Sporting Kansas City II announced today that the club has signed Academy product Nati Clarke to an MLS NEXT Pro professional contract.
Capable of playing at left back and right back, Clarke was a mainstay for head coach Benny Feilhaber’s Sporting KC II during the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro campaign, starting 18 of 19 regular season appearances. Leading all Sporting Kansas City Academy players on the team in starts, appearances, minutes and assists, Clarke accumulated 1,589 minutes and tallied his first two professional assists.
Born in Ethiopia and raised in Topeka, Kansas, Clarke joined the Sporting KC Academy in 2016 at the U-12 level. He immediately impressed, earning minutes at two Generation adidas Cups and appearing in the 2016 Concacaf Champions League with the Academy.
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 made his professional debut on July 10, 2022, in a 2-0 win at Colorado Rapids 2, appearing as a second-half substitute. His first pro start came on Aug. 7, 2022, against Houston Dynamo 2.
Ahead of the 2023 season, Clarke inked his second amateur contract with SKC II. He made his season debut in SKC II’s 4-0 clobbering of Real Monarchs, playing the full 90 minutes. He picked up his first professional assist in a 2-0 win at LAFC 2 on June 18, teeing up Ethan Bryant’s 37th-minute score.
It was a year of accolades for Clarke as he was one of 44 players selected for the 2023 MLS NEXT All-Star Game presented by Allstate at the Naval Academy’s Glenn Warner Soccer Facility in Annapolis, Maryland. The outside back entered in the second half with the West trailing 2-0 and helped orchestrate an impressive comeback that sent the match to penalties. Clarke sank the third kick of the shootout as the West went on to claim the MLS NEXT All-Star Game trophy.
Returning to SKC II for the second half of the MLS NEXT Pro season, the defender played a major role in the team’s playoff push. He was named MLS NEXT Rising Star of Matchday 19 for his efforts in a 4-0 clean sheet victory over Rapids 2 at Rock Chalk Park.
Sporting KC II will look to build on their 2023 success in year three of MLS NEXT Pro, which is set to kick off in early 2024.
SKC II Roster (as of 12/7/23):
Defenders (2): Nati Clarke, Coby Jones
Midfielders (2): Ethan Bryant, Sebastian Cruz
Forwards (1): Pau Vidal
Transaction: Sporting Kansas City II signs defender Nati Clarke to an MLS NEXT Pro professional contract.
Birthdate: 1/29/2005 (18 years old)
Weight: 150 lbs.
Hometown: Topeka, Kansas
Birthplace: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia