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TST: All the NYCFC alumni we're excited to see play

A helpful rundown of all the players with New York City FC connections who are chasing glory and that $1 million prize at TST 2024.

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The second installment of The Soccer Tournament (TST), the unique 7v7 tournament with a $1 million prize for the winning team, has a distinct New York City FC flavor.

Alumni of NYCFC are sprinkled across several TST squads. For someone like me, deranged by years spent in the soccer blogging mines, it's my main draw to the tournament: I can't wait to watch this assortment of former Pigeons in action in Cary, North Carolina.

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If you are at all like me and want to look at this year's TST through a New York City FC lens, I've put together this semi-thorough, mainly nostalgic guide to the TST teams with New York City FC connections.

The tournament features a total of 10 former NYCFC-affiliated players and one non-player who's still well-connected to the team. Here is your rundown of all the New York City alumni chasing Target Score Time glory and $1 million at TST 2024.

Sneaky Fox: Mix Diskerud, Chris Wingert, Josh Williams

This is the most bang-for-your-buck way to get your NYCFC fix from TST.

Mix Diskerud, Chris Wingert, and Josh Williams are here—Sneaky Fox has officially gotten Jason Kreis's 2015 band back together.

The team is led by former MLS striker Mike Magee and named for the vodka brand he created and launched.

For my money, Mix is the No 1 TST draw, after all, he is the scorer of the first-ever NYCFC goal, and the only player I can remember who used weird cryptic poems to address his departure from the team.

Diskerud most recently played for Omonia Nicosia in Cyprus and even made five appearances with the Cypriot side in the UEFA Europa League. He now reunites with two 2015 teammates, including Chris Wingert, retired MLS defender turned player agent (who represents Keaton Parks, it should be noted). Wingert is also local, from Babylon on Long Island, and played for NYCFC 28 times across two seasons, slightly behind Diskerud's 41 appearances.

Josh Williams, the third member of the 2015 NYCFC team on Sneaky Fox, only made five appearances in City Blue in 2015. It seemed like more, but that might be because Williams enjoyed so much success in his post-NYCFC days. He spent seven seasons with the Columbus Crew, including being part of their 2020 MLS Cup-winning team.

Sneaky Fox schedule: Match 1 vs. Pasha Luxury FC, 1:15 PM ET on June 5; Match 2 vs. Kwik Goal FC, 10:00 PM ET on June 5; Match 3 vs. tranqui10 FC, 8:45 PM ET on June 6.

Kwik Goal: RJ Allen

They've just got him as Robert on the TST roster page, but we know the truth, that's RJ Allen, folks. Another member of the 2015 NYCFC team is in the hunt for $1 million, Allen is on a team that includes USMNT veterans DaMarcus Beasley and Jimmy Conrad, and also two former MLS MVPs, Dwayne DeRosario and old New York City enemy Sebastian Giovinco.

Allen is the TST player with the most career appearances for New York City FC, having played 56 times for NYCFC in all competitions across the 2015-2017 seasons. He's still responsible for one of the best assists in NYCFC history, in the team's first win in Portland in 2016, but not its most important win in Portland, as you likely remember.

Allen is currently Assistant Technical Director and Director of Player Relations for New Jersey United AC of the NPSL, and he also sometimes works at his family's pizzeria in Toms River, New Jersey. His brother Brandon, who was temporarily a Hudson River Derby rival to RJ while playing with the Red Bulls, is also competing in this year's TST on the Georgetown alumni squad, Hoya Nation.

The thought of RJ Allen dishing out a silky assist to Sebastian Giovinco should be enough to make you shake your head and/or be transported directly back to the year 2016, and is a prime example of the magic of TST.

Kwik Goal schedule: Match 1 vs. tranqui10 FC, 1:15 PM on June 5; Match 2 vs. Sneaky Fox FC, 10:00 PM ET on June 5; Match 3 vs. Pasha FC, 8:45 PM ET on June 6.

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Zala: Tony Rocha

Tony Rocha, 2021 MLS Cup champion with NYCFC, is back in action at TST. Rocha retired from soccer in February 2023 but will be part of AJ DeLaGarza's MLS-heavy TST squad, hoping to improve on a run to the semifinals a year ago. Rocha was dubbed The Human Victory Cigar by some—the man almost exclusively entered NYCFC matches late on, and when Ronny Deila's squad was leading. Zala will be hoping Rocha brings the same winning vibes he permeated with New York City with him to North Carolina.

So fitting that his first and only MLS goal scored for NYCFC came in both the 86th minute, and in a match his team was already leading 2-0. He's a closer, people!

Zala schedule: Match 1 vs. Supra United, 10:00 AM ET on June 5; Match 2 vs. DC Hyper, 5:30 PM ET on June 5; Match 3 vs. Newtown Pride, 11:30 AM ET on June 6.

The CONCAFA Soccer Club: Jeff Caldwell

A former first-round MLS SuperDraft pick for New York City is suiting up for Pat McAfee and his talk-show pals.

Goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell went to NYCFC with the 19th pick in the first round of the 2018 SuperDraft, and signed a contract with the club, but never made an appearance for NYCFC in MLS or otherwise. He was permanently stuck behind the likes of Sean Johnson, Brad Stuver, and even Luis Barraza on the New York City keeper depth chart.

Caldwell did play 89 matches in the USL Championship in his career across stints with Hartford Athletic, Memphis 901 FC, and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. Now he's playing for a former NFL punter who gets paid $17 million per year by ESPN to shout about sports. Regardless of where you stand on McAfee and his whole deal, and the prospect of his team winning $1 million while bringing their dog-and-pony show to the soccer world, good luck to Caldwell.

