Sporting Kansas City Academy and Sporting KC II defender Nati Clarke today was announced as one of 44 selected players for the second annual MLS NEXT All-Star Game presented by Allstate. The game will provide a world-class experience for Clarke and other rising stars to showcase their talents in an East vs. West format at the Naval Academy’s Glenn Warner Soccer Facility in Annapolis, Md. on Wednesday, July 19 at 9:30 a.m. CT.
MLS NEXT and Allstate will provide the selected players with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity during MLS All-Star Week, which will include a full slate of evening programming events and activities in advance of the match. The players will be fully integrated into MLS All-Star Week festivities, which include team training, the All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G on July 18 and the MLS All-Star Game on July 19. Each MLS NEXT All-Star team will also conduct their own training sessions leading up to their match on Wednesday morning.
“The MLS NEXT All-Star Game has proven to be the premier showcase for the top youth soccer players in North America,” said MLS NEXT General Manager Justin Bokmeyer. “Each of these talented athletes have earned this opportunity through their tremendous performances this season and we are excited for them to experience a memorable week in Washington, D.C.”
“Our MLS NEXT All-Star Game is about giving players opportunity and we’re excited this year’s game will keep positively impacting the next generation players,” said Dan Keats, director of consumer marketing at Allstate. “Continuing this partnership means we can stay committed to our goal of preserving, protecting and growing the future of soccer in America.”
Born in Ethiopia and raised in Topeka, Kansas, Clarke joined the Sporting KC Academy in 2016. He has represented the United States at the U-15 youth level, notably competing in the 2019 UEFA U-15 Development Tournament. He donned the captain's armband in two matches during the tournament and converted his penalty kick in a shootout against host Poland.
Clarke spent the 2020-21 MLS NEXT campaign with the Sporting KC U-15s before joining the U-17s ahead of the 2021-22 season. The 18-year-old signed his first amateur contract with Sporting KC II last July and started five of nine MLS NEXT Pro appearances placing fifth on the team with 16 tackles. In the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro regular season, Clarke has started eight matches, boasting a 4-1-3 record, one assist and 15 interceptions.
The 44 players were selected by MLS NEXT personnel following the conclusion of the 2023 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs and Showcase. To be eligible for selection, players must have been born between 2005-2007, 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.
MLS NEXT personnel also advised on the selection of the coaching staff for both East and West teams. The head coach of the East team will be D.C. United academy director Patrick Ouckama. Ouckama has been with D.C.’s academy since 2021 and has over a decade of coaching experience in MLS, college, and at the youth club level. Under Ouckama’s stewardship, D.C. United won the U-16 MLS NEXT Cup title in 2022. The assistant coach will be MLS Great and Atlanta United U-16 head coach Kevin Kratz, who led the Five Stripes to this season’s U-16 MLS NEXT Cup championship.
The West squad head coach will be former U.S. Men’s National Team defender and current St. Louis CITY SC U-15 head coach Anthony Wallace. As a coach, Wallace previously spent time with various teams in Washington including Hawks SC, Eastern Washington Surf SC, and Washington State University Women’s Soccer. Wallace had an 11-year professional career and saw MLS action for FC Dallas, the Colorado Rapids, and the New York Red Bulls. Strikers FC head coach Willie Diaz will serve as assistant coach for the West squad, after leading the U-16 side to the final of MLS NEXT Cup in each of the last two seasons. Diaz has over a decade of collegiate and youth club coaching experience in his career.
The match will be streamed live from MLS NEXT’s (@mlsnext) TikTok account with multiple access points in the app. Admission to the MLS NEXT All-Star Game presented by Allstate at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility is free of cost. Fans are highly encouraged to park at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and ride the free shuttle bus to and from the game due to security restrictions. Pedestrians can enter through the Naval Academy Visitors Center where they must go through security and present a valid U.S. ID.
About MLS NEXT
MLS NEXT is a new paradigm for player development, launched in 2020 to transform youth soccer in North America. Founded on a collaborative approach to governance and a commitment to innovation, MLS NEXT players have access to the highest level of competition, training and personal development opportunities that will prepare them for their futures, both in soccer and in life. Membership for the 2022-23 season includes 137 clubs, 628 teams and over 13,000 players across the U.S. and Canada. Official partners of MLS NEXT include adidas, Allstate, and DoorDash. For more information about MLS NEXT, visit www.mlssoccer.com/mlsnext.
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 www.allstate.com.