We are one week closer to the start of MLS NEXT Pro's second-ever season kicking off, and there was a wide array of action in the last few days as this year's cast of teams work to nail down their plans for the upcoming campaign.
One of the offseason's hottest topics has been the head coaching vacancy at 2022 playoff side North Texas SC. That was settled on Thursday with the announcement of Javier Cano's takeover.
One door closes and another opens, though. There is now a vacancy at the helm of St Louis CITY2 after head coach John Hackworth headlined a round of promotions to the St Louis CITY first team ahead of its MLS debut season.
Colorado Rapids 2 added an MVP-caliber talent with the signing of Marlon Vargas on Friday, which is a sizeable boost for a side that missed out on the playoff party last season.
Several other clubs have been busy building their squads, which has produced a budding crop of newcomers that combine to bring a new level of worldly and domestic experience to MLS NEXT Pro in 2023.
Here is a closer look at all of the MLS NEXT Pro news items from this week:
St Louis CITY2 staff members promoted to first team
The defending Western Conference champions will be led by a new regime in 2023.
St Louis CITY announced a round of promotions on Tuesday that leave some shoes to fill on the CITY2 front. 2022 head coach John Hackworth will be an assistant coach on Bradley Carnell's squad for St Louis CITY's maiden voyage in MLS. Hackworth was promoted alongside former CITY2 staff members Elvir Kafedžić (assistant coach) and Alex Langer (director of goalkeeping).
Marlon Vargas joins Colorado Rapids 2
One of MLS NEXT Pro's familiar faces is on the move. On Friday, Colorado Rapids 2 announced the addition of 2022 MLS NEXT Pro Best XI selection and MVP finalist candidate Marlon Vargas.
“We are excited to add a player with proven success in the league that shows high end potential,” said Brian Crookham, Rapids 2 General Manager. “Marlon will give us a dynamic presence in the final third that will also allow others to better express themselves on the pitch.”
Vargas, 22, joins Rapids 2 from the Tacoma Defiance after a 12-goal, six-assist regular season that helped his former club to a second-place finish in the Western Conference.
Atlanta United 2 adds trio of internationals
There was also some big news out of the Big Peach this week. Atlanta United 2 signed three newcomers on Friday with goalkeeper Sebastián Guerra, midfielder Kofi Twumasi, and forward Karim Tmimi.
Guerra, a 22-year-old Colombian, joins ATL UTD 2 from Atlético Nacional. His resume boasts call-ups to Colombia's U-20 and U-23 squads, headlined by 2020 Olympic qualifying.
Twumasi, a 26-year-old from Ghana, began his professional career with FC Viitoryl in Romania in 2017. After a loan stint with FC Universitatea Cluj, he moved to Germany and earned his way onto Rot Weiss Oberhausen and VfB Homberg. In all, he's amassed 49 professional appearances and looks to be one of the more experienced midfielders in all of the league.
Tmimi, a 26-year-old French-born forward, is no stranger to the state of Georgia. He's making the professional jump after putting up a torrid scoring clip in NAIA college soccer with Georgia Gwinett College. His resume to date boasts 36 goals in 47 appearances and a collection of accolades including an All-American selection and Continental Athletic Conference Player of the Year award.
NYCFC II set to add Gabriel Segal
New York City FC announced that it claimed 21-year-old forward Gabriel Segal off waivers on Tuesday. In a statement issued by the club, it looks like the plan will be to place Segal with NYCFC II in 2023.
“We would like to welcome Gabe to New York City Football Club," said David Lee, sporting director. "He is a young, talented, domestic attacker who had an excellent collegiate career at Stanford alongside playing for the United States Youth National Team. We are excited to have the opportunity to continue his development.
“The addition of NYCFC II to our player development pathway allows us to take advantage of these opportunities with the ability to play regular minutes in MLS NEXT Pro competition.”
Born in Bethesda, Maryland, Segal journeyed to FC Köln, a German Bundesliga mainstay, and made 12 appearances for Köln II after playing collegiately with Stanford where his 14-goal, five-assist effort helped win the PAC-12 Conference Championship in the 2020-2021 season. Segal's resume also includes appearances for the United States Men's National Team at the U-18, U-17, U-16, and U-14 ranks.
FC Cincinnati 2 adds Jesús Castellano
On Wednesday, FCC2 announced the addition of 18-year-old midfielder Jesús Castellano, who heads to the Queen City from New York Red Bulls II, where he made 21 appearances and scored one goal last season. Castellano, Venezuelan, began his career with Yaracuyanos FC of Liga FUTVE.
On the international stage, Castellano appeared for Venezuela at the U-20 and U-21 levels and was a regular starter in the 2022 U-20 South American Games tournament.
Austin FC II signs Eric López
Eric López is set to headline Austin FC II's goalkeeper corps in its MLS NEXT Pro debut. López, 23, joins ATXFC II from the LA Galaxy II, and per a statement from the club, will be training with Austin's first team in the preseason.
“Eric is a highly-skilled young goalkeeper with past experience as a starter at the USL Championship level,” said Sean Rubio, Director of Player Personnel. “We’re excited to welcome him to Austin.”
The California native has represented the United States on various youth levels and appeared in the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup alongside Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams in Chile.
Sporting KC II adds Enzo Mauriz and Pau Vidal
Benny Feilhaber's squad has two new promising options. SKCII announced a pair of signing this week with Enzo Mauriz and Pau Vidal.
Mauriz, 21, was already known within the organization where he grew up as an academy player. His development continued at the University of Kentucky, where he built a strong resume as a midfielder. Last year, as a starter of 20 (of a possible 21) games, he helped the Wildcats to a Sun Belt Conference championship with a seven-goal, five-assist season.
Vidal, 20, joins SKC II after a three-year run with Villarreal CF's ranks in his native Spain. In the 2020-2021 season, he scored 11 goals in 21 appearances at the U-19 level which catapulted him into the professional scene.