There's a youth movement happening in Colorado, perhaps flying a bit under the radar on the national stage. In addition to acquiring a number of young talents from within the league, including Jonathan Lewis and Auston Trusty, the Rapids have a few academy graduates making waves.
Left back Sam Vines won the starting role in 2019 and the 19-year-old even made his national team debut. Sebastian Anderson made his MLS debut at age 16 last season. But perhaps the crown jewel of the current crop of academy talent in the first team is central midfielder Cole Bassett.
Bassett signed his Homegrown contract with the Rapids during the 2018 season, just a few weeks after he turned 17. He scored his first professional goal before season's end. He appeared in more than half of the club's games last year and his influence continued to grow in 2020. He is a regular with the US youth international teams and was likely to be an integral part of the US U-20's as they continued their cycle towards the 2021 U-20 World Cup before coronavirus stoppages.
The Rapids find Bassett to be one of the best young talents in MLS.
“I think Cole can be a national team player and can certainly play at a high level in Europe," Rapids GM & EVP Padraig Smith told MLSsoccer.com last week. "When you have a midfielder with the type of engine he has, the intelligence he has and the ability to contribute goals, that’s a potent combination. If he continues to do that in a consistent manner, it’ll take him right to the top.”
A number of European teams seem to agree with that assessment.
Bassett has been on training stints with Premier League giants Arsenal as well as Bundesliga sides Freiburg and Hoffenheim. Various reports stated in 2019 that Freiburg made a bid, while MLSsoccer.com can confirm that and reveal multiple bids have been rejected by the Rapids from Freiburg. A source also went as far as to say they were "convinced" a bid from Arsenal would have come following his training stint if not for visa/work permit hurdles. Even before Brexit, it was notoriously difficult for non-European players to get work permits for England.
Freiburg and Hoffenheim continue to track Bassett, while Swiss Super League club FC Laussane-Sport and Austrian side Rapid Vienna are also keen admirers of the midfielder, sources tell MLSsoccer.com. Laussane currently sit second in the Swiss league while Rapid are second in the Austrian league and begin their Europa League campaign on Thursday.