MLS NEXT Pro: NYCFC name coach, St. Louis CITY unveil roster

As the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season inches closer, another MLS-affiliated team named their head coach.

Meanwhile, MLS expansion side St. Louis CITY SC unveiled their roster for the new professional league.

New York City FC announced Matt Pilkington as head coach of NYCFC II, with Danny Cepero serving as assistant coach.

Pilkington has been with NYCFC's academy since 2016, serving as head coach of the U-15/U-16 and U-19 squads, which culminated with a U-16 Generation Adidas Cup Premier Division title and back-to-back U-19 National Championship titles.

Pilkington, who holds a U.S. Soccer Federation A FIFA Coaching License and recently completed the U.S. Soccer Pro License Course, has coached every NYCFC homegrown player signed to the first team.

“It’s an honor to be part of this new endeavor and write the next chapter in the history of this club. I'm passionate about helping players grow and develop, I look forward to the opportunity to do so,” Pilkington said in a release. "I think this is a really important step in the evolution of our club and I’m excited to use my experience to connect with players and help them achieve their goals. MLS NEXT Pro will provide a competitive and professional environment for these players to master their craft with a pathway into our first team as the ultimate goal.”

Cepero has been NYCFC's academy goalkeeper coach since 2017. He previously served as an assistant coach at the University of Louisville for five seasons after a playing career that included a stint with the New York Red Bulls, making his debut in 2008.

“We are proud to name Matt and Danny as the first members of NYCFC II’s technical staff,” sporting director David Lee said in a release. “Given the success Matt and Danny have experienced in our academy in developing homegrown talent, we felt they were perfect to help guide our young talent as they progress.”

While St. Louis CITY SC continue to plan their first-team roster ahead of their MLS debut in 2023, the expansion club announced STL CITY 2's roster in MLS NEXT Pro.

The squad includes former Philadelphia Union center back Josh Yaro, who is poised to join the first team in 2023. Others like former Saint Louis University midfielder AJ Palazzolo and former Missouri State University goalkeeper Michael Creek will get their first taste of professional play.

The club will be led by John Hackworth, St. Louis CITY’s director of coaching who's serving as STL CITY 2 interim coach. Elvir Kafedžić will be an assistant coach.

“From the staff to the players, we have managed to assemble a strong team,” Hackworth said in a release. “We have a really balanced roster with players from other professional leagues, various college teams and our academy program. We wanted this team to be about development and to provide opportunities for players to learn the CITY soccer philosophy and hopefully we can see a few of these guys make the transition to the first team next year.”