2024 MLS NEXT Pro Eastern Conference Preview

Season Preview

Crown Legacy FC grabbed the headlines in 2023, with a league-leading defense and an attack featuring clinical scorers such as Iuri Tavares and Patrick Agyemang.

However, the 2024 season sees several key players from last season vie for first-team opportunities and challenging the next crop of promising players to take their place in MLS NEXT Pro. Clubs have made adjustments over the offseason, and the 2024 is sure to provide some surprises.

Here's a look at what to expect from each club in the Eastern Conference.

Northeast Division:

Chicago Fire FC II

Head Coach: Ludovic Taillandier

Venue: SeatGeek Stadium

Record last year: 14-14-5, 42 points - 6th in Eastern Conference

Notable Offseason News: David Poreba joins experience Fire II midfield

Chicago Fire FC II figures to enter 2024 with an improved midfield. The key signing of David Poreba, who notched five goals and six assists in 27 starts last season with Crown Legacy, coupled with existing standouts Omari Glasgow, Harold Osorio, and Luka Prpa.

Glasgow and Osorio spent time with the Guyana and El Salvador national teams and enter the new season with even more experience. The club shored up the defense with signings of Jaylen Shannon and Diego Konincks. Fire II also added forward Jason Shokalook, who the club selected as the 35th overall pick in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft.

Columbus Crew 2

Head Coach: Kelvin Jones

Venue: Field

Record last year: 19-9-3

Notable Offseason News: 

Columbus Crew 2 coach Laurent Courtois departed following a second straight MLS NEXT Pro Cup Final appearance. The squad has gone through quite a few changes heading into 2024, and new coach Kelvin Jones attempts to maintain a high standard.

Adrian Gonzalez, who excelled as a midfielder for LA Galaxy II, headlines top Crew 2 signings for 2024. The club also added former Real Monarchs forward Terron Williams, goalkeeper Cole Johnson, and midfielder Christopher Pearson.

FC Cincinnati 2

Head Coach: Tyrone Marshall

Venue: NKU Soccer Stadium

Record last year: 9-19-2, 27 points - 12th in Eastern Conference

Notable Offseason News: Moises Tablante, Nico Benalcazar join to add MLS NEXT Pro experience

A number of FC Cincinnati 2 talents are worth keeping an eye on in 2024, including forward Bret Halsey and 16-year-old Stiven Jimenez. Halsey, who signed a first-team deal last season, impressed by notching two assists in a CONCACAF Champions League win over Cavalier FC.

The club also added MLS NEXT Pro experience with the signings of former Orlando City B winger Moises Tablante and former NYCFC II midfielder Nico Benalcazar. The progression of young standouts, plus the addition of proven MLS NEXT Pro talent should position Tyrone Mashall’s squad to compete after missing the 2023 playoffs.

New England Revolution II

Head Coach: Richie Williams

Venue: Gillette Stadium

Record last year: 20-8-6, 60 points - 2nd in Eastern Conference

Notable Offseason News: Colby Quinones, Maciel return to squad

Revolution II will look to build on a successful season in which it progressed to the Eastern Conference Final. Standout midfielder Malcolm Fry signed a first-team deal, so it’s unclear how much the 2023 standout midfielder could feature in MLS NEXT Pro. The departure of forward Jordan Adebayo-Smith to MNUFC2 will demand a new contributor up top.

Revs II bolstered the team this offseason, signing 18-year-old Serbians Andrej Bjelajac and Luka Borovic, former Chicago Fire FC II midfielder Alex Monis, and former North Texas SC defender Collin Smith. The club also added midfielder Maciel, who has first-team experience with the Revs, and brought back defender Colby Quinones.

New York City FC II

Head Coach: Matt Pilkington

Venue: Belson Stadium

Record last year: 13-15-1, 39 points - 8th in Eastern Conference

Notable Offseason News: MD Myers transfers to Charleston Battery

Matt Pilkington’s side will look to bounce back from a 2023 season in which NYCFC II narrowly missed the playoffs. The departure of forward MD Myers, who tied for the MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot award with 19 goals, will loom large as an area for a new goalscorer to emerge.

Midfielder Jack Beer looks to continue leading NYCFC II after notching four goals and seven assists in 2023. The club added a promising prospect by signing 14-year-old Peter Molinari to an MLS NEXT Pro contract, with a future agreement set for a first-team deal.

New York Red Bulls II

Head Coach: Ibrahim Sekagya

Venue: MSU Soccer Park

Record last year: 17-11-3, 51 points - 4th in Eastern Conference

Notable Offseason News: Steven Sswerwadda set to return from injury after signing new contract

A strong contingent of Ugandan players leads Red Bulls II in the attack, with Ibrahim Kasule scoring 17 goals in 2023 and Frank Ssebufu contributing strongly going forward. Steven Sserwadda, a forward who missed most of the 2023 injured, is set to return to the field after signing a new MLS NEXT Pro deal with Red Bulls II.

Red Bulls II will look to build upon an excellent 2023 season, in which Ibrahim Sekagya’s side took fourth in the Eastern Conference and won a playoff match.

