2023 MLS NEXT Fest: Top players to watch

MLS NEXT Fest 2023 Logo

This year’s MLS NEXT Fest heads to Arizona Dec. 5-10, with four age groups set to compete at the Reach 11 Sports Complex in Phoenix.

The Under-15 and Under-17 age groups will pit MLS academy teams against one another in the Pro Player Pathway, while the rest are set to compete in front of scouts and college coaches.

Here’s a look at some of the top players expected to compete.


Kortay Ko - Global Football Innovation Academy

The Houston-based winger is an intriguing wide attacker who brings plenty of pop in the penalty box. He can score goals in a variety of ways and spent the summer training abroad in Europe.

Frankie DeFrancesco - Cedar Stars Academy-Bergen

The striker heads to Arizona after scoring eight goals in eight MLS NEXT appearances, showing great form in the oldest age group.

Uriel Koffi - Baltimore Armour

One of the players set to compete in the Under-19 Uncommitted Match, Koffi is a wide player who can play as a winger or wingback.


Pro Player Pathway

Adyn Torres - Atlanta United FC

A midfielder who's already inked pro terms with Atlanta United, Torres continues to improve and develop. He’ll look to stay sharp at MLS NEXT Fest ahead of preseason with the pros.

Nathaniel Abraham - Toronto FC

Abraham recently played for Canada at the Under-17 World Cup but remains eligible for the U17s in MLS NEXT. He’s shown promise as a goalkeeper of high potential and was named to the MLS NEXT All-Star team this past summer.

Jonathan Shore - New York City FC

A homegrown signing from earlier this season, Shore is a supremely technical midfielder who can run the show at the youth levels. Putting in a good performance here could set him up well as to make his MLS debut next season.


Diego Colon - BW Gottschee

The storied New York club has enjoyed a strong fall season, putting together a record of 13W-0L-2D. Several players have made an impression, though Colon stands out as an attacking force who can score goals or create them.

Isaiah Kaakoush - Barca Residency Academy

A center back who's part of the US youth national team pool, Kaakoush has been strong this season playing up with the 2007s. (He was born in '08).

Titus Alviso - Strikers FC

One of the newcomers on the Strikers FC '07 squad, Alvios is a hard-working forward who’s a pest to play against. He disrupts the opposing teams in possession and is dangerous getting into the final third.

Dillon Logan - Alexandria SA

Another attacking prospect, Logan is an accomplished player for Alexandria’s Under-17 team. He gets himself into dangerous spots on the field and makes good decisions with the final ball.


Alex Hohl - Real Colorado

The Real Colorado goalkeeper has shown the ability to make big saves, positioning himself well to anticipate shots. He helped Real Colorado reach the MLS NEXT Cup quarterfinals over the summer. 

Jefrey Gonzalez-Pelaez - PDA

A regular goal-scorer for the New Jersey club, Gonzalez-Pelaez is set to compete at the Fest Best Of match this week.

Michael Capretto - FC Delco

Another decorated attacker, the Delaware native has been FC Delco 08's leading scorer the past three seasons. He’s a talented and technical player up front who’s shown impressive consistency at a young age.

Esli Garcia - De Anza Force

The Northern California club has a lengthy history of developing players for the next level, be it pro or college soccer. Garcia’s a talented center back who’s one of the top players on his team and has taken part in a regional US youth national team ID Center.


Pro Player Pathway

Darian Rus - LAFC

Towards the end of the 2022-23 season, Rus started playing with the Under-15s, where he continued to be a regular goal threat. In fact, the forward bagged a brace against LA Galaxy at MLS NEXT Cup. He’ll look to continue that success in Arizona.

Mathis Albert - LA Galaxy

A talented attacker who’s currently playing for the US U-15s, Albert has shown the ability to score and create goals at the younger age groups. Assuming he makes the trip from Europe to Arizona, he’ll be one of the top '09 attackers on display.

Malik Jakupovic - Philadelphia Union

Having moved to the Union Academy this past summer from Michigan, Jakupovic leads the line for Philadelphia’s U-15 team. Scouts regard him as one of the top strikers in the age group. His numbers back that up so far, with 15 goals and two assists in nine games.

Fest Showcase

Lucas Aquino - NEFC

Aquino is one of the key players on an NEFC squad that boasts an 11W-2L-1D record.

Ryan Cho - PDA

Another Best Of selection for his age group, Cho has emerged as a talented '09 player from New Jersey. The midfielder traveled to England earlier this year as part of US Club Soccer’s id2 international tour.

Akiva Lieberman - FC United (IL)

It’s been a bright fall season for Lieberman, a wide attacker who’s shown a knack for scoring and creating goals. He has 15 goals and seven assists in 10 games, and is part of the Best Of match for this age group.