2015 is almost gone, but it has definitely been a great year for sports: Copa América, Copa Oro, FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Pan-Am games in Canada, and a great Champions League finale last season, featuring Barcelona’s well-oiled tripartite attack machine. Logically, the big stars got the spotlight during all these mega-tournaments, but working quietly in the background were more than a few young Latino players. They had breakthrough moments this year, making us antsy for what’s to come in 2016, where the spotlight will surely be on them.
Here are 10 young athletes who we think will be dominating sports for the next few years.
Jesús "Tecatito" Corona
Back in June, we predicted Tecatito was going to be the next big thing in Mexican soccer – and, not to toot our own horn, but we were right. Corona was pretty much the best thing that happened to El Tri all year.
In 2015, he made his Champions League debut after making a great move to F.C. Porto. Tecatito’s solo efforts at Copa América were top-notch, and even if the team was a disaster, he was able to prove that he is one of – if not the – most talented players on the Mexican national team during the 2018 World Cup qualifier game against Honduras. In a rough and tight game, Tecatito came in as a second-half sub, and in less than two minutes, he opened the score with a great individual play, leading to El Tri’s first victory in Honduras in almost two decades, and the first at the San Pedro Sula stadium in more than 50.
Read a profile of Tecatito here.
Earlier this year, Dominican-American Karl-Anthony Towns became the second Latino in history to be drafted as a top pick for the NBA, fourteen years after the Dallas Mavericks took Mexican-American Mark Aguirre with the first pick.
Towns, a former Kentucky Wild Cat, was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves, and with fellow #1 picks Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett still on the roster, and Ricky Rubio manning the point, there is newfound optimism in Minnesota. Karlito already shines on the Dominican national team, and it’s only a matter of time until he does so in the NBA.
Read a profile of Karlito here.
At only 22 years old, Rincón has already played two FIFA World Cups and the 2012 Olympic games. She’s also played professionally in Italy, the U.S., Brazil, Sweden, and now Norway. Rincón led her team in their excellent performance at the 2015 FIFA World Cup, where Colombia’s squad of Chicas Superpoderosas became everyone’s sheros. It almost seemed like they could pull off an upset against the eventual champions (the U.S.) during their second round game.
If James was the breakout Colombian star of 2014’s World Cup, then Rincón was 2015’s.
Read more about Yoreli Rincón and Las Chicas Superpoderosas here.
Judo is a sport that is dominated regionally by Brazil, but Lenin Preciado went against the odds and gave Ecuador its first Pan-American Gold Medal in history. The victory was particularly special because he defeated Brazilian Olympic medalist Felipe Kitadai in the final.
With the 2016 Rio Olympics just around the corner, all eyes will be on the 22-year-old Preciado, since he is a definite contender for Olympic glory.
It’s not often that a Mexican athlete wins a Pan-American gold medal at 16 – in any sport. Well, Dolores is one of those athletes. Along with Paola Espinosa, she won the medal in the women’s synchronized 3-meter springboard competition at the 2015 Toronto games. Individually, she won a bronze.
Watch out Rio, because when she turns 17, Dolores can’t help but get better.
Cairo Santos’ story is so unreal it sounds like it’s straight out of Hollywood. He transitioned almost magically from soccer to American football while studying abroad in the U.S.
Within a few years, he was already playing college football, and made it to the NFL right after graduation. The Brazilian kicker had an amazing rookie year, even breaking a few records. The 23-year-old Cardinals player will surely have a successful career, and has definitely opened doors for soccer players that might want to transition to one of the most popular American sports.
Read a profile of Cairo Santos here.
If you follow tennis, you probably already know that many experts expect Spanish-Venezuelan Garbiñe Muguruza to eventually be ranked No. 1.
Earlier this year, the 22-year-old was struggling to decide which flag to compete under, and although she finally settled for the Spanish one, she is definitely making the people of both countries proud. Her breakthrough moment this year was at Wimbledon, where she reached her first major tournament final after beating Agnieszka Radwanska. A lot is expected from Muguruza in 2016, and odds are she won’t disappoint.
Read more about Muguruza and her struggles with chavismo here.
Roberto Osuna, also known as “the Mexican Connection,” had an impressive rookie season, becoming the Blue Jays’ go-to closer. At only 20 years old, Osuna helped his team reach the American League Championship Series, where they lost to eventual World Series Champions Kansas City.
Osuna’s life story makes his feat even more impressive. He went from working in the Mexican fields to playing professional ball in Japan before coming to the MLB.
Read more about Roberto Osuna in our profile here.
Peru took home three gold medals at the 2015 Toronto Pan-American games – the first time they’d ever won so big at the continental competition. The historic medals came via the talent of 18-year-old water skier Natalia Cuglievan after she bested the respective second and third competitors from Canada and the United States by a wide margin.
We’re bound to hear much more about this young Peruvian athlete in the near future.
Miguel Aguilar is a perfect example of the hardworking immigrant who comes the United States looking for a better life. Aguilar arrived in the U.S. with his parents as a kid, and became the first undocumented MLS player in history.
The DC United player had a great rookie season, and scored his first professional goal at the international level during the CONCACAF Champions League. His 2015 season ended after DC lost the Conference final against the Portland Timbers, but much more is expected of him in the year to come.
Read more about Aguilar in our profile here.