Many of the top players in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro campaign have not only excelled for their respective clubs, but have earned first-team contracts this season, continuing to show the league’s impact on growing talents.
FC Dallas, Inter Miami, and St Louis CITY SC are just three of the recent clubs to sign several top, young talents to the fold for years to come. Bernard Kamungo, Kyle Heibert, and Harvey Neville are just three of several players to get awarded with first-team contracts, earning early opportunities to continue developing their individual traits.
Jacen Russell-Rowe and Mo Farsi are two that have already earned first-team opportunities this season after impressing in MLS NEXT PRO with Columbus Crew 2.
Here is a closer look at the MLS NEXT Pro players who have signed first-team contracts:
Bernard Kamungo, FC Dallas
FC Dallas already possesses one of the dynamic attacking units in MLS and Bernard Kamungo is the newest face coming into the fold in Nico Estevez’s squad.
Kamungo is tied for third on the MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot list with 13 goals so far this season.
Born in the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Tanzania, Kamungo has come a long way since his childhood, helping North Texas SC to a current fourth place spot in the Western Conference and continuing his rise as one of the top attacking options this season.
Harvey Neville, Inter Miami
The son of current Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville, Harvey has been one of the top players for Inter Miami II this season.
A former academy player with both Manchester United and Manchester City, Neville has logged 1,306 minutes to date for Darren Powell’s squad, registering two assists and making 14 tackles from his full-back position. Neville is the third Inter Miami II player to earn a first-team contract this season, joining Aime Mabika and Noah Allen on that list.
With Inter Miami II surging towards the playoffs, it’s highly unlikely that Neville is the latest player to earn a first-team deal this season for the Herons.
Kyle Heibert, St Louis CITY SC
St Louis CITY2 has had several key players excel in its inaugural MLS NEXT Pro campaign and Kyle Heibert has been at the forefront of that surge of talent.
Heibert, 24, has made 21 appearances in John Hackworth’s squad this season, logging 1,886 out of a possible 1,890 minutes to date. The Canadian fullback has helped St Louis CITY2 register seven clean sheets, which is tied for the third-most in MLS NEXT Pro this season.
With CITY2 currently leading the Western Conference, Heibert will be among the key leaders to make sure the club stays there.
Jacen Russell-Rowe, Columbus Crew
Jacen Russell-Rowe has been one of the top forwards in MLS NEXT Pro this season, making it an easy decision for Caleb Porter, Tim Bezbatchenko, and Co. to sign him to a first-team contract.
Russell-Rowe, a former academy player with Toronto FC, has netted 16 goals in 16 appearances for Crew2, becoming one of the lethal attacking players in the league overall. The 19-year-old made the most of his first start for the Crew, registering two assists in a 2-1 win over TFC back in June.
Crew2 has already clinched the Central Division title and will be one of the favorites come playoff time.
Mo Farsi, Columbus Crew
Not only has Crew2 relied on Russell-Rowe’s goal-scoring abilities, but Mohamed Farsi’s impact in midfield has also been key to Laurent Courtois’ squad.
Farsi’s seven assists to date is tied for the second-most in MLS NEXT Pro this season, with the 22-year-old sitting just behind Romeo Beckham and Hope Avayevu for the league lead. Farsi has completed over 85% of his passes for Crew 2 and remains the go-to option for running the show in midfield.
Fasri has continued to be a bench option for Caleb Porter’s first-team squad, but will likely play a role for Crew2 come playoff time.
Beto Avila, Houston Dynamo
Beto Avila enjoyed a terrific start to life in MLS NEXT Pro earlier this season and after a long spell with the first team, returned to Kenny Bundy’s side this summer.
The 21-year-old netted five goals with Dynamo Dos in his first six MLS NEXT Pro appearances, including a hat trick in a 3-0 victory over Sporting KC II in April. Avila has only logged 11 appearances for Dynamo Dos following his inclusion in Paulo Nagamura’s first team roster, but could get his chance again in MLS NEXT Pro with Dynamo Dos seeking a playoff berth and successful end to the season.
Noah Allen, Inter Miami
Noah Allen has been a leader for Inter Miami II when available and should be a promising talent in MLS down the road.
The 18-year-old defender has made nine appearances for Inter Miami II this season, scoring one goal, registering four assists, and logging 962 minutes of action. Allen played a key role for the U.S. Under-20 men’s national team this summer, helping Mikey Varas’ squad clinch berths into the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup and 2024 Summer Olympics.
Allen has started in each of the last five matches for Inter Miami II.
Esmir Bajraktarevic, New England Revolution
Esmir Bajraktarevic is one of two New England Revolution II players to earn a first-team contract this season, a testament to their continued hard work in MLS NEXT Pro.
Bajraktarevic, a U.S. Under-19 men’s national team prospect, has made 13 starts in 16 appearances for Revs II, completing over 85% of his passes, and totaling two assists. The Wisconsin native has played in a number of different roles for Clint Peay this season, mainly featuring in the heart of Revs II’s midfield.
He made his first team debut in the U.S. Open Cup earlier this season and could earn added minutes if Bruce Arena’s first team does not make the postseason.
Ben Reveno, New England Revolution
Ben Reveno has been a stalwart in Revs II’s defense this season and the 23-year-old will hope for similar success as the summer rolls on.
Reveno, 23, has made 14 starts for Revs II so far, making 16 interceptions, completing 89% of his passes, and helping the club post four clean sheets in his appearances. A former collegiate player at UC Irvine and UCLA, Reveno logged 105 minutes in a 2-0 U.S. Open Cup loss to New York City FC earlier this season, his first taste with the first team so far.
Revs II will be pushing for more out of Reveno as the MLS NEXT Pro season heads into its final weeks.
Chris Donovan, Philadelphia Union
Chris Donovan started 2022 wondering what was next for his career, but has since skyrocketed into a first team role.
A former LaSalle University product, Donovan earned a second team contract with the Union earlier this year and since has moved up to Jim Curtin’s first team squad. Donovan has contributed four goals and two assists in 18 MLS NEXT Pro appearances, logging 1,346 minutes to date.
Donovan made his first MLS start in a goalless draw with the Columbus Crew back in early-July and since has totaled 102 minutes with the first team.
Nathan Fogaca, Portland Timbers
Nathan Fogaca’s early opportunities with Timbers2 this season has helped him jump into the first team squad under Giovanni Savarese, giving the Western Conference club an added offensive weapon to call on.
Fogaca has scored one goal and added one assist in three MLS NEXT Pro appearances to date, while also scoring twice with the Timbers in a 7-2 win over Sporting KC in May. The Brazilian attacker has featured sparingly with Timbers2 since his arrival in the United States, but has shown that impactful performances in MLS NEXT Pro can lead to first team opportunities.
Themi Antonoglou, Toronto FC
TFC II’s impressive unbeaten run earlier this summer was headlined by several top young players including Themi Antonoglou.
Antonoglou has totaled four goals and four assists for Toronto FC II, putting him among the top offensive contributors in the squad this season. He is also second on TFC II’s roster with 1,468 minutes played in 17 appearances (16 starts).
The 21-year-old Canadian international is one of the more talented two-way weapons in MLS NEXT Pro this season and will be one for Bob Bradley to monitor as his reign as TFC boss continues.