This past Friday, the US Men's National Team announced their training camp roster, and it was loaded with MLS NEXT Pro alums like North Texas SC's Bernard Kamungo and Revolution II's Esmir Bajraktarevic. In addition, players whose development has been impacted by significant playing time at MLS NEXT Pro, like 2023 MLS Cup Champions Patrick Schulte and Sean Zawadzki, also made the list below.
Completing the Player Pathway
To many young players, in addition to playing for the first team, getting called to their national team can be one of their career's crowning achievements. Several MLS NEXT Pro players have been called up and played for their respective national sides. Today, we will highlight the 12 players from the USMNT training camp list who have played in MLS NEXT Pro.
The Columbus Crew goalkeeper started 18 games for Crew 2 in 2022, a year in which he was also named to the Best XI. His side went on to win the MLS NEXT Pro Cup to cap off that season. Schulte jumped to the Crew's first team the following season and has never looked back. The keeper started 31 matches for the Crew in 2023, on their way to winning the MLS Cup.
The FC Dallas forward is another 2022 MLS NEXT Pro Best XI player called to the US Men's National Team training camp. While with North Texas SC, Kamungo played 25 games in 2022 and four in 2023, scoring 16 goals while dishing out seven assists. Last season, Kamungo played 16 games with FC Dallas. Still, his big splash came during the Leagues Cup tournament, where he started all five Dallas matches and scored two goals, including a beauty against Lionel Messi's Inter Miami side that you can see below.
Many consider Esmir Bajraktarevic one of the best young prospects in US Soccer. The New England Revolution starlet played 17 games in 2022 and nine in 2023 for Revs II. What is most impressive is that Bajraktarevic scored eight goals in those nine matches last season, including this beauty vs. Philadelphia Union II.
Despite only playing 13 matches for the first team, Esmir has done enough to catch the attention of US skipper Gregg Berhalter and get an invite to the training camp.
Aziel Jackson is the last player on the list who was also part of MLS NEXT Pro's inaugural Best XI class in 2022. While playing for Minnesota United 2, the playmaker scored ten goals and assisted seven times in his 23 games. The following year, Jackson made the move to St. Louis CITY SC, where he played eight games for CITY2 at the start of the season. Still, he would eventually solidify himself with the first team by playing 25 regular season matches, starting 12.
MLS NEXT Pro Experience
In addition to these four players, at one point or another, eight others have helped sharpen their skills at the MLS NEXT Pro level.
Sean played 21 matches for Columbus Crew 2 while scoring one goal and dishing out two assists during the 2022 season. In 2023, Zawadzki went on to win the MLS Cup along with Patrick Schulte.
Diego played three regular season matches between the 2022 and 2023 seasons, scoring a brace in his only game of the latter with Real Monarchs. Diego was also featured against Chelsea 2 in the MLS NEXT Pro Invitational and terrorized the Chelsea 2 midfield during that match.
Jack started five matches for Union II in the 2022 season. He scored one goal but played an important role during his team's four victories while he was there. In 2023, McGlynn played 27 games while starting 15 for the Philadelphia Union.
Like McGlynn, Nathan also played five games for the Union II. During his stint with the second team in 2022, the side won all five matches and outscored their opponents 18 to 6. In the 2023 season, Harriel played 25 games for the first team and started 18.
Roman started 2022 by playing two matches for FC Cincinnati 2. The goalkeeper started both of those matches and allowed three goals. Following those two games, Celentano got the team goalkeeper job following an injury and has not looked back. He started 27 games in 2022, followed by 33 last season. It's not bad for a guy who was only hoping to get MLS NEXT Pro games under his belt at the beginning of 2022.
Like Celentano, Ian was another FC Cincinnati rookie looking for a spot. Murphy played in both the first and second teams, but the four matches he started in 2022 for FC Cincinnati 2 helped pave the way for him to solidify a first-team spot. Murphy went on to play 23 games in 2022 and 26 last season for the first team.
Before MLS NEXT Pro's inaugural season, Jackson had played a season with Tacoma Defiance. In 2022, he found a spot with the first team and played two matches with Tacoma Defiance. Ragen started all 32 matches he played for the Seattle Sounders in 2023.
Morris has been part of the Columbus Crew organization since 2020 when he played ten matches. An ACL injury sidelined him for the 2021 season, but in 2022, he returned to the pitch and started 20 games for the first team. During that span, Morris also started in three MLS NEXT Pro matches in which Crew 2 won them all.