Union II Start Their 2024 MLS Next Pro Season Against Toronto FC II: Match Preview

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It’s finally here, the 2024 MLS Next Pro season is underway and Union II will be kicking their season off at 3 pm on Sunday against Toronto FC II. 

Marlon LeBlanc’s side has been in preparations for the season since the soft start back in early January, a pre-season period that saw the side head down to Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex in Clearwater to face a host of teams, including 3 USL Championship level sides. 

After a solid pre-season training camp, Philly will be looking to kick off their season with 3 points against a difficult Toronto FC II side, who added 5 new signings, re-signed two of their key players, and managed to retain another 7 consistent squad members from last year’s team.

Union, Union II
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Union II vs TFC II Preview

Union II and Toronto FC II faced off against each other three times last season. The first two games saw the sides draw, while the third game back in September was a 5-3 win. Antony Curic and Julian Altobelli are two players in the Toronto FC II side that are worth noting for the game. 

Union II has also had a busy offseason, with the loan signings of defender Randy Meneses from Ecuador and midfielder Giovanny Sequera from Venezuela. Both are highly regarded youth internationals who have the chance to really impress the Philly staff during their time here.  

The third signing of the offseason was announced in the past few days and its goalkeeper Mike Sheridan out of Saint Joseph’s College in Maine and local USL League 2 side West Chester SC. West Chester SC has been a good servant of talent to Philly as both senior squad striker Chris Donovan and Union II captain Kyle Tucker also signed for UII from West Chester. Sheridan joins a stacked goalkeeper group that includes Andrew Rick Jr and Gavin Atkinson.

Union II
Union II open their 2022 MLS Next Pro Campaign against FC Cincinnati 2. Mandatory Credit: Justin Friedberg

Up-and-coming players are ready to ball out!

Also during the offseason, Union II managed to pull off two huge contracts for standout stars CJ Olney and David Vazquez. Olney was a huge star for UII as an academy graduate last season, as he went on to tally 4 goals and 8 assists in 23 games for the team. Olney will be a major player in how well Union II does in the MLS Next Pro this season and I expect him to get senior team looks soon enough. 

The other to sign a pro contract with the team is winger David Vazquez, who started 8 of his 22 games last season, scoring 5 times and assisting twice. Vazquez has really made a name for himself as a USMNT U17 player, playing 17 times for his country in multiple major tournaments like the U17 CONCACAF Championship and the U17 World Cup, where he bagged his first international goal against Germany in the Round of 16. 

Marlon LeBlanc will have a very fluid squad to play around with, both in terms of personnel available to him and the formations and tactics he’ll employ. UII has always had senior team talent available to them.

Union, Union II
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

See tomorrow’s stars of the first team, today with UII

Quinn Sullivan, Jack McGlynn, and Jesus Bueno are just some of the names that have featured over the past 2 seasons for Marlon LeBlanc’s side and this year around, it looks like Nick Pariano, Olwethu Makhanya, Sanders Ngabo, and Jamir Berdecio will all be available for Union II selection as Philly looks to get them game time before they are needed in the senior team when international breaks happen and some of the roster is away. 

A new generation of Academy players will also be introduced into the UII side and it’ll be an exciting time to see a lot of the players who were a part of the academy U17’s side that won the Generation Adidas Cup back during the spring of 2023. Cavan Sullivan, who was with the Union II squad during their pre-season preparations, looks set to be a part of the new generation of academy players. 

It’s always difficult to predict how the opening few games will go for UII and any of the teams down in MLS Next Pro, with squads constantly being changed and a lot of it being decided on how much the young talent has improved or regressed over the offseason. 

However, Philly will be looking to be, at the very least, repeating the playoff appearance they’ve managed to get in the past 2 seasons. With the talent already available to them, and the fact they have one of the best youth academies in the country supplying them with young and hungry stars in the making, Union II will always be set up for success under Marlon LeBlanc and his staff’s leadership.

Union, Union II
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Best Union II Bets

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union