MNUFC2 Season Preview

Minnesota United midfielder Niko Hansen (11) during the MNUFC2 vs Sporting KC II match at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minn., on Sunday, April 3, 2022. (Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)


After a relatively quiet offseason MNUFC2 and MLS Next Pro open up the 2023 season this Saturday with the first matches of the leagues second season. MLS Next Pro revealed the league schedule less than two weeks prior to kickoff, this coming after not only expansion over the offseason, but also the folding of RNY FC.

MLS Next Pro Basics:

MLS Next Pro itself isn’t as straightforward as it would seem. While most of the sides have a variant of “two” in their name the teams aren’t a direct second team. Instead of functioning similar to an AHL team or Triple-A Baseball club (such as the Iowa Wild or St. Paul Saints) the team functions more similar to an ECHL hockey team or NBA G-League team (such as the Iowa Heartlanders or Iowa Wolves).

Rather than MNUFC owning all the contracts of players there is instead of a mix of players and what contracts they are on. Some players will be “loaned” from the first team down to the Twos, additionally they are allowed 11 amateur players on the 35 players roster with “a maximum of five (5) youth academy players per team on the field during an official match.” Lastly some players however will have contracts that just link them with the MLS Next Pro side and not to the academy or first team.

League Updates:

The first season of league play saw 21 different clubs in MLS Next Pro, with 20 of them being affiliated with MLS sides along with the independent Rochester New York FC. The 2023 season will see 27 teams fielded in the league, all affiliated with MLS sides. Crown Legacy FC (Matthews, NC | Charlotte FC), Huntsville City FC (Huntsville, AL | Nashville SC), Austin FC II, and LAFC2 joined as expansion sides while New York Red Bulls II and Atlanta United 2 joined the league from the USL Championship.

The last change to the league came just a few weeks ago when Rochester New York FC, the former Rochester Rhinos, announced their folding ahead of the 2023 season.

2023 Schedule:

After a 24 game schedule for MLS Next Pro in 2022, the league has expanded the regular season by four games for the 2023 season.

MNUFC2 will open with six consecutive road matches, beginning Friday, March 24th against Real Monarchs SLC at Zions Bank Stadium. The Twos first home match will take place on Sunday, May 7th when Chicago Fire II visits Blaine. The longest homestand of the season is just three matches long, although after the six match season opening road trip MNUFC2 will play 8 of their next 11 at home.

The Twos final home game of the season will is scheduled for Sunday, September 17th against Sporting Kansas City II. The following week MNUFC2 is set to end the season with an away match against Colorado Rapids II. All MNUFC2 matches are scheduled to be played at the National Sports Center Stadium in Blaine and all matches will be aired on Apple TV as part of the MLS on Apple TV package.

The Roster:

As of this writing MNUFC2 has a total of 14 players listed on their their roster page on their website. The MLS Next Pro site lists the club having a total of 37 players on their roster as of this writing. MNUFC2’s last three transactions saw them loan goalkeeper Alec Smir to USL Championship side Colorado Springs Switchbacks and later signing defender Nick Richardson to a one year contract with an option followed by signing of Minneapolis native Rory O’Driscoll. At this time the club has not released their official 2023 roster.