MLS NEXT Pro Preview: 5 Midfielders to Watch in 2024

Top 5 midfielders

Some of the top midfielders in MLS NEXT Pro propelled their teams to long playoff runs and saw their first-team opportunities expand. Thanks to breakout seasons, several top midfielders earned more first-team exposure, and many more are poised to step forward in the new season.

Here are five top midfielders to watch in the 2024 MLS NEXT Pro season.

Marlon Vargas - Colorado Rapids 2

Colorado Rapids 2 will see some turnover in 2024, with 2023 key players Oliver Larraz and Remi Cabral earning increased involvement in the first-team. That means Vargas' role could become even more crucial to a team that excelled offensively last season, leading the league with 70 goals scored.

Vargas played a key part in the attack, scoring five goals and providing a league-leading 10 assists. Rapids 2 rewarded Vargas' performance with a new contract through the 2024 season. Vargas has an excellent body of work in MLS NEXT Pro, having scored 13 goals and added six assists in 2022 playing for Tacoma Defiance.

Vargas could be another in a line of Rapids 2 prospects to make his way closer to the first team. He made his MLS debut in 2023 and played 61 first-team minutes in the U.S. Open Cup.

Taha Habroune - Columbus Crew 2

Habroune, a Crew academy talent, showed impressive potential in 2023, earning his first start on May 21 and scoring in just the third minute. A promising year for the 18-year-old earned him a first-team contract, which the club announced Jan. 17.

Over the offseason, Habroune joined the U-17 U.S. national team at the U-17 World Cup in Indonesia, where he made three starts.

Habroune supplied four goals and three assists last season as Crew 2 progressed to MLS NEXT Pro Cup. He is poised to step up further after playing 1,167 minutes in 14 starts.

CJ Olney - Philadelphia Union II

Another member of a vaunted Philadelphia Union academy, Olney is a talent worth watching at only 17 years old. He signed an MLS NEXT Pro contract with Union II in November 2023, continuing his pathway to professional soccer.

Olney impressed with Union II in 2023, scoring four goals and adding eight assists. He made a first-team appearance with the Union back in 2022, and is quic

He had four goals and eight assists in 22 appearances. Olney made a first-team appearance in 2022, and could work his way into more first-team exposure with another strong MLS NEXT Pro season.

Diego Gonzalez - Houston Dynamo 2

Gonzalez, who had 10 goals, five assists, and 55 key passes last season, is a strong presence in the center of the park for Dynamo Dos. The departure of center forward Papa Ndoye may cause Gonzalez to come to the fore to create scoring chances.

Luka Prpa - Chicago Fire FC II

Prpa pulled the strings of Chicago Fire FC II’s attack with seven goals and seven assists in 2023. He also made 42 key passes. The 25-year-old midfielder will look to combine well again with Omari Glasgow, Billy Hency, and Chris Ostrem in the Fire II attack.