10Maika Hamano | Cerezo Osaka Sakai
Maika Hamano may have only celebrated her 16th birthday two months before the Nadeshiko League kicked off, but she went on to start all but one of Cerezo Osaka Sakai’s games as they finished fourth last year.
Her clever movement saw her turn up in the right place at the right time on a regular basis too, racking up six goals in 18 appearances.
After showing her potential with Japan’s youth teams, with whom she top-scored at the 2019 AFC Under-16 Women's Championship as her country lifted the title, this was an exciting season that saw the teenager prove she can shine at senior level, too.
Cerezo Osaka Sakai will not compete in the new Women Empowerment League – Japan’s first fully-professional women’s league which launches later this year – but Hamano, who cites Lionel Messi as her biggest idol, is likely to be one of many picked up by those involved after her exploits in 2020.
9Juliet Nalukenge | Kawempe Muslim
Before the Covid-19 pandemic forced most youth tournaments to be cancelled, Juliet Nalukenge had Uganda dreaming of their first Women’s World Cup participation at any level.
The forward had captained her team to the second round of qualifying for the Under-17 edition, where a win over giants Cameroon would have secured a ticket to India for her team.
Nalukenge was also eyeing up the top scorer accolade, leading the charts with five goals in four games. Her goalscoring had already fired Uganda to victory at the CECAFA U17 Cup as well as the COSAFA U17 Girls Championship, where she netted a staggering 18 goals in just five games.
The 2019 Uganda Women’s Footballer of the Year is already capped at senior level and harbours her own dreams of playing professionally in Europe. At this rate, it will not be long before she realises them.
8Haley Bugeja | Sassuolo
Not many people in Italy had heard of Haley Bugeja when the 16-year-old joined Sassuolo last summer, but when she started her Serie A career with six goals in her first seven games, suddenly everyone knew her name.
And it is not just in Italy that she is making waves, either.
After going viral for a sensational solo goal against Napoli, the young forward wrote her name into the history books in November when she scored a hat-trick for Malta in a UEFA Women’s Euro qualifier.
Not only did she become the first Maltese woman to score a hat-trick in an international competition, she also became the youngest player ever to score three in a European qualifier, while also sealing Malta’s first ever away win at that level.
An ambidextrous, pacey forward with brilliant dribbling abilities, her future could hardly be brighter.
NXGN exclusive: Bugeja on taking inspiration from Liverpool legends
7Maya Le Tissier | Brighton
Defenders do not often get the credit they deserve but Maya Le Tissier is turning plenty of heads for her performances with Brighton.
The 18-year-old broke into the first team last season as a centre-back and has started every game in the Women’s Super League this campaign, showing her versatility by regularly excelling as a right-back.
She has not only been one of the Seagulls’ best players this term, but one of the league’s stand-out performers.
“I don't feel like I'm playing with a kid,” Brighton defender Victoria Williams said of Le Tissier. “She's advanced beyond her years in terms of her positional awareness and the professional attitude she has.
"Brighton are very fortunate to have her and I personally believe she has a very promising career ahead of her at club and England level.”
Full NXGN Profile: Maya Le Tissier (October 2020)
6Mary Fowler | Montpellier
After heading to France for the 2019 Women’s World Cup at the age of 16, Mary Fowler returned to the scene of Australia’s greatest moment at that tournament when she signed for Montpellier early last year. That she was handed the No.9 shirt upon arrival spoke plenty of her talent.
The striker is still finding her feet – she only turned 18 in February and has relocated to the other side of the world – but has already opened her account in her first full season in France.
Her second goal for her new club, against Le Havre, showed exactly why she is so highly rated. Plucking the ball out of the air with a special first touch, Fowler almost broke the net with an emphatic finish that ensured all three points for her team.
Australia has a really exciting generation of young talent coming through, but Fowler is the best of the lot.
5Melchie Dumornay | AS Tigresses
Last year’s CONCACAF Under-20 women’s Championship belonged to Melchie Dumornay. The midfielder scored 14 times as Haiti reached the semi-finals, setting a new record for goals in a single edition of the tournament.
After impressing on the continent for so many years, ranking fifth in last year’s NXGN, a move to Europe is now on Dumornay’s mind as she approaches her 18th birthday.
