Jacen Russell-Rowe has excelled with Columbus Crew 2 during the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro campaign and the highly-impressive prospect was rewarded with his first senior contract on Wednesday. He is the eight MLS NEXT Pro player to sign a contract with an MLS team this inaugural season.
Russell-Rowe signed a first-team contract through 2024, which includes options for 2025 and 2026, the Crew announced Wednesday. The 19-year-old has been one of the top forwards in MLS NEXT Pro this season, totaling 11 goals in 11 appearances for Laurent Courtois’ side.
Russell-Rowe was also named MLS NEXT Pro Player of the Month for May, scoring three goals and registering one assist as Crew 2 won all three matches he featured in.
“Jacen has impressed us with his performances for Crew 2 in MLS NEXT Pro and we believe he will continue to develop as a player,” Crew President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko said. “This signing showcases the benefits of having a second team and is a testament to the success that Crew 2, and Jacen, are having this year. I would like to thank Caleb, Corey, and Laurent as they have worked together to help create a path for young players like Jacen to transition from Crew 2 to the First Team.”
A former Toronto FC academy player, Russell-Rowe played for two years at the collegiate level at the University of Maryland. Russell-Rowe scored four goals and registered five assists in 26 combined appearances for the Terrapins in the Big Ten Conference.
The Ontario, Canada native signed with Crew 2 ahead of the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro season and has been a major part of the club’s success. Russell-Rowe scored in nine-consecutive matches for Crew 2 and also registered a pair of braces in victories of Inter Miami II and Orlando City B earlier this June.
“Having the first Crew 2 player sign for the First Team is a milestone moment for our Club and over time we hope that Jacen is the first of many Crew 2 players to join the First Team,” said Columbus Crew Assistant General Manager and Crew 2 General Manager Corey Wray. “Across our entire player pathway, we want to create a structure that prepares players for each level of growth in their soccer careers. We are proud that Crew 2 is able to provide additional opportunities for young players as our goal continues to be developing high potential players that can thrive, grow and target reaching the First Team.”
Russell-Rowe previously signed a short-term call-up with the Crew earlier this month, making his MLS debut in a 1-1 draw with Charlotte FC back on June 18. He also logged 29 minutes in a recent goalless draw with Real Salt Lake.
The Crew is sitting in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 18 points earned through 15 matches. With Gyasi Zardes now in Colorado and the Crew needing goals, Russell-Rowe should have a strong opportunity to play as the Crew aims to move up the standings this summer.