It's an exciting time in American soccer. The 2023 MLS SuperDraft is upon us, and it's set to shake up the MLS NEXT Pro scene in the fast-approaching season. 

Many 2022 MLS Draft picks left a mark on the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro campaign, and that trend is likely to continue in 2023. To name a few, Patrick Schulte, Luka Gavran, and Jacob Jackson were among the league’s best at the goalkeeper position, while Jack Lynn led all 2022 draft picks with the most goals scored and challenged for the Golden Boot honor. 

Several of the rising defenders also excelled in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season with Julian Bravo and Esai Easley taking major steps in their respective developments in their professional debut seasons. 

Here is a closer look at some of the 2022 draft picks who excelled during the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro campaign:

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Patrick Schulte
Goalkeeper · Columbus Crew 2

Patrick Schulte was one of the best goalkeepers in MLS NEXT Pro in 2022, helping Columbus Crew 2 capture the inaugural league championship. Schulte registered seven clean sheets in 18 appearances for Laurent Courtois’ squad, conceding only 20 goals in his starts. The former Saint Louis University product was named to the league’s inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Best XI and will be pushing to get into the Crew first team under Wilfried Nancy.

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Jack Lynn
Forward · Orlando City B

Jack Lynn made the most of his opportunity with Orlando City B this year, finishing third in the MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot race. Lynn, a standout attacker at the University of Notre Dame, logged 15 goals and four assists in 18 appearances for OCB, finishing as the team’s top scorer. After impressing in MLS NEXT Pro, Lynn will be among the top newcomers to watch in MLS next season.

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Luka Gavran
Goalkeeper · TFC II

Another one of the top shot-stoppers in MLS NEXT Pro, Luka Gavran did everything he could to help TFC II reach the playoffs. Gavran, a second round draft pick out of St. John’s University, finished in the top six for clean sheets (5) and saves (70) this season. The 22-year-old made 20 appearances for TFC II this season and is one of several players that will be fighting for first-team involvement in 2023 and beyond.

Simon Becher
Forward · Whitecaps FC 2

Whitecaps FC 2 struggled for consistency during the 2022 season, but Simon Becher did not struggle in making an instant impact for the club. A collegiate teammate of Schulte at Saint Louis, Becher led Whitecaps FC 2 with eight goals this season, while also contributing four assists. The 23-year-old logged over 1,700 minutes this season, taking a major step to cracking the first-team squad next season.

Pedro Fonseca
Midfielder · Real Monarchs

Real Monarchs relied on several youth players in 2022, but 25-year-old Pedro Fonseca also rose to the occasion in his debut MLS NEXT Pro campaign. Fonseca finished second on the Real Monarchs roster with seven goals, while also adding four assists on the year. A second round pick out of the University of Louisville, Fonseca brought valuable experience to Jamison Olave’s squad and took the next step in his overall development.

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Jacob Jackson

Although an injury ended Jacob Jackson’s season short, it didn’t take away the early impact the Loyola Marymount draftee delivered with New England Revolution II. Jackson, 22, posted five clean sheets in 14 appearances for Revs II, conceding 18 goals and making 57 saves. Jackson’s heroics helped keep Revs II in the playoff picture throughout the summer before he was sidelined for the final months. With Matt Turner now in England and Djordje Petrovic continuously linked with a transfer back to Europe, Jackson could be in line for the No. 1 job in MLS if he returns healthy.

Charlie Ostrem
Defender · Chicago Fire FC II

The Chicago Fire have continued providing opportunities for young players in the first-team squad and defender Charlie Ostrem could be the next. Ostrem, 23, featured in 20 MLS NEXT Pro matches for Fire II, registering five assists and being one of the key faces in Ludovic Talliander’s squad. A University of Washington standout, Ostrem will be hoping to earn his chance with Ezra Hendrickson’s squad as the Fire begin their fight to end a lengthy playoff drought.

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Alec Smir
Goalkeeper · MNUFC2

One of the heroes at the MLS All-Star Game’s Goalie Wars, Alec Smir impressed in a split role with MNUFC2. Smir, a third-round pick out of the University of North Carolina, started in eight matches for MNUFC2, posting one clean sheet and earning an immediate opportunity in MLS NEXT Pro. Smir is one of several goalkeepers in the Minnesota United ranks, but has an edge in overall experience over Fred Emmings.

Esai Easley
Defender · Sporting KC II

Esai Easley’s talent helped him become a first-round pick for Sporting KC and now after one year of MLS NEXT Pro under his belt, the 23-year-old will be pushing for an increased role in 2023. Easley started in 16 of his 22 league appearances, scoring one goal and registering two assists for Benny Feilhaber’s squad. He was among the standout stars for SKC II, which struggled for consistency throughout the season. Easley’s defensive abilities will be under close notice from Peter Vermes as SKC aims for an improved season next spring.

Christopher Donovan

Chris Donovan was originally drafted by the Columbus Crew in the third round of the 2022 MLS Draft, and despite choosing to go a different route, the 22-year-old still ended up delivering a solid season. Donovan led Philadelphia Union II with eight goals after signing a homegrown contract with the team. After an impressive collegiate career at Drexel University, Donovan entered the thriving Union franchise and even featured as a bench option for the eventual MLS Cup Finalists.

Julian Bravo
Defender · Timbers2

Timbers2 awarded several young players with opportunities in 2022, but Julian Bravo finished the season as the most consistent for Shannon Murray’s squad. Bravo, 22, logged over 1,600 minutes in 19 appearances after featuring heavily at the University of Santa Clara. The versatile fullback was one of the better one-on-one defenders at his position and will be looking to take the next step into an MLS career.