Offseason Issues / Philadelphia Union II

Updating MLS Next Pro and Philadelphia Union II

Photo Marjorie Elzey

It is time to summarize what we know — and think we know — about MLS Next Pro and Philadelphia Union II for 2024.

League teams – present and future

For 2024 there will be 29 teams. Two new independents will join the existing 27 MLS-owned professional second teams that participated last year. Neither CF Montreal nor D. C. United currently have teams in MLS NEXT Pro.

One of the new independents, Chattanooga FC, has existed for 15 years. The newcomer is the Carolina Core from High Point, NC near Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

Two more teams are expected to join in 2025. Connecticut United Football Club of Bridgeport was announced January 9, 2024.  Last year, Jacksonville Armada was also announced for next season.

Cleveland is slated for an eventual expansion team and San Diego may be adding a second MLS NEXT Pro team, but no chronology has yet been published.

Last, the city of Baltimore is considering where it might build a soccer-specific stadium for D. C. United’s NEXT Pro team somewhere in greater Baltimore.

D. C. is still involved as a minority stakeholder in Loudon United FC of the USL Championship. It continues to provide that club meaningful soccer-specific management expertise. The key fact is that their contract with Loudoun County, VA to build Segra field in Leesburg for Loudoun United committed them to put a division two team in the stadium. MLS Next Pro is division three.

2024 Conferences & Divisions

Based upon the league’s two-year existence, this year’s 29 teams will be divided into two conferences, each conference further subdivided into two divisions . We expect the Mississippi River will continue to divide East from West.

Here is an entirely unofficial conference and division alignment, based upon the league’s recent geographic divisions. It maintains almost all current rivalries and puts logical new ones in place.

  Eastern Conference Western Conference
Northeast Division Frontier Division
1 Carolina Core Austin FC II
2 Crown Legacy FC (Charlotte) Colorado Rapids 2
3 New England Revolution II Houston Dynamo 2
4 New York City FC II Minnesota United FC 2
5 New York Red Bull II North Texas SC (Dallas)
6 Philadelphia Union II Sporting Kansas City II
7 Toronto FC II St. Louis City SC II
Central Division Pacific Division
1 Atlanta United 2 LA Galaxy II
2 Chattanooga FC Los Angeles FC 2
3 Chicago Fire FC II Portland Timbers 2
4 FC Cincinnati 2 Real Monarchs (Salt Lake)
5 Columbus Crew 2 San Jose Earthquakes II
6 Huntsville City FC (Nashville) Tacoma Defiance (Seattle)
7 Inter Miami CF II Whitecaps FC 2 (Vancouver)
8 Orlando City B


2024 Union II schedule

Unless MLS NEXT Pro changes its scheduling pattern, expect a regular season of 28 games with a home and away combination against every eastern team.  Philadelphia Union II should have no interconference play and all home games should be at Subaru Park. No construction work on the building of Phase Two of the WSFS Sportsplex is yet visible

A league website news article indicates the game schedule will begin sometime in March. Last year’s schedule of 28 games began in the middle of the month..

MLS NEXT Pro played through FIFA’s international windows last year and will presumably do so again. One game a week starting  March 15, would end a 28-week season around September 22

Not even PSP’s infamous cracked, cloudy, inaccurate crystal ball can forecast what the league has imagined for its 2024 playoffs.

Philadelphia Union II Roster

If the first-team’s roster remains a work in progress, of necessity Union II’s remains so as well. We know six of last year’s professional players are returning. All six have been seen, either virtually in Florida or actually in Chester. All ages were calculated January 10th.

  Player Pos Age ‘24 contract
1 Andrew Rick GK 17.9 Guaranteed
2 Neil Pierre RCB 16.2 Guaranteed
3 Sal Olivas S 17.5 Guaranteed
4 C. J. Olney LM 17.1 Guaranteed
5 Carlos Rojas DM 20.0 Option exercised
6 Kyle Tucker M 24.5 Option exercised

These academy amateurs played, dressed, or consistently practiced with Union II last fall.