Philadelphia Union II

Head Coach: Marlon LeBlanc

Venue: Subaru Park

Record last year: 14-14-2, 42 points - 7th in Eastern Conference

Notable Offseason News: Olney, Vazquez to continue progressing as key Union II players

Union II’s top scorer Stefan Stojanovic left the club following the 2023 season, but the team has plenty of young attacking talent ready to step forward. CJ Olney and David Vazquez signed Union II contracts after strong seasons in 2023.

Toronto FC II

Head Coach: Gianni Cimini

Venue: York Lions Stadium

Record last year: 9-19-3, 27 points - 11th in Eastern Conference

Notable Offseason News: NCAA standouts Mark Fisher, Nathaniel Edwards join TFC II

Toronto FC II struggled for consistency in 2023, but seeks to establish some continuity with the return of top scorer Jesus Batiz. The club added Brazilian defender Ythallo, 2024 SuperDraft pick Charlie Sharp, and a pair of college standouts in Mark Fisher and Nathaniel Edwards.

Southeast Division:

Atlanta United 2

Head Coach: Steve Cooke

Venue: Fifth Third Bank Stadium

Record last year: 11-17-2, 33 points - 10th in Eastern Conference

Notable Offseason News: ATL UTD 2 bolsters midfield with Jacob Williams, Noble Okello

Atlanta United 2 missed the playoff mark in 2023, but found excellent attacking performances from Nick Firmino, whose 16 goals earned him a first-team deal, and midfielder Karim Tmimi, who provided six goals and two assists.

Tmimi is back with the squad for the coming season. The club sought to bolster the back line with signings of two defenders: Notre Dame alum Daniel Russo and North Carolina alum Matthew Edwards. Former TFC II midfielder Noble Okello and former Crown Legacy midfielder Jacob Williams bring MLS NEXT Pro experience to the fold as new signings.

Carolina Core FC

Head Coach: Roy Lassiter

Venue: Truist Point

Notable Offseason News: Signed forward Papa Ndoye

Carolina Core FC will kick off its first match in club history against state rival Crown Legacy FC. Roy Lassiter’s squad includes marquee signing Papa Ndoye, who scored 14 goals last season with Houston Dynamo 2. Other notable signings include forward Tyler Freeman and midfielder Jacob Evans, who also featured with Dynamo Dos last season.

Chattanooga FC

Head Coach: Rod Underwood

Venue: Finley Stadium

Notable Offseason News: Jude Arthur, Jesse Williams headline MLS NEXT Pro era signings

Chattanooga FC joins MLS NEXT Pro as a new independent club, continuing the history of the club which started in 2009. Former Ghana youth international Jude Arthur and Trinidad and Tobago international Jesse Williams join as key signings in the defense and midfield.

Crown Legacy FC

Head Coach: Jose Tavares

Venue: Sportsplex at Matthews

Record last year: 23-5-4, 69 points - 1st in Eastern Conference

Notable Offseason News: Holliday, Ouedraogo join Joao Pedro in league-leading defense

Crown Legacy allowed the fewest goals in MLS NEXT Pro last season, and the defense seems poised to continue in that vein with the additions of goalkeeper Nick Holliday and defender Assane Souleyman Ouedraogo. They join Joao Pedro, a Best XI defender whose loan was made permanent heading into 2024.

The departure of David Poreba will affect the team's midfield, but the club added former Clemson midfielder Brandon Parrish. Iuri Tavares parlayed an outstanding 2023 season into a starting role with the Charlotte FC first team.

Huntsville City FC

Head Coach: Jack Collison

Venue: Joe Davis Stadium

Record last year: 13-15-4, 39 points - 9th in Eastern Conference

Notable Offseason News: Parent club standouts Sipic, Skinner to contribute in 2024

Huntsville City FC had an exciting 2023 season, with the opening of Joe Davis Stadium and the emergence of promising prospects such as Adem Sipic, who earned a first-team contract through the course of the year.

The team’s joint assist leader Ollie Wright returns for the 2024 season. Nashville SC-contracted players such as Sipic and midfielder Joey Skinner, who served as a key player last season. HCFC added some international talent with Kessy Coulibaly (France), Patrick Amarh (Ghana), and Sergi Oriol (Spain).

Inter Miami CF II

Head Coach: Federico Higuain

Venue: Chase Stadium

Record last year: 6-22-1, 18 points - 13th in Eastern Conference

Notable Offseason News: Tyler Hall, Israel Boatwright sign first-team deals

Federico Higuain’s squad will look to improve from a difficult 2023 season in which Inter Miami II finished bottom of the Eastern Conference. Lawson Sunderland led the team with five goals in 2023, followed by Lucas Meek and Miles Perkovich with four goals. Perkovich was named Rising Star of the Matchday for Matchday 22.

Orlando City B

Head Coach: Manuel Goldberg (Martin Perelman is now an assistant coach with the Orlando City first team)

Venue: Osceola County Stadium

Record last year: 15-13-2, 45 points - 5th in Eastern Conference

Notable Offseason News: Lynn, Kibunguchy, Salim return to lead OCB charge

Orlando City B took a big step forward in 2023, nearly doubling the amount of points as 2022’s total. Forward Jack Lynn made the MLS NEXT Pro Best XI and tied for the Golden Boot by scoring 19 goals.

OCB looks to continue the progression of several promising players in the fold for Martin Perelman. Three players – Nabilai Kibunguchy (Kenya), Wilfredo Rivera (Puerto Rico), and Abdi Salim (Somalia) – earned national team callups over the offseason.