Gaven: The best of Major League Soccer's youngest debutants

Gaven retires with 51 goals and 37 assists in MLS

Eddie Gaven

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Sports

Debuting for the New York/New Jersey MetroStars at the ripe age of 16, Eddie Gaven made history as one of the youngest players in history to play in a Major League Soccer match. Since then, Gaven compiled a more-than-respectable career over 11 seasons for the MetroStars and the Crew. On-pace to crush Steve Ralston's all-time MLS appearance record of 378 matches for an outfield player, Gaven retired on Thursday in the prime of his career at the age of 27 having featured in 278 matches. 

Despite Gaven's decision to hang it up early, the workhorse midfielder will still go down as one of MLS's most consistent performers over a decade of work. Gaven helped the Black & Gold to the 2008 and 2009 Supporters' Shields and the 2008 MLS Cup while averaging 4.6 goals and 3.3 assists per season. As one of the youngest players to ever play in MLS, Gaven's contributions on the field never slowed. Of the ten youngest players to appear in an MLS match, Gaven has played in more League matches, scored more goals and recorded more assists than any other player on the list. 

Age at MLS Debut^ Player Position MLS Tenure Games Goals Assists
14 yrs., 306 days Freddy Adu* M/F 2004-07, 2011-13 133 19 21
16 yrs., 201 days Nikolas Besagno M 2005-08 8 0 0
16 yrs.,  207 days Santino Quaranta M/F 2001-11 180 27 29
16 yrs., 232 days Eddie Gaven M/F 2003-13 278 51 37
16 yrs., 301 days Craig Capano M 2002-06 22 1 0
16 yrs., 303 days Bobby Convey*% D/M/F 2000-04, 2009-Present 204 13 36
16 yrs., 307 days Jozy Altidore* F 2006-08 37 15 5
16 yrs., 332 days Fuad Ibrahim F 2007-10 26 3 2
17 yrs., 9 days Israel Sesay F 2007-08 3 0 0
17 yrs., 11 days Andy Najar* D/M/F 2010-12 82 10 11

*Denotes active player  %Currently on an MLS roster  ^Per MLS

Aside from Jozy Altidore, who has gone on to success in Europe and with the U.S. Men's National Team, some could argue that Gaven had the best career of any young player in MLS history. Gaven (8 caps) did not have the International careers of Convey (46 caps) or Adu (17 caps), but the tireless midfielder did put up more impressive and consistent numbers in MLS while Convey and Adu opted to pursue careers abroad. Though Convey and Adu returned to MLS, their play was less impactful than when they left, furthering Gaven's case.