The inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season has not only provided opportunities to former MLS and European head coaches, but to former players and the next contingent of future first-team managers. With the 2022 campaign heading into the final months of action, here are five head coaches that could be on the radar of top flight leagues this winter.
Laurent Courtois has made Columbus Crew 2 a title favorite in their first MLS NEXT Pro season and the Frenchman’s quick success as a first-team manager could play a huge role in his future.
A long-time professional midfielder in France, England, and Spain before four years in MLS, Courtois has since taken his talents to coaching. Courtois spent four years in the academy of French Ligue 1 side Lyon before moving to the Columbus Crew’s academy in 2019.
Courtois has helped Crew 2 lead the Eastern Conference for the majority of the 2022 campaign, watching as Jacen Russell-Rowe, Mo Farsi, and others continue their rapid development as young talents. After a long playing career in Europe, Courtois could be interested in a return abroad, especially for a new challenge after several years in the U.S.
Wade Webber is only two years into his job with Tacoma Defiance, but he’s continued to improve the club since he’s arrived.
Webber posted a 10-13-9 record in 2021 in the USL Championship, which proved to be the most wins in a single season for the Defiance since 2015. 2022 has been another step in the right direction for the Defiance as young players such as Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, Marlon Vargas and Reed Baker-Whiting have grown in their individual developments under Webber’s tutelage.
The Defiance are 10-3-4 through 17 matches in their first MLS NEXT Pro season, sitting top of the Western Conference. Webber’s quick turnaround in Washington has been pleasing to watch and the 55-year-old will have big aspirations on closing out 2022 with a league title.
RNY FC has certainly impressed as a first-year franchise in 2022 and Bruno Baltazar’s impact with the squad is a big reason for it.
Sure, a lot of players are carrying the torch for Rochester New York FC through the first four months of the season, but Baltazar has definitely put his players in a good position to succeed. The 45-year-old Portugal native has a long resume overseas, working in Portugal, Qatar, Cyprus, and England before moving to the United States.
Baltazar won MLS NEXT Pro’s Coach of the Month honors in May and has since continued to have RNY FC chomping at the bit to stay in the top-four in the Eastern Conference. After winning trophies in Cyprus and working in one of the historic clubs in England (Nottingham Forest), Baltazar could be on the radar for a new opportunity this winter.
John Hackworth might have the longest resume when it comes to coaching in the United States and no matter where life has taken him, the 52-year-old has welcomed the opportunity with open arms.
Hackworth is a former head coach with the Philadelphia Union, Louisville City FC and the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team, working with many different age groups, players and in different leagues and environments. A former USL Cup winner in 2018, Hackworth joined CITY2 earlier this year and has gotten the opportunity to work with former MLS players (Josh Yaro, Wan Kuzain) and a new crop of young talents (Max Schneider, Kyle Heibert).
Bradley Carnell is set to kick off life as St Louis CITY SC’s first team boss next year and any players making the jump from MLS NEXT Pro will come with a year of high-level experience under the tutelage of Hackworth..
Pa-Modou Kah is no stranger to MLS and the Gambia native’s impressive campaign with North Texas SC could be the ticket for him to earn an opportunity back next season.
The 41-year-old played 18 seasons as a professional player, with stops in Norway, Netherlands, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to go along with a final stint in MLS. Kah previously served as an assistant with the Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Cincinnati before excelling as a head coach with Canadian Premier League club Pacific FC.
Pacific FC won the CPL in 2021 helping Kah land a spot with North Texas SC in 2022, the next move for him in his managerial career. Kah’s name has already been linked with a handful of MLS clubs this season and could make that move permanent with silverware in MLS NEXT Pro this fall.