At the outset of the 2020 Major League Soccer season, there were 199 USL League Two alumni on MLS rosters. Like the rest of the soccer world, the American top flight has had an unusual season, but has reached its postseason nonetheless