Coaches Announced for City’s MLS NEXT Pro Squad for 2022
What is MLS NEXT Pro?
MLS NEXT Pro is the new reserve league being launched by MLS in 2022. It is officially sanctioned by U.S. Soccer as a third-division league, making it a level below the USL Championship and equivalent in play to USL Division 1. The majority of MLS teams that have been fielding their "2" squads in USL are set to join MLS NEXT Pro, and so is St. Louis City SC.
Who will be playing in it?
Teams will have no salary cap, no minimum or maximum salaries, and seven international roster spots, With more salary flexibility than the MLS league contracts, teams should be able to grab players that they would not have been able to get previously and then use the new league as a place for them to develop. Amateur academy players are eligible to play, but teams cannot play more than five amateurs on the field at a time.
Who will be coaching for City's NEXT Pro team?
St. Louis City's teams will begin the season led by John Hackworth. Hackworth is Director of Coaching for the club across all levels, but he will also serve as interim head coach of the NEXT Pro team until the academy season ends. At that point, Andreas Schumaker, the current academy head coach, will take over.
Joining the staff as assistant coach is Elvir Kafedžić. St. Louis fans will remember Fufi (as Kafedžić was more affectionately known) from his days with previous second-division club AC St. Louis. Alex Langer, formerly of UNC Wilmington and Hamburg SV's academy, will take on the role of director of goalkeeping.
Other personnel announced so far include Tyler Harris, formerly of New Mexico United, as athletic trainer; Brendan Gittemeier, formerly of the U.S. Men's National Team and Saint Louis FC, as equipment manager; and Bomi Park as player relations manager.
Hackworth's track record as a championship-winning head coach at Lousiville City would seem to set him up well for success as a head coach in the lower divisions. This time, however, he will be trying it in a league in which player development takes priority over wins and losses, and it remains to be seen how head coaching will fit with his Director of Coaching duties.
While fans eagerly await player announcements, we know the team will have to be ready soon, as they will be playing FC Cincinnati's MLS squad in a preseason match February 11th in Clearwater, Florida, before the NEXT Pro regular season begins in March.
By Joe Chambers