CONCAFA SC schedule: Match 1 vs. Reggae Rovers, 8:30 AM ET on June 5; Match 2 vs. Nati SC, 7:00 PM ET on June 5; Match 3 vs. Burnley FC, 7:15 PM ET on June 6.

Freedom United SC: Kyle Parker

Kyle Parker might be the most forgotten/random goal-scorer in New York City FC history.

Parker never signed a first-team contract with NYCFC or played any competitive matches for the Pigeon, but he did still appear in one match and score one goal for the Boys In Blue.

That's because Paker was a member of the 2016 Wilmington Hammerheads FC team which happened to be NYCFC's USL affiliate at the time, and because Parker got "called up" by NYCFC for a postseason friendly in Mexico against Club Necaxa.

New York City lost that friendly 2-1, but Parker scored the lone goal—a fun footnote and quirk, but one that gives us yet another NYCFC rooting interest in TST.

Freedom United schedule: Match 1 vs. Hoya Nation, 10:30 AM ET on June 5; Match 2 vs. Trident FC, 6:45 PM ET on June 5; Match 3 vs. Hoosier Army, 7:30 PM ET on June 6.

Hoya Nation: Jack Beer

Jack Beer played two seasons with New York City FC II, making 44 appearances for the Belson Stadium-based MLS NEXT Pro team while scoring seven goals and handing out eight assists. He's a Georgetown University alumnus and has thus linked up with the Hoya Nation TST team almost entirely comprised of Georgetown alums. Beer also was the subject of a great Q&A with the official NYCFC site on his mental health and personal soccer journey, which is a highly recommended piece you can check out here.

Hoya Nation schedule: Match 1 vs. Freedom United, 10:30 AM ET on June 5; Match 2 vs. Hoosier Army, 7:00 PM ET on June 5; Match 3 vs. Trident FC, 7:30 PM ET on June 6.

La Mexicana Express: El Mahdi Youssoufi

Another former NYCFC II regular taking part in TST: Forward El Mahdi Youssoufi, who New York City selected 84th in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft ahead of the first-ever MLS NEXT Pro season. The 25-year-old who came out of St. Francis College in Brooklyn made 16 appearances for NYCFC II in 2022, scoring two goals and picking up seven assists. He'll now don the No 9 jersey for La Mexicana Express, which bills itself as a group of former pros and pick-up ballers who usually ply their trade in indoor soccer tournaments.

La Mexicana Express schedule: Match 1 vs. Nani FC, 11:45 AM ET on June 5; Match 2 vs. Aguero Team, 8:30 PM ET on June 5; Match 3 vs. Say Word FC, 6:00 PM ET on June 6.

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Manhattan Kickers FC: CJ Williams

We now get into the final few "alumni" with more tenuous connections to NYCFC. That includes CJ Williams, a defender from Valley Stream, N.Y. who played two seasons at Boston College and was previously a member of the NYCFC academy.

Williams also played for the Red Bull academy and the New York Cosmos academy, so we can say he lived the Tri-State Area Soccer Warz, at least at youth levels. Manhattan Kickers as an entity also has a history of producing local talent for NYCFC, as it's where current Homegrown player Jonathan Shore got his start before shifting to the New York City academy.

Manhattan Kickers schedule: Match 1 vs. Summer of Soccer, 1:00 PM ET on June 5; Match 2 vs. Hashtag United, 8:15 PM ET on June 5; Match 3 vs. Raleigh Rebels, 6:00 PM ET on June 6.

Saturdays Football: Markus Nagelstad

Hat tip to Coach Joe on Twitter for pointing out one missed at time of publication.

Another MLS SuperDraftee who never signed with the NYCFC first team or played for them. Nagelstad was the 64th pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, NYCFC taking him with the second pick of Round 4. The Norwegian forward has made the most appearances across his career for Chattanooga FC, playing 72 matches and scoring 62 goals during their final years in the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA). The soccer lifestyle brand/retailer will be hoping Nagelstad keeps up that NISA goal rate on the TST fields.

Saturdays Football schedule: Match 1 vs. Desimpedidos, 10:15 AM on June 5; Match 2 vs. Wrexham Red Dragons, 6:00 PM on June 5; Match 3 vs. FC Roha, 6:00 PM on June 6

Summer of Soccer: Christian Polanco

The Cooligans are not officially a part of NYCFC, but they rose through the ranks of soccer podcasting and content creation after starting as a pair of comedians who were also NYCFC fans. They were there in the crowd and providing some memorable real-time reactions while NYCFC won MLS Cup in Portland in December 2021, and were even part of the rollout of this year's new 24/7 Kit.

Now one-half of The Cooligans, Christian Polanco, steps out from behind the mic and tries to win $1 million at TST. Polanco is constantly doing keepie-uppies during Cooligans episodes and has been prepping for TST with Edson Buddle, former star MLS striker, USMNT World Cup squad member in 2010, and an NYCFC Academy assistant coach.

Jokes can be made about a comedian-slash-podcaster turned aspiring soccer star but if you're going to send any NYCFC-adjacent content person into the heat of the action, Cooligan Christian seems to be the right choice.

Summer of Soccer schedule: Match 1 vs. Manhattan Kickers, 1:00 PM ET on June 5; Match 2 vs. Raleigh Rebels, 8:3o PM ET on June 5; Match 3 vs. Hashtag United, 6:00 PM ET on June 6.