Sporting KC Academy defender Ian James named to MLS NEXT All-Star roster


Sporting Kansas City Academy defender Ian James today was announced as one of 44 selected players for the third annual MLS NEXT All-Star Game presented by Allstate. As one of the 44 best young players across the U.S. and Canada, James will compete in an East vs. West matchup at Historic Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, July 23 at 10:30 a.m. CT with the match streaming lie on YouTube. Admission to the game is free, as fans in Columbus can watch the Academy players take center stage during MLS All-Star week.

MLS NEXT and Allstate will provide the players with unique opportunities during MLS All-Star Week, which will include a full slate of programming events and activities in advance of the match. The players will be fully immersed in MLS All-Star Week festivities, which include team training, the All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T on July 23, and the MLS All-Star Game on July 24. Each MLS NEXT All-Star team will also conduct their own training sessions leading up to their match on Tuesday morning.

A Minnesota native, James joined the Sporting KC Academy in 2021 and has risen through the ranks earning minutes with the U-14, U-15, U-17 and U-19 squads. He captained the U-15s throughout the 2022-23 MLS NEXT season including several GA Cup and MLS NEXT FLEX matches. Earlier this year, the 16-year-old joined the first team for preseason down in Miami, appearing in three friendlies.

This past MLS NEXT season, the defender spent the majority of his time with the U-17s, helping guide them to the 2024 GA Cup Quarterfinals and earn qualification for the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs after a perfect showing at MLS NEXT Flex in May. In the playoffs last month, James and the U-17s knocked the Portland Timbers and Weston FC out of the competition before suffering a defeat in the Quarterfinals.

James made his professional debut on March 17, playing 32 minutes in Sporting Kansas City II's season opener at Houston Dynamo 2. He made his first start for SKC II a week later against Ventura County FC and has started two of five appearances, logging 249 minutes so far on the campaign.

“Throughout the season, these 44 players from both MLS and MLS NEXT Elite Academies have consistently stood out as the best young prospects in our program,” said MLS NEXT Technical Director Luis Robles. “The players and clubs should be proud of their accomplishments this year and we look forward to a highly competitive match in Columbus on July 23.”

The 44 players were selected following the conclusion of the 2024 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs and Showcase. To be eligible for selection, players must have been born between 2007-2009, have competed in the MLS NEXT regular season, and played in at least one of the MLS NEXT premier events this season – MLS NEXT Fest, MLS NEXT Flex, Generation adidas Cup, or the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs and Showcase.

The two teams will compete in an East vs. West format at Historic Crew Stadium in Columbus Ohio on the day before the MLS All-Star Game, Tuesday, July 23. Nine clubs had multiple selections, including the LA Galaxy, which had a game-high three selections, who were all members of their U17 side that won MLS NEXT Cup in 2024. For the first time in the game’s history, six different MLS NEXT Elite Academies will also be represented in Columbus: Albion SC Los Angeles, Barca Residency Academy, BW Gottschee, FC DELCO, Players Development Academy, and Strikers FC. FC DELCO has two representatives – Liam Briscoe and Michael Capretto – the first time an Elite Academy has had multiple selections in the same year.

MLS NEXT also advised on the selection of the coaching staff for both East and West teams. The head coach of the East team will be Columbus Crew director of player development Dan Lock. Lock joined Columbus in June 2022 and has served an integral role in the Crew’s player development pathway that has resulted in a 2023 MLS Cup, 2022 MLS NEXT Pro Cup, and an appearance in the final of 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Cup. Prior to Columbus, Lock served as the academy manager and U17 head coach for Charlotte FC from 2020-22 as well as in a variety of coaching roles with Seattle Sounders FC from 2016-20.

The West head coach will be LA Galaxy U17 head coach Shaun Tsakiris, who recently became the first coach to win the U17 age group of MLS NEXT Cup twice (2023 and 2024). Through Tsakiris’ leadership, he has helped develop young Galaxy talents like Harbor Miller, Ruben Ramos Jr., and the joint MLS NEXT-record three players in this year’s game. Tsakiris was previously the U.S. U16 Youth National Team head coach from 2016-18 and is currently an assistant for the U.S. U20 Youth National Team.

Admission to the MLS NEXT All-Star Game presented by Allstate at Historic Crew Stadium is free of cost. Fans are highly encouraged to park in the VIP lot (near Gate 4 and 5) and G Lot, and more information on parking directions can be found HERE.


Launched in 2020, MLS NEXT is the most elite platform for youth player development in North America. With a commitment to innovation and providing access and representation, MLS NEXT players receive the best training and coaching as they prepare for their futures, both in soccer and in life. Throughout a season, MLS NEXT hosts four marquee events across the country, including the Generation adidas Cup, which features MLS academies playing against the top international clubs. Membership for the 2023-24 season included 29 MLS academies, 114 Elite Academies (143 total clubs), 677 teams and over 15,000 players across the U.S. and Canada. Official partners of MLS NEXT include adidas, Allstate, and DoorDash. For more information about MLS NEXT, visit

About Allstate

The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) protects people from life’s uncertainties with a wide array of protection for autos, homes, electronic devices and identity theft. Products are available through a broad distribution network including Allstate agents, independent agents, major retailers, online and at the workplace. Allstate is widely known for the slogan “You’re in Good Hands with Allstate.” For more information, visit