Born in Columbus, Ohio, Taylor grew up in Irvine, California and played college soccer at UCLA from 2000 to 2003. Taylor was mostly a substitute his first year, but earned a larger role as a sophomore, finishing the season with seven goals and two assists. As a junior he bettered that, registering 12 goals and eight assists, while being in an important part of a UCLA team that won the NCAA Championship. Taylor's senior season was his best, as he scored 14 goals and 8 assists, was named the Pac-10 Player of the Year, and was a Hermann Trophy finalist. Taylor was the nation's leading scorer in the NCAA tournament during UCLA's championship run in 2002 and was named to the all tournament team at the college cup. Taylor also is the all-time leading scorer for UCLA in post season tournament play. During his college years he also played several games alongside former German National Team player Jurgen Klinsmann with Orange County Blue Star in the USL Premier Development League.
An excellent MLS Combine saw the Kansas City Wizards trade up to draft him 4th overall in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft. Although stuck behind Davy Arnaud and Josh Wolff and receiving little playing time in 2003, Taylor showed his scoring acumen registering three goals and an assist in only 524 minutes from a substitute's role.