She is already on the radar of seven-time Champions League winners Lyon, having had a successful trial with the French giants but was unable to sign a contract.
“The rules are tough but they’re the rules,” Dumornay told the Haitian Times. “One day, it’s going to happen. Maybe it won’t be with Lyon, only time will tell, but I will get in a big club. I want to become one of the best players in the world and go to the World Cup with Haiti.”
Such aims are big for such a young player but, with Durmonay’s talent, they are by no means unattainable.
4Alexis Missimo | University of Texas
The United States has long produced top women’s soccer talent, and Alexis Missimo is yet another example.
The attacking midfielder, who scored 51 goals in 26 games for Solar Soccer Club as part of the U.S. Soccer Girls Development Academy in the 2018-19 season, was offered a full scholarship with the University of Texas when she was only in eighth grade.
It is a trend that has continued for the 18-year-old, who despite her age has already been told by Manchester City and Arsenal that they have opportunities waiting for her if she decides to forgo college and turn professional, as was revealed in an interview with the Dallas Times.
For now, a college career awaits the United States youth international, though a number of top clubs will be on high alert should she choose to cut it short.
3Alison Gonzalez | Atlas
Alison Gonzalez’s two-goal display against America in January perfectly encapsulated her talent.
After showing off her composure by scoring from the spot, the striker spotted the goalkeeper off her line and, from 30 yards out, lashed a ferocious effort into the roof of the net to win the game.
Scoring goals is what she has done ever since her senior debut for Tigres, weeks before her 16th birthday. Earlier this year, and now representing Atlas, she netted her 50th senior goal, with the landmark reached shortly before her 19th birthday.
Gonzalez not only holds the ball up well and is good in the air, but she also has wonderful pace and off the ball movement – attributes that helped her score 17 times in the first half of the 2020-21 campaign.
After helping Mexico reach two finals at youth level, in the 2018 Under-17 World Cup and the 2020 CONCACAF U20 Championship, she won her first senior international cap in February, in a 3-1 win over Costa Rica.
NXGN exclusive: Gonzalez dreaming of European move
2Nikita Tromp | Ajax
For many years, Vivianne Miedema held the record for the most goals in the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship. That was until Nikita Tromp bettered it by seven.
Surpassing the achievement of such a renowned goalscorer was always going to place added attention on Tromp, but comparisons to her compatriot do not hold up. While Miedema blends the roles of a No.9 and No.10, Tromp is an out-and-out forward with a very direct mindset.
She left Ajax in 2019 for more first-team action, scoring five times in 12 games for a PEC Zwolle side who finished second-from-bottom in the Eredivisie. She has since returned to the Amsterdam club, and netted four times in her first five league starts.
The 18-year-old is contracted with Ajax until 2023, telling Noordhollands Dagblad: "Then, I would like to go abroad." She will not be short of options when it comes to that next chapter, either.
1Hanna Bennison | Rosengard
Between winning a championship in the United States and lifting the Champions League with Lyon, Sweden’s national team captain Caroline Seger has played with some incredible players since her career began in 2004.
When she spoke to Barometern about Hanna Bennison then, one statement carried some weight: “I have probably never seen such a great talent.”
Bennison has been showcasing that talent at senior level ever since her debut for Rosengard as a 15-year-old, becoming a regular in midfield the following year as the club won the Damallsvenskan title.
With wonderful technique, physicality and an eye for goal, Bennison’s performances were rewarded with a senior Sweden cap in November 2019 against the world champions, the United States.
The milestones have only kept coming for the 18-year-old, who scored her first Champions League goal in December with an emphatic finish into the top corner against Lanchkhuti.
After what had been a difficult year, with injury limiting her to only five starts 2020, it was a reminder of why Bennison is so deserving of being recognised as the best young talent in the world.
NXGN exclusive: The making of Hanna Bennison
NXGNRosengårdNWSLA. GonzalezH. BennisonAjaxA. MissimoAtlasH. BugejaUEFA Women's Champions LeagueM. FowlerM. Le TissierMontpellierBrighton & Hove AlbionM. DumonayFeatures & OpinionsN. TrompSassuoloWomen's Super LeagueUnited States U17Haiti