year 

December, 10, 2012
12/10/12
11:25
AM ET

With a serious setback suffered in Olympic qualifying and no youth World Cups scheduled, 2012 could hardly be called a banner year for U.S. youth.

But there were plenty of bright spots among the wreckage of the failed Olympic campaign, including the continued emergence of Terrence Boyd, Brek Shea and Mikkel Diskerud, and cups of tea for Josh Gatt and Joe Gyau with the full team.

A little further down the depth chart, several other young Americans had noteworthy seasons at the club level as well. Here are a few of 2012's fastest risers among American soccer's young prospects.

Will Packwood, D, Birmingham

The Massachusetts native won't be 20 until next May, but he's broken through this year with Birmingham's first team in the English Championship. Promoted from the reserves at the beginning of the season, Packwood has made a handful of first-team appearances on defense this semester, including four starts across competitions, while becoming a regular inclusion in the 18 for much of the 2012-13 season.

Brent Latham is a soccer commentator who covers the youth national teams for ESPN.com. Based in Guatemala, he has attended youth World Cups from Peru to Egypt, and places in between.

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