The halfway mark of the season has passed in MLS NEXT Pro, and teams are gearing up to make their final playoff pushes. Some MLS teams are also of the same mindset and Philadelphia Union headlines this week's news cycle so far with the call-up of Union II forward Christopher Donovan.

Here is a closer look at this week's MLS NEXT Pro headlines:

On June 17, Donovan signed a first-team contract with the Union Organization. Donovan is the seventh player signed to an MLS NEXT Pro contract to earn an MLS contract this season.

Donovan was a force for Union II, where he scored three goals and assisted on one goal in 11 matches. Best of luck with the first team, Chris!

Columbus Crew 2 forward Jacen Russell-Rowe continued his record scoring streak in week 14, finding the back of the net for the ninth straight match. The 19-year-old has now scored 11 goals this season and is the immediate frontrunner for the MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot award – the top scorer of the season.

Crew 2 continued to stay in the news throughout the week when forward Zion Scarlett scored for the U-20 Jamaican men’s national team in their match against Antigua and Barbuda. Scarlett’s 40th-minute strike was the first of two goals for the Reggae Boyz in their 2-0 victory.

Tacoma Defiance are on a nine-match unbeaten streak, outscoring their opposition 26 to 8 in the process. Midfielder Marlon Vargas scored for the sixth consecutive match, helping Defiance move all the way up to the top of the Western Conference for the first time this season. In a tightly contested conference, just seven points separate Defiance and 6th place MNUFC 2. Defiance, however, find themselves to be a consistent goal-scoring threat with the highest goal-differential across the league at +20.

Western Conference_June

Welcome aboard!

Tacoma Defiance announced a new signing in defender Stuart Hawkins. The 15-year-old academy product earned the honors of MVP at the 2022 U-17 Generations Adidas Cup,  where he helped lead the Sounders to their second-ever title.

“We are excited to have Stuart join our professional pathway,” said Vice President of Player Development Henry Brauner. “He first started with us at the age of 12 in the Sounders Discovery Program and has steadily progressed into the Academy. He has now taken another step in signing with Tacoma Defiance. We have enjoyed watching Stuart’s journey within our club and are excited to continue watching his progression into the professional game.”

365 Days, folks. A whole YEAR of MLS NEXT Pro!

MLS NEXT Pro celebrated its one-year anniversary of founding on Tuesday, June 21. Thanks for reading, watching, listening and supporting! Here’s to many more.