The U.S. men’s national team’s run at the 2022 FIFA World Cup might be over, but the preparation and speculation regarding the 2026 roster have already begun. 

While many of the key faces in the current roster will be in the prime of their playing careers, others will be hoping to improve their stock in the USMNT pool by then. Several MLS NEXT Pro players from the inaugural 2022 campaign will be pushing to get their names into the picture by the time 2026 comes, including Paxten Aaronson, Chris Brady, and Reed Baker-Whiting. 

Here is a closer look at which MLS NEXT Pro players from 2022 could be on the USMNT radar for the next World Cup cycle:

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Paxten Aaronson
Midfielder · Philadelphia Union II

The brother of current USMNT midfielder Brenden, Paxten Aaronson has used MLS NEXT Pro to continue his overall development. Aaronson scored five goals and three assists in 10 league appearances this season, while also serving as a valuable bench option for the MLS Eastern Conference Champions, Philadelphia Union. 

Aaronson is now heading to German Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt, where he will fight to be part of the first-team squad for the second half of the season. Aaronson could provide similar versatility as his brother Brenden in the USMNT squad, especially after excelling with the Under-20s at the Concacaf Championship this past summer.

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Chris Brady
Goalkeeper · Chicago Fire FC II

The No. 1 goalkeeper spot in the USMNT squad looks to be more solidified in recent months, but plenty could happen in four years. Chris Brady has watched Gabriel Slonina shine with the Chicago Fire over the past year and now has a major opportunity coming in 2023. 

Brady logged five clean sheets in 12 appearances with Chicago Fire II this past season while serving as a backup for the Fire’s first team on several occasions. After also excelling with the USMNT U-20s this past summer, Brady now will have a crack to earn the starting job in MLS. He will be one of several goalkeepers aiming to take Matt Turner’s job by 2026 with the USMNT.

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Jack McGlynn
Midfielder · Philadelphia Union II

The Philadelphia Union have several midfield options heading into 2023, but Jack McGlynn might be the most promising talent of them all. 

McGlynn played in only five MLS NEXT Pro matches for Marlon LeBlanc’s squad, but took major steps with the first team in their run to MLS Cup. McGlynn has continued to earn praise for his growing IQ on the field and his impressive passing abilities, fighting to become a regular starter under head coach Jim Curtin.

After an impressive tournament with the USMNT U-20’s, McGlynn will be on the radar of several European clubs to continue his overall development.

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Brandan Craig
Defender · Philadelphia Union II

Another one of the promising talents in the Philadelphia Union pipeline, Brandan Craig might be one of the long-term answers at center back. 

Craig logged over 1,600 minutes in MLS NEXT Pro last season, helping Union II reach the playoffs and post one of the best defensive records in the league. Standing at 6-feet-1, Craig was known for his aerial abilities this past season, while also scoring one of the league’s more impressive free-kick goals. 

Craig has yet to crack the Union starting lineup due to top defenders Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott in front of him, but has a bright future ahead.

Christian McFarlane
Defender · NYCFC II

Christian McFarlane may only be 15 years old, but the excitement surrounding him makes him a top prospect to watch in the near future.

McFarlane played in seven MLS NEXT Pro matches with NYCFC II, mainly being used as an impact player off the bench. The homegrown defender got an early taste of the league and a new competitive environment, preparing him for a hopeful future with NYCFC.

McFarlane still has plenty of opportunities waiting for him, but already looks ready to play a key role once 2026 comes around. He was the youngest player ever to sign an MLS first-team contract and will have the option to declare the United States, where he was raised, or England, where he was born, as his international affiliation.

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Reed Baker-Whiting
Midfielder · Tacoma Defiance

The Seattle Sounders are another MLS franchise that enjoys rewarding young academy talents and Reed Baker-Whiting is one we could see in the first team next year. 

Baker-Whiting, 17, scored one goal and registered one assist in 16 league appearances last season for Tacoma Defiance, growing as an attacking midfielder. He is one of several young talents in the Sounders’ system including Obed Vargas, Marlon Vargas, and many others. 

Baker-Whiting has international exposure with the USMNT U-17s and U-20s and will be pushing for future involvement ahead of the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

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Esmir Bajraktarevic

It’s not often you see a 17-year-old finish a season as one of the best players for a team, but Esmir Bajraktarevic did just that for New England Revolution II. 

Bajraktarevic registered two assists in 17 MLS NEXT Pro appearances for Clint Peay’s squad, pulling many strings in the heart of Revs II’s midfield. His impressive season also earned him a call-up to the USMNT U-19’s earlier this year, a role that he will hope to grow in as the 2023 schedule begins. 

Bajraktarevic is one of many young midfielders hoping to have a chance in 2026.

Tyler Hall
Defender · Inter Miami CF II

Tyler Hall received an early taste of life with Inter Miami II in 2022 and could grow into a regular starter next spring. 

Hall, 16, made nine appearances for Darren Powell’s squad, teaming up with several other impressive academy players including Romeo Beckham, Harvey Neville, and Noah Allen. A USMNT U-17 center back, Hall will be hoping to get his name into the first team plans at Inter Miami, especially to work with former longtime English Premier League defender, Phil Neville. 

First, Hall will look to win a starting job in MLS NEXT Pro in 2023, but then the sky’s the limit.