MLS NEXT Pro Preview: 5 Forwards to Watch in 2024


Three players tied for the Golden Boot with 19 goals last season, showing there is plenty of attacking talent coming up the ranks in MLS NEXT Pro. Many of the top threats return this season. Here are the top forwards to watch in the 2024 MLS NEXT Pro season.

Papa Ndoye - Carolina Core FC

Ndoye joins Carolina Core FC for its inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season, and he will be depended upon to put the ball in the back of the net. He made big strides in 2023, with 14 goals, including hat tricks in back-to-back games.

The huge output from last season sets Ndoye up to handle the pressure of leading the charge for a new club. Ndoye came up big toward the end of 2023’s regular season by scoring in three of Dynamo Dos’ last four games to claim a playoff spot.

Ndoye may feel right at home with his new club, as Core FC is coached by Roy Lassiter, who coached him as an assistant with Dynamo Dos. Lassiter, whose MLS record 27 goals in 1996 with D.C. United stood as the highest single-season goal total until 2018, will surely serve as an important mentor for the young goalscorer.

Jack Lynn - Orlando City B

With 19 goals in 2023 and 15 goals the season before, Lynn is the highest scorer in MLS NEXT Pro’s young history with 34 total goals in the league. He tied for the league Golden Boot last season, earned the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro MVP honor, and helped Orlando City B take fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Lynn worked his way into Orlando City first-team coach Oscar Pareja's plans early in the season, making appearances in both legs of the Lions' win Cavalry FC in the CONCACAF Champions Cup. He also made an MLS appearance in Orlando City's 0-0 draw against CF Montreal to start the 2024 MLS season.

The 24-year-old who joined Orlando as a 2022 SuperDraft pick from Notre Dame will continue to lead Orlando City B's attack. He had five multi-goal games in 2023, and earned the Matchday 18 Goal of the Week with a perfectly placed header against Chicago Fire II.

Aaron Bibout - LA Galaxy II

At 19 years old, Bibout is one of the most exciting teenagers in MLS NEXT Pro. He scored 14 goals and added five assists for LA Galaxy II in 2023 before finishing the season on loan in the USL Championship. He returns to Galaxy II looking to recreate the same production.

Bibout signed a Galaxy first-team contract ahead of the 2024 season, securing his future through the 2025 season with club options for the following two seasons. The Cameroonian striker played 90 minutes in a preseason friendly for the Galaxy first-team.

“Aaron is a promising young striker who came to the Galaxy via our partnership with the Kadji Sports Academy in Douala, Cameroon after making a positive impact with LA Galaxy II last season,” said Galaxy General Manager Will Kuntz. “We look forward to Aaron’s continued progression with the group.”

John Klein III - St Louis CITY2

Klein, a hometown standout who played college soccer at Saint Louis University, emerged as a leader in 2023 with 13 goals and four assists in 26 starts. A series of impressive performances from Klein helped CIT2 make the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs.

Klein scored a bicycle kick goal during Matchday 27 which went on to earn Goal of the Year honors. He is set to continue leading CITY2 in 2024 in an attack that must adjust after the departure of Faysal Bettache, who scored nine goals in 2023.

Ibrahim Kasule - New York Red Bulls II

Kasule capped off a monumental 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season by earning his second Uganda senior national team cap, in which he joined the team during African Cup of Nations Qualifying camp. He earned MLS NEXT Pro Player of the Month honors in both July and August.

The 20-year-old helped Red Bulls II make a late-season push in 2023 to make the playoffs. Kasule scored 17 goals and added six assists. He made a Red Bulls first-team debut, playing 26 minutes against the New England Revolution on August 30. The first-team opportunity came on the heels of a streak of five goals in three games in MLS NEXT Pro.

Red Bulls II has a strong cohort of standout Ugandan players, with Kasule, Steven Sserwadda, and Frank Ssebufu contributing to the attack.