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MLS NEXT Jun 24, 2024

MLS NEXT Cup 2024 concludes as top teams from four different clubs win titles

NEW YORK – The record-breaking 2023-24 MLS NEXT season culminated on Sunday in Nashville, Tenn. as four different clubs hoisted MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs trophies at GEODIS Park.

Held in Nashville for the first time in MLS NEXT history, the finals of the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs produced four different winning clubs across each age group – U15 Chicago Fire FC, U16 FC DELCO, U17 LA Galaxy, and U19 Strikers FC. The championship matches also included record goal-scoring numbers with 16 in total throughout the day.

In the U17 age group, the LA Galaxy, who were led by head coach Shaun Tsakiris, became the second team in MLS NEXT history to win consecutive MLS NEXT Cup titles in the same age group (U19 New England Revolution, 2022-23). Chicago Fire FC also made history in Nashville as they lifted the U15 championship to become the only club to win an MLS NEXT Cup in two different age groups after they were victorious in the U19 age group in 2021.

This year marked the first time that two MLS NEXT Elite Academies won the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs in the same season – U16 FC DELCO and U19 Strikers FC. For Strikers FC, the club avenged back-to-back runner-up finishes in the U16 age group with their first ever MLS NEXT Cup title. FC DELCO capped off a tremendous tournament as the side scored multiple goals in every single game and had a total goal differential of plus-10.

MLS NEXT also announced the Top Scorer, Best Goalkeeper, and MVP for the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs in all four age groups. FC DELCO’s Michael Capretto (U16) became the first player in MLS NEXT history to win MLS NEXT Cup MVP and MLS NEXT Cup Top Scorer.

U15 Champions: Chicago Fire FC

Despite conceding the opening goal against the LA Galaxy, Chicago Fire FC mounted a comeback to become the first team in MLS NEXT history to win two different age groups (U19 in 2021). The Galaxy’s Aaron Medina scored the first goal of the match in the 11th minute, but James Field equalized from the penalty spot in the 25th minute. Chicago then took the lead right after halftime as U.S. Youth International Robert Turdean played in Emiliano Chavez who found Christopher Morales , and the No. 8 passed his finish into the net. With the Galaxy pushing for an equalizer, the Fire countered through U15 MVP Darris Hyte, who rounded the goalkeeper and sealed the title for Chicago. MLS NEXT Cup Best Goalkeeper honors went to Alex Ivanov, who had a phenomenal tournament, which included a key penalty shootout win in the quarterfinals against Orlando City SC.

U15 Individual Awards

  • Top Scorer: Jared Cardenas (FC Cincinnati)
  • Best Goalkeeper: Alex Ivanov (Chicago Fire FC)
  • MVP: Darris Hyte (Chicago Fire FC)

U16 Champions: FC DELCO

FC DELCO capped off a dominant MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs by taking down Real Colorado 3-0 to begin the Championship Sunday at GEODIS Park. Remy Tshibangu opened the scoring in the 38th minute as the ball fell to him in the box and he placed his finish into the back of the net. After multiple second-half saves by Grant Kiefner, the MLS NEXT Cup Best Goalkeeper in the U16 age group, DELCO doubled their advantage in the 64th minute as Seamus Lannon scored his third goal of the tournament to give the Pennsylvania side some breathing space. DELCO wrapped up the championship in the 71st minute when Michael Capretto dribbled past a defender and laced a shot into the roof of the net. Capretto scored a tournament-high eight goals and became the first player in MLS NEXT history to win MLS NEXT Cup MVP and MLS NEXT Cup Top Scorer. This marked the first time FC DELCO won MLS NEXT Cup in an age group after making the finals in 2023 in the U19s age group.

U16 Individual Awards

  • Top Scorer: Michael Capretto (FC DELCO)
  • Best Goalkeeper: Grant Kiefner (FC DELCO)
  • MVP: Michael Capretto (FC DELCO)

U17 Champions: LA Galaxy

Led by head coach Shaun Tsakiris, the LA Galaxy won back-to-back titles in the U17 age group by defeating Charlotte FC, becoming the first team to do so in the U17s. Ruben Ramos Jr. was sensational for the Galaxy, recording a hat trick for his side, which took his tournament tally to eight goals in less than 350 minutes played. Despite a goal from Charlotte’s Rocket Ritarita, the Galaxy were too much to handle with Ramos Jr., Gabriel Arnold, and Pepe Magaña out there. Magaña was terrific as a ball-playing center back and scored in the final, which resulted in him earning MLS NEXT Cup MVP honors. The Galaxy finished up a clean sweep of the awards when Owen Pratt won Best Goalkeeper for a string of clutch performances throughout the week.

U17 Individual Awards

  • Top Scorer: Ruben Ramos Jr. (LA Galaxy)
  • Best Goalkeeper: Owen Pratt (LA Galaxy)
  • MVP: Jose ‘Pepe’ Magaña (LA Galaxy)

U19 Champions: Strikers FC

After suffering defeats in the U16 final in back-to-back seasons, Strikers FC broke through in dramatic fashion to take home their first MLS NEXT Cup championship. Taj Eagleston emerged as the difference maker in the final, scoring the opening goal of the match in the 7th minute with a quick glancing header. Cedar Stars Academy Bergen, who was making their first appearance in the final, equalized through starting striker Francis De Francesco less than 20 minutes later.

The MVP Eagleston thought he had won the title in the 83rd minute as he struck a hard-hit shot past the Bergen goalkeeper. However, with just seconds left, Bergen equalized when MLS NEXT Cup Top Scorer Ransford Gyan rattled the crossbar, but Colin O’Brien pounced on the rebound. In penalties, Kaden Gust rose to the occasion for Strikers, making two huge saves to earn the club’s first MLS NEXT Cup.

U19 Individual Awards

  • Top Scorer: Ransford Gyan (Cedar Stars Academy Bergen)
  • Best Goalkeeper: Kaden Gust (Strikers FC)
  • MVP adidas: Taj Eagleston (Strikers FC)

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