MLS NEXT Pro Ticker: Cole Mrowka signs homegrown deal, and more


Cole Mrowka has joined the growing list of Columbus Crew academy players to make their way to the first team. 

Mrowka signed a homegrown player contract through 2026, which includes club options for 2027 and 2028. He becomes the 22nd Homegrown Player signing in Crew history.

“Cole is a talented player, and we are impressed by his drive to improve and develop since joining the Club,” said Columbus Crew President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “This signing is a credit to Cole’s hard work and the Crew Academy’s efforts to identify talent and develop individuals as they progress through the player pathway, from the Academy to Crew 2 and now the First Team. We look forward to continuing to work with Cole and help him reach his full potential.”

The 17-year-old debuted for Crew 2 in 2022 and since has totaled two goals and five assists in 25 league appearances. 

Here is a closer look at all of the recent MLS NEXT Pro News:

Crown Legacy FC adds 18-year-old defender Assane Souleymane Ouedraogo

Crown Legacy FC bolstered its defensive corps in the form of a young talent.

Assane Souleymane Ouedraogo joined the Eastern Conference club from Ivory Coast side FC San Pedro. He will occupy an international roster spot for the 2024 MLS NEXT Pro season, the club announced.

“We are delighted to explore a new market in the Ivory Coast with the transfer of Assane,” said Assistant General Manager Bobby Belair. “As a left-footed center back, Assane possesses rare talent with characteristics we are looking for on both sides of the ball. We are looking forward to seeing how quickly Assane can progress in our competitive environment.”

Internationally, Ouedraogo has featured for the Ivory Coast Under-23 national team.

Chicago Fire II signs defender Diego Konincks

Diego Konincks became the newest member of the Chicago Fire II backline.

Konincks, 23, signed a one-year contract for the 2024 league season, the club announced. He most recently spent 2023 at Saint Louis University, making 17 appearances, and scoring four goals.

“We are very happy to have Diego in Chicago as part of Chicago Fire II,” said Chicago Fire II General Manager Alex Boler. “Diego not only helps to solidify our backline but, being from the Netherlands and having played college soccer in the U.S., he also brings a variety of experience. We’re excited to benefit from his leadership and to start off his professional career in our Club.”

Prior to his move to Saint Louis University, Konincks was a three-year starter with the Campbell University Camels of the Big South Conference. During his tenure with the Camels, Konincks appeared in 50 matches over three seasons, earning First Team All-Big South honors during his senior campaign.

Whitecaps FC 2 sign Buster Sjöberg, Eliot Goldthorp, Nicolas Fleuriau Chateau to MLS NEXT Pro deals

Whitecaps FC 2 received a trio of new faces ahead of the 2024 MLS NEXT Pro season.

Defender Buster Sjöberg, midfielder Eliot Goldthorp, and forward Nicolas Fleuriau Chateau all signed respective one-year deals, the club announced.

The 24-year-old Sjoberg made 55 appearances across two NCAA seasons at Syracuse University. He was the No. 71 overall selection by Vancouver in the 2023 MLS Draft. 

Goldthorp, 22, played two seasons at Hofstra University, recording 25 goals and 21 assists in 43 appearances. The Leeds, England native spent time in both of the academies of Leeds United and Manchester United while also featuring for Bradford City’s first team.

Fleuriau Chateau featured for St. John’s University in 2023, leading the team with 14 goals scored. It was a bounce-back season for Fleuriau Chateau, who missed the entire 2022 campaign due to a torn ACL.

Revs II sign midfielder Luka Borovic to one-year deal

New England Revolution II bolstered their midfield ahead of the new MLS NEXT Pro campaign. 

18-year-old Luka Borovic signed a one-year contract through 2024, the club announced. Borovic joins from Gracifar Belgrad’s Under-19 squad, where he tallied one assist across 15 appearances in 2023. 

He also played for Red Star Belgrade’s Under-18 squad and FK Partizan Belgrade’s Under-17 team. 

Revs II open their 2024 regular season schedule against Philadelphia Union II on March 24.

Red Bulls II add defender Jair Collahuazo on season-long loan

Defensive help is on the way for New York Red Bulls II.

Jair Collahuazo has joined on a season-long loan from Ecuadorian Serie A side C.S. Emelec, the club announced. The 18-year-old defender joined Emelec in 2022 and has featured for both the Under-17 and Under-19’s to date.

In total, Collahuazo has made 33 combined appearances, scoring two goals.

"We are very pleased to have Jair join us for this season,” said Head Coach Ibrahim Sekagya "His presence on the backline fits right in with our current structure and we are eager to see him out on the pitch.”

NYCFC promotes Rio Hope-Gund following positive 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season

NYCFC has rewarded one of its top prospects with a first-team contract.

Rio Hope-Gund has signed a one-year MLS contract for 2024, the club announced. His contract also includes two option years through 2026. 

