Major League Soccer is an incredibly competitive sports league, but a new development league is giving younger players a chance to get more time on the field and more opportunities to develop their skills—and that includes the New York Red Bulls II.
It’s a new development team for the Red Bulls, who play home games at Montclair State University Soccer Park.
This month, the Red Bulls II will finish their first season in the new league, called MLS Next Pro. They’ll play against Chicago Fire FC II for the first round of the league’s playoffs—a huge achievement for this young team—on Sunday, October 1, at 1 pm ET.
The Red Bulls II, formed in January 2015, was created to provide young players a clear path to professional careers with the main team, as well as to provide time on the field to lesser utilized main team players. It was previously a member of the United Soccer League Championship, which was highly competitive because it was a mix of development teams and professional teams. The new league is only made up of MLS development teams, making it a much better fit for the Red Bulls II.
Head coach and former first team player Ibrahim Sekagya has seen the development club grow from its start, after he was offered a coaching position at the newly formed club. He retired from his playing career in 2015. The Ugandan native has worked with the club ever since, becoming the head coach just last year in 2022.
“[I’ve seen a] bunch of players growing up to where they are now. This is something that is so important to me,” says Sekagya. “This is exactly what we are as a second team: seeing players grow up and then taking [the next] step.”
Sean McCafferty has been the New York Red Bulls academy director for the past four years; he previously served as academy director of FC Barcelona’s Residency Academy in Arizona. The academy puts an emphasis on scouting and signing local players, with many coming from the New York metropolitan area.
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One of the program’s biggest success stories is Tyler Adams, a New York-native midfielder who played for the Red Bulls and Red Bulls II as a teenager and has since played in the top divisions in Germany and England. He also captained the US Men’s National Team at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar last December.
“The Northeast is just different; our strength is our diversity,” says McCafferty. “[There are] players with such varied backgrounds, who come from soccer families from different parts of the world. It’s the perfect place in the country to identify and develop lots of top players.”
Daniel Edelman, of Warren Township, joined the Red Bulls academy in 2020 and was immediately implemented into the development squad. The 20-year-old midfielder’s performance earned him a first-team contract the following year, although he still occasionally plays for the Red Bulls II.
Edelman is even following in Adams’s footsteps, captaining the under-20 national team at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina this past May and June.
“With the Red Bulls II, I learned a lot tactically and what it takes for a defensive midfielder to thrive in the Red Bull system,” says Edelman. “But more so, it was about preparing myself for the difficulties and obstacles you’ve got to take [as a first-team player].”
While it is only its first season in the league, the future looks bright for the young club and the talent it can provide to the growing soccer culture in the U.S.
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