There have been a handful of undrafted collegiate standouts through the history of Major League Soccer and St. Louis CITY SC defender Kyle Hiebert very well could become the latest in 2023.
Hiebert has taken a major jump in his professional career, filling right into Bradley Carnell’s backline during the Western Conference club’s inaugural MLS campaign. The 25-year-old centerback has started three-consecutive matches for St. Louis CITY SC, scoring the game-winning goal in Saturday’s 2-1 comeback victory over the Portland Timbers and giving the expansion side their third win out of three to start the 2023 season.
A Canadian-born player, Hiebert was forced to redshirt his first two years at Missouri State due to back-to-back serious knee injuries. He responded in heroic fashion, earning Missouri Valley Conference Defender of the Year honors in his final three seasons, while also finishing as a semifinalist for the Mac Hermann Trophy in 2021.
After earning an MLS NEXT Pro contract with CITY2, Hiebert excelled for John Hackworth’s squad, earning Best XI honors, and helping his team win the Frontier Division en route to an MLS NEXT Pro Finals appearance. Hiebert featured in every regular-season match for CITY2 (24 appearances), a testament to his strong work ethic and willingness to improve as an all-around player.
“Kyle was here before I joined the staff so credit to John Hackworth,” Carnell said. “Kyle was undrafted and similar to Manny Perez, you put him in the first team environment and he was able to perform. I was able to work with guys like Aaron Long and Tim Parker with the Red Bulls and this system can benefit centerbacks, especially guys who are physical, being athletic and strong in the air, willing to deal with forwards.
“We saw a lot of those traits in Kyle and even in a big match in Austin, he didn’t blink an eye, he didn’t get carried away in the moment, he focused on his job. I am very proud of these guys who have stepped up to the plate.”
Hiebert has been fortunate to play alongside a longtime MLS veteran in Parker through the early stages of the 2023 MLS campaign. St. Louis CITY SC is one of four MLS franchises to take maximum points from its first two league matches this season, setting the standard for what the expansion side wants to achieve this year.
Not only is Hiebert following in the footsteps of past undrafted college players such as Matt Turner, Bobby Boswell, and Troy Perkins, he’s enjoying his soccer in the state which has given so much to him throughout his playing days.
“Coming in I was expecting and hoping to be healthy, to jive with the guys and I think we have done all that,” Hiebert said. “Being able to come in and play the first two MLS games for St. Louis has been pretty special to me and for my family as well.”