The Concacaf U-20 Championship is set to kick off in Honduras on Saturday and several MLS NEXT Pro players will get the opportunity to represent their countries for a shot at advancing into the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
MLS NEXT Pro has not only provided a key platform for many young players to boost their stocks at club level, but also prepare for potential long-term careers on the international stage.
Antonio Carrera, Hugo Mbongue, and Wilfredo Rivera have all impressed during their time in MLS NEXT Pro and will now aim to play leading roles for their countries this summer. The Concacaf U-20 Championship begins on June 18 and features eight U-20 national teams including the defending champions United States, and fellow Concacaf nations Canada, Mexico, and Honduras.
Here is a closer look at the MLS Next Pro players who have been called into final rosters for the Concacaf U-20 Championship:
Antonio Carrera, North Texas SC, United States
Antonio Carrera will also be fighting with teammate Chris Brady to earn the No. 1 job for the United States after delivering one of the stronger MLS NEXT Pro campaigns to date in 2022.
Carrera has started in seven matches for North Texas SC this season, conceding only five goals while totaling 21 saves. The 18-year-old has been one of the key pieces in Pa-Modou Kah’s squad and will aim for a strong tournament in Mikey Varas’ first competitive coaching tournament as USMNT U-20 boss.
Xavier Valdez, Houston Dynamo 2, Dominican Republic
Although Xavier Valdez was born in Panama, the 18-year-old goalkeeper will aim to out-do his birth country this summer.
The Dominican Republic shot-stopper has been one of the best in MLS NEXT Pro, conceding only seven goals in seven starts, while contributing four clean sheets for Houston Dynamo 2.
Chris Brady, Chicago Fire FC II, United States
Chris Brady has since been called up to the Chicago Fire first team, but the young goalkeeper did impress during his short spell with Chicago Fire FC II. Brady conceded only two goals during his 360 minutes of play, registering two clean sheets and making 18 saves.
He joins Antonio Carrera in the goalkeeping ranks of Mikey Varas’ squad for the upcoming tournament.
Hugo Mbongue, TFC II, Canada
Canada has one of the best MLS NEXT Pro forwards on its roster with Hugo Mbongue taking his talents from TFC II.
Mbongue, 17, has contributed four goals and three assists for Toronto FC II, being one of the toughest opposing players for defenders to deal with this season. Mbongue is a good candidate for the Golden Boot in the tournament after impressing in league play.
Kobe Franklin, TFC II, Canada
Kobe Franklin is also a player to watch for Canada this summer after leading the TFC II backline with several top performances.
The 19-year-old defender has started in eight matches for the Canadian club, scoring one goal, and drawing 13 fouls to date. With Franklin and Mbongue headlining the top players for Canada, the USMNT might have its work cut out of it in the tournament.
Kobi Thomas, Inter Miami II, Jamaica
Jamaica will be hoping for a strong showing this summer in Honduras and Kobi Thomas is one player that the Reggae Boyz will rely on.
Thomas, the 16-year-old Inter Miami II forward, has scored two goals in six shots for the Eastern Conference club. His versatility could also see Thomas used out wide with fellow MLS player Zion Scarlett also on Jamaica’s roster.
Ben Alexander, Whitecaps II, Canada
Ben Alexander will push to start for Canada at the Concacaf U-20 Championship after delivering a strong MLS NEXT Pro season to date.
Alexander has started in four matches for Whitecaps 2, conceding just over one goal per match. The 18-year-old goalkeeper averages just under five saves per match and is joined by three additional MLS NEXT Pro players in Canada’s roster.
Matteo Campagna, Whitecaps FC 2, Canada
Another key piece from Whitecaps FC 2 is Canadian defender Matteo Campagna, who will be expected to play a lead role for Canada.
Campagna has started in all eight of his appearances for WFC2, being one of the better players at this position. He is one of four of MLS NEXT Pro players on the Canada roster, continuing his chemistry with goalkeeper Ben Alexander.
Robinson Aguirre, Colorado Rapids 2, El Salvador
Colorado Rapids 2 has relied on midfielder Robinson Aguirre this MLS NEXT Pro season and El Salvador’s U-20 team could do more of the same.
Aguirre has started in all six of his appearances to date with Rapids 2, totaling six shots, drawing nine fouls, and completing over 80% of his passes.
Alejandro Cano, Earthquakes II, El Salvador
The second of two MLS NEXT Pro players for El Salvador is Earthquakes II defender Alejandro Cano.
Cano, 17, has made six appearances for Quakes II, drawing four fouls in the heart of the backline. Alongside the consistent play of Aguirre, El Salvador will be hoping for a deep run in the tournament.
Dairon Reyes, Inter Miami II, Cuba
Dairon Reyes is the lone MLS NEXT Pro representative for Cuba after impressing for Inter Miami II this season.
Reyes has started in two of his six appearances this season, totaling 264 minutes to date. The 18-year-old forward is still aiming for his first league goal, but will put that chase on pause for international duty.
Zion Scarlett, Columbus Crew 2, Jamaica
Zion Scarlett is only one month into his contract with Columbus Crew2I and now has a golden opportunity for minutes with Jamaica. The 6-feet-2 forward has only appeared in three matches to date for the Eastern Conference leaders, but could boost his chance for a larger role with a strong showing with the Reggae Boyz.
Molik Khan, MNUFC2, Trinidad & Tobago
Molik Khan has found it tough to play a consistent role in the MNUFC 2 midfield this season, but it hasn’t stopped him from earning a chance with Trinidad & Tobago’s U-20 side.
Khan, 18, has registered 75 minutes of action for Minnesota United 2 this season in three appearances to date. The young midfielder recently made his senior debut for the Soca Warriors first team this month and now has a strong chance to boost his confidence for a bigger role at club level following the tournament.
Wilfredo Rivera, Orlando City B, Puerto Rico
Wilfredo Rivera has delivered some impressive moments for Orlando City B in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro campaign and now the young forward will hope for similar success on the international scale.
Rivera has started in eight matches for OCB, scoring one goal and adding three assists. The 18-year-old has been a key contributor alongside Jack Lynn for the Eastern Conference club to date.
Ian Silva, Orlando City B, Puerto Rico
Ian Silva is one of three Orlando City B representatives at the Concacaf U-20 Championship and another young player hoping to make a memorable impact this summer.
The 17-year-old midfielder has made two appearances for OCB to date, totaling one start, two shots, and an 84.6% passing completion rate.
Brian Flores, NYCFC II, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico has four MLS NEXT Pro players in its squad with NYCFC II midfielder Brian Flores rounding out the list. Flores, 18, has only totaled 16 minutes to date for New York City II, but is another promising young talent hoping to boost his chances with a strong international showing.
Here is also a list of the MLS first-team players who have featured during the MLS NEXT Pro season that will also appear in the tournament:
Paxten Aaronson - Philadelphia Union II - United States
Brandan Craig - Philadelphia Union II - United States
Quinn Sullivan - Philadelphia Union II - United States
Jack McGlynn - Philadelphia Union II - United States
Noah Allen - Inter Miami II - United States
Michael Halliday - Orlando City B - United States
Diego Luna - Real Monarchs - United States
Niko Tsakiris - Earthquakes II - United States
Edison Azcona - Inter Miami II - Dominican Republic