7 Francis Westfield RB 18.1 “Zero-dollar”
8 Daniel Kreuger CB 18.0 “Zero-dollar”
9 Alex Perez RM 17.7 “Zero-dollar”
10 Gavin Wetzel RB 17.4 “Zero-dollar”
11 Edward Davis S 17.6 “Zero-dollar”
12 Jack Andrus LB 18.0 “Zero-dollar”
13 Jonathan Evans GK 17.5 “Zero-dollar”
14 Antonios Horozoglou M 17.5 “Zero-dollar”

Union II professional Jose Riasco and Academy amateur David Vazquez are expected to sign with the first team. Alongside Vazquez during the Union’s first leg in Florida were Westfield, Olney, Pierre, and Rick. Riasco has been away with Venezuela’s U-23s in CONMEBOL’s PreOlympic qualification tournament in his home country.


  1. Why do these league’s have an obsession with having an odd number of teams when an even number makes much more sense from a scheduling perspective? Given that this is a development league, it’s not as important to have a schedule with a relatively equal amount of time off but it still doesn’t seem to be the most intelligent thing to have 29 teams rather than 28.

  2. We know Major League Soccer charges entrance fees, and lately they have been huge. Might MLS Next Pro do the same? We have no idea one way or the other.

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    Tim. Good stuff.
    Will the games be as concurrent with the first team as possible or does MLS Next run on its entirely own schedule. I admit to not following the ‘growth team’ too closely unless I stumble upon it.
    I always thought where and when possible… having the UII play before the First team particularly would limit travel headaches and get more bang for the buck for people to come watch. IDK.

    • In the past there has been a fair amount of overlap so that if the Union host Orlando on Saturday night there is a decent chance Union2 will host Orlando2 on Sunday. It’s obviously not 100% since Union2 don’t play any interconference games plus DC and Montreal don’t have secondary teams in the same league.
      While I see your point about having Union2 as a warmup for the Union to draw more fans, I think doing it this way where Union2 plays second ultimately makes more sense since it allows players to more readily play in both games. Looking at the team a couple of years ago when Paxton Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan, and Jack McGlynn were getting some backup minutes for the first team, they could come back and then play with the second team for 45-60 minutes the next day. If the games were back to back with the Union2 going first, they couldn’t play for fear that an early injury in the Union game would require them to go say 80 minutes after having gone 60 just a couple of hours earlier.
      I can think of one instance in 2022 where Union2 played home on Saturday afternoon and the Union played in Nashville on Sunday. The three aforementioned players all started and played about 60 minutes then came off at the same time and headed for the locker room. I yelled down asking if they were leaving to catch a plane and got a thumbs up.

    • Andy has several good points. I will try not to repeat them.
      The bedrock first principle for Uniion II is that it does whatever the first team needs it to do. if a first team player needs game minutes, he gets them in the quantity he needs to advance his first team readiness.
      Every first team player has to agree to each “loan-down.” Some few have refused to go. The widest inclusion has been in case of medical rehabilitation.
      There was discuss when MLS NEXT Pro was being created of trying to combine travel costs. But my impression has been that for the Union saving money on travel has been outweighed by maximizing practice and game minutes. There have been times that joint travel would have been possible and it did not happen.
      More usually if the first team plays on Saturday the second team plays on Sunday so first team “benchies” can get time and stay sharp.
      Having the JV play first has not happened to the best of my memory. Union II did once play after the first team in Subaru park — or whatever it was called at the time — on the same afternoon.
      New turf had been laid earlier and was coming up in the first game. Also, having the whole stadium open for the second team is not justified by the crowd size.

      For Union II games they open sections 104, 105, 106, 107 and maybe 108. They only open the restrooms behind those sections and some of the concession stands behind them. The bulk of the stadium remains inactive and therefore less expensive. The clearestilllustration of the principle is stadium entry. Only one gate is open, not four, and there is no separate entrance for press.

      Early in the season conditioning first team reserve players has often been a priority. 2024’s Concacaf Champion’s Cup schedule will impact that role this year, but how depends on how far the Union manage to get into the bracket.

      At times the schedules align in helpful ways

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