The first building blocks have been laid down for New York City FC’s MLS Pro Next team, NYCFC II. The club announced on February 9 that Matt Pilkington will be the inaugural head coach, with Danny Cepero grabbing the assistant coach position. Both bring many years of NYCFC Academy experience to the new team.
Pilkington is taking another step up the ranks in his coaching career. As head coach of the NYCFC Academy U-19 team, he won back-to-back national titles in 2018 and 2019. Most notably, Pilkington has worked with every Homegrown player NYCFC have signed to the first team.
Cepero is a former goalkeeper who played in MLS from 2007 to 2009 for cross-Hudson rivals New Jersey Red Bulls. Cepero made MLS history in 2008 when he became the first goalkeeper to score a goal in open play.
A goalkeeping coach at the NYCFC Academy since 2017, Cepero will be take on the broad responsibilities of assistant coach at NYCFC II. It’s not his first rodeo: He was an assistant coach at the University of Louisville for five seasons.
NYCFC is one of the founding clubs of MLS NEXT Pro, which begins its inaugural season in late March. MLS NEXT Pro roster regulations are significantly more straightforward than the complex rules governing MLS: There is no salary cap, there is no minimum or maximum salary for individual players, and all player contracts will be held by the club rather than the league. The MLS NEXT Pro trade window opens today, February 10.
MLS NEXT Pro is designed to be a pathway for up-and-coming players who are ready to enter the professional system. While the emphasis will be on developing young players, it might become a pathway for up-and-coming coaches as well. For both Pilkington and Cepero, being trusted with the keys to NYCFC II indicates a vote of confidence from the front office.
Will we see MLS PRO Next develop and send coaches to MLS along with players? It wouldn’t be surprising.