Josh Wynder: The Benfica-bound USMNT teenager already drawing comparisons to Virgil van Dijk

Josh Wynder Benfica 2023-24Louisville City

For the first time since this whirlwind all began, Josh Wynder is taking a moment to take it all in. In just two years, life has moved faster than even he could have expected. Pro contracts, an Under-20 World Cup, a first U.S. men's national team call-up and, now, a massive move to Benfica. Where has the time gone?

"This moment right now is when I'm actually starting to look back and say 'Wow, what a year it's been'," Wynder tells GOAL. "I'm still pinching myself sometimes, not knowing if it's real, but it's been a really busy year and now looking back, it's amazing. I think I've accomplished a lot, but it's just a start to what I want to get to."

Wynder is right: it has been a hell of a year. Just 12 months ago, he was a young defender embarking on his first full season as a starter in the USL Championship. Now, he's weeks away from pre-season with Benfica. The Portuguese club have paid a $1.2 million transfer fee to sign the defender, GOAL can confirm, with his hometown club, Louisville City, retaining a sell-on fee.

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The move to Benfica is a logical step up for a player that has quickly emerged as one of the brightest prospects in American soccer. He's played extensively for the U.S. U20s, starting at the World Cup in Argentina despite playing up an age group, and even earned his first USMNT call-up earlier this year. In terms of pure talent, there are few players in the USMNT player pool with the ceiling of Wynder, who has all of the tools to play center-back at a very, very high level.

But what makes the 18-year-old so special? GOAL breaks down Wynder's rise with a little help from the defender himself...