St Louis CITY2 has impressed during the first half of the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro season, setting high standards ahead of the franchise’s jump to Major League Soccer next year.
John Hackworth’s squad is sitting second in the Western Conference through 14 matches, totaling 30 points and a +12 goal differential to date, relying on several key leaders through the opening four months of the season. Although there will be many new faces in St Louis CITY’s MLS roster, several of the current players could play their way into the first-team squad if they continue to excel during this season.
Josh Yaro and Wan Kuzain are two players on the current roster that have previous MLS experience and have used this current opportunity with St Louis CITY2 to continue their development as professional players.
Here is a closer look at the top five St Louis CITY2 players who could force their way into the 2023 MLS roster:
Josh Yaro has led the St Louis CITY2 backline this season and will bring veteran leadership as the club transitions into life in MLS. The 27-year-old is a former No. 2 overall draft pick by the Philadelphia Union in 2016, but has since bounced around in the USL before settling with St Louis CITY2.
Yaro’s arrival in John Hackworth’s squad has brought an experienced leader to the squad and should Yaro continue to impress this season, he could be a valuable player to build a backline around in MLS.
Wan Kuzain is another former MLS player that has been forced to find a new environment to develop his overall skills. The 23-year-old playmaker came through the Sporting Kansas City Academy, but only made six league appearances in Peter Vermes’ side before eventually joining USL club Rio Grande Valley FC in 2021.
Kuzain has been a dynamic attacking element in St Louis CITY2’s squad this season, totaling two goals and three assists in 13 appearances. He is another talented player that Hackowrth has relied on this season and could carry that over to MLS as he aims to become a consistent performer at the next level.
Vitor Dias may be 24 years old, but the former collegiate standout from Marshall University has been one of the best attacking midfielders in MLS this season. Dias has totaled four goals and one assist this season after previously spending three seasons at Marshall, where he became the first All-American in the soccer program.
Dias has brought flair and creativity to the St Louis CITY2 midfield and will be on the radar of several MLS clubs, should he not get the opportunity in MLS next spring.
Another former Marshall University standout is Max Schneider, who like Dias, has also been key in St Louis CITY2’s strong campaign. A former Bayer Leverkusen youth player, Schneider has contributed three goals and three assists in 11 appearances (nine starts) this season. It’s not often you find former Bundesliga academy prospects in MLS at the young age of 21, but Schneider has made the most of his chances this season.
Should he continue to add goals and assists, Schneider will certainly be on the first team roster next season in MLS.
A former college standout at Missouri State, Liverpool native Josh Dolling has been the go-to man for St Louis CITY2’s attack this season. The 24-year-old forward leads the team with six goals and has also contributed in the attack with his hold-up ability and awareness in the final third.
A lot of pressure is put on strikers to lead the line at any level, but Dolling has risen to the occasion so far in MLS NEXT Pro. Now the question will be, can he contribute regularly at the next level in MLS, because if he can, Dolling could be the next promising talent in a growing league of attackers.