We are only a month away from the start of the 2021-2022 MLS Next competition and St. Louis City SC has announced its highly anticipated, first-ever academy squads. The teams have been built from scratch and Flyover Footy intends to dig deep into these rosters. For now, here is a quick take from our research and conversations with friends about the kids chosen to represent our local club ahead of their inaugural MLS season in 2023.
To begin, we know that these players were chosen through scouting, invitational trial, and even open trials. This team gives us a taste of what the technical staff is looking for in a St. Louis City player. A large majority of these players were scouted from all over the region, from St. Charles to Farmington, to Illinois, and, of course, inside St. Louis proper. In all, five players were chosen from the open trials, which is a testament to a value the club seems eager to promote: that everyone, regardless of their background, should have access to the opportunity of a high level of competition, potentially leading to a career in the professional game.
But, it’s not merely professional players they seek to develop. In nearly every academy event or announcement, the club reiterates an intent to develop players’ personal development socially, physically, and academically. These well-rounded players will indeed have a chance to make the MLS Division 3 team competing in 2022, the league’s inaugural season, and then even go on to get minutes with the inaugural MLS senior team in 2023.
Enough introduction…let’s get to the rosters!
2021-2022 U-17 Roster
Ajdin Ahmetkadic, Defense, St. Louis, MO
Sagar Bhujel, Forward, Ilam, Nepal
Adam Boykin, Forward, Edwardsville, IL
Harrison Engel, Forward, Webster Groves, MO
Anthony Faupel, Forward, St. Charles, MO
Nathan Ferguson, Forward, Glen Carbon, IL
Brian Franco, Midfield, Omaha, NE
Caden Glover, Forward, Columbia, IL
Aaron Heard, Midfield, Fairfax, VA
Mikey Lay, Midfield, Florissant, MO
Malik Lovelace, Midfield, St. Peters, MO
Connor Lovell, Defense, O’Fallon, MO
Jacob Lusignan, Defense, Kansas City, MO
Joshua Maher, Defense, Caseyville, IL
Nolan Mcguire, Midfield, Cape Girardo, MO
Miguel Perez, Midfield, St. Louis, MO
Collin Jimenez-Pinkston, Forward, Wentzville, MO
Kai Pope, Midfield, St. Louis, MO
Tyler Sargent, St. Louis, MO
Braydon Sellars, Forward, St. Charles, MO
Oscar Solice, Midfield, St. Louis, MO
Fritz Volmar, Defense, Peoria, IL
Max Vuong, Defense, San Francisco, CA
Timothy Walshauser, Defense, Kirkwood, MO
Nathan Yao, Defense, Chicago, IL
Mason Beck, Goalkeeper, St. Louis, MO
Cal L’Hommedieu, Goalkeeper, St. Louis, MO
Owen Spore, Goalkeeper, St. Charles, MO
2021-2022 U-16 Roster
Nolan Burcke, Midfield, St. Louis, MO
Omar Cilic, Forward, St. Louis, MO
Jackson Delkus, Forward, St. Louis, MO
Jack DiMaria, Midfield, Fenton, MO
Nathan Harmon, Midfield, St. Louis, MO
Sam Leonard, Forward, Clayton, MO
Cooper Ludwig, Midfield, O’Fallon, MO
Jackson McNeal, Defense, Manchester, MO
Gavin Netzel, Defense, Buffalo, NY
Tyson Pearce, St. Charles, MO
Thomas Pratl, Defense, St. Louis, MO
Edin Prgo, Forward, St. Louis, MO
Dustin Randazzo, Defense, Farmington
Kyle Schwartz, Defense, St. Louis, MO
Zach Stanton, Defense, St. Louis, MO
Eddie Stewart, Midfield, St. Louis, MO
Blas Urbano, Defense, Labadie, MO
Zach Van Hee, Midfield, O’Fallon, MO
Landon Veach, Forward, St. Louis, MO
Landon Weber, Midfield, St. Louis, MO
Nick Bishop, Goalkeeper, Chesterfield, MO
Parker Brooks, Goalkeeper, Farmington, MO
Robert Martinez, Goalkeeper, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Let’s start with some facts largely compiled by Stuart Hultgren and Matt Baker of Flyover Footy and (more so) St. Louligan fame. Josh Maher, brother of Joey (Indiana University) and Jack Maher (Nashville SC), is a name that stands out immediately. He captained the St. Louis FC U17’s last year. He will obviously have his own path to pave, but it’s fun to see how he fares in this new pathway St. Louis has to offer.
It was announced this April that Maher, Zach Stanton, Nathan Ferguson, Jackson Delkus, Nathan Harmon, and Landon Weber had been called into the USYNT Regional Identification Center to be evaluated as potential players to join the pool for USA youth national team call ups.
The star of these rosters is 15 year old Aaron Heard. As reported by Matt Ralph of The Brotherly Game, after Philadelphia Union recruited Heard from Bethesda SC in Maryland to play with their own academy, he was notably absent from the U15 roster announcement the following the season. It was confirmed that he had left for family reasons. Well, here he is popping up in St. Louis. More from Ralph on Heard: “Box to box, was able to control the midfield against older kids. Very poised and played well within himself. The kind of flashy that entirely comes from his play and not how he carries himself”. The kid has been highly touted and will be a player to build around, perhaps for years to come. He was the Golden Ball winner (best player) of the CONCACAF U13 Champions League. Also, like the STLFC players above, Heard was called into the USYNT ID camp this year, but also to the U14 one in 2019 when he was still with Bethesda SC in Maryland. The most important part of Aaron’s move to St. Louis is MLS clubs’ increasingly ruthless recruitment of prospects from outside homegrown regions. There are eight players on these rosters that are listed as coming from well outside the St. Louis region and it shows that CITY’s technical staff are already getting the hang of roster building the “MLS way”.
Of the 28 players on the U17 roster, 20 players are from the St. Louis region, and seven live within St. Louis County/City. Of the 23 on the U16 roster, 19 are from the St. Louis region and 11 live within the St. Louis County/City limits. This further shows that St. Louis City SC is merely a name (one quite commonly used in English soccer clubs). The academy is quite inclusive to the entire region when it comes to player selection.
Something we’ll be watching play out organically is the academy’s relationship to other well established academies in the area. If you recall, the CITY academy model is such that it will only field teams U14 and above. These teams will recruit players from other academies and soccer teams in the region, but also put into place community satellite centers to try and catch players falling through the cracks. It is a model that worked for STL City Sporting Director Lutz Pfannenstiel in Europe, and it will be most interesting to see how it develops here in the states.
Most prominent of these other academies is the St. Louis Scott Gallagher/St. Louis FC Academies. 11 players on the CITY U17 roster and 15 of the U16 players came from some level of this system. Most of the rest came from Lou Fusz and JB Marine. A few others came straight from high schools in the region, which is a nice, unexpected move, perhaps showing the strength of scouting and an open mind. A fun one for rivalry lovers is that two players in the U16 squad came from Sporting Kansas City’s St. Louis branch, whose existence in St. Louis has irked many a St. Louis soccer fan.
Again, Flyover Footy intends to dig deep into this roster and the fun begins now! We have a CITY team to root for with real players, and we intend to do it justice. -PG