The Brooklyn native played in 24 matches for NYCFC II last season, registering one assist during the 2023 campaign. Hope-Gund becomes the 88th player from MLS NEXT Pro to sign a first team contract.

“We are delighted to have signed Rio to a first team contract,” Sporting Director David Lee said. “We’ve been impressed with Rio’s development since he joined the second team last season. He’s consistently worked hard and demonstrated his professionalism since joining the club, and is deserving of this opportunity. Rio offers depth and quality at the center back position, as we aim to challenge in all competitions this season.”

Hope-Gund was originally drafted by Orlando City in the first round of the 2021 MLS Draft. He later moved to D.C. United and then-affiliate Loudoun United FC of the USL Championship.

The 24-year-old also played collegiately at Georgetown University, where he won a National Championship.

St. Louis CITY2 adds defender Eric Kinzner for 2024

Eric Kinzner became the newest member of St. Louis CITY2’s roster.The 20-year-old signed a one-year contract for 2024, which includes a club option for 2025. Kinzner, a former U.S. youth national team defender, makes the move to MLS NEXT Pro from the USL Championship.

“We are excited to welcome Eric to St. Louis and can’t wait to add him to the mix of talented players we already have on the roster,” said CITY2 Head Coach Bobby Murphy. “Eric is a promising talent, who has already gained a lot of experience in his young career. We look forward to helping him continue his development both on and off the field.”

Kinzner played for Rio Grande Valley FC in 2023, logging 19 appearances for the club. 

His career began with Federal Way Football Club before joining the Seattle Sounders academy in 2016. As a Sounders academy player, Kinzner signed with Tacoma Defiance in 2020, and after making 21 appearances across two seasons with the team, he was loaned to USL League Two side FC Tucson where he featured in 12 matches.

Toronto FC II signs Brazilian defender Ythallo on loan

Brazilian defender Ythallo became the newest face in the Toronto FC II squad.

The 19-year-old joins TFC II on a season-long loan with a purchase option from São Paulo FC of Brazil.

“We are extremely excited to add a player of Ythallo’s calibre to Toronto FC II,” said Toronto FC Technical Director Sean Rubio. “He is a competent defender on both sides of the ball, with great passing range and strong positional awareness. Having developed in one of the best academies in the Americas and having been part of Brazil’s U15 and U17 youth national teams, his pedigree and potential will raise the level of the group as a whole.”

Ythallo has spent eight years to date with São Paulo FC, where he’s made 59 appearances for the club’s Under-20 team across all competitions. He also made 39 appearances for São Paulo’s Under-17, helping the side lift the Supercopa do Brazil Sub-17 and Copa do Brazil Sub-17 titles in 2020.

Crown Legacy FC signs 2024 draft pick Brandon Parrish

Brandon Parrish will earn valuable experience in MLS NEXT Pro this upcoming season.

Parrish, the No. 36 overall pick by Charlotte FC in the 2024 MLS Draft, has joined Crown Legacy FC on a deal.

The 22-year-old midfielder made 67 matches across four seasons at Clemson University, contributing eight goals and five assists while making 31 starts. He scored in the 2023 NCAA College Cup Final as the Tigers defeated the University of Notre Dame 2-1.

A Nashville, Tennessee native, Parrish was named Gatorade Tennessee Boys Soccer Player of the Year in both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons while at Fairview High School.

Crew 2 signs defender Chris Rogers for 2024

Columbus Crew 2 retained one of their key faces for the upcoming MLS NEXT Pro season.

Chris Rogers signed a one-year contract for the 2024 year, the club announced. Roger joined Crew 2 for the 2023 season and proceeded to appear in 16 matches, logging 1,116 minutes of action. The defender appeared in and played all 90 minutes of every match in Crew 2’s MLS NEXT Pro postseason campaign that resulted in a Cup Finals loss to Austin FC II.

Rogers joins Brent Adu-Gyamfi, Giorgio De Libera, Stanislav Lapkes and Cole Mrowka as the five academy players on the Crew 2 roster for 2024. 

“This is a great moment for Chris and our Club as he signs his first professional contract with Crew 2,” said Crew 2 General Manager Corey Wray. “Chris has grown into a solid defender during his time with Crew 2 and our Academy, and we look forward to continuing to assist his development in Columbus.”

Chattanooga FC re-signs midfielder Ethan Koren

Ethan Koren is staying with Chattanooga FC ahead of its MLS NEXT Pro debut.

Koren, who spent the last two seasons with the club, signed a one-year contract for 2024. The 22-year-old made four appearances in the NISA with Chattanooga FC and now has a great opportunity to make his league debut.

"He's a good younger leader and that's really important to us," said Head Coach and Sporting Director Rod Underwood. "He was on the leadership council last year and that also played a big part in our decision. He's respected as a young leader. He can communicate with the younger guys and connect with the older guys. He understands our style, he's a hard worker and he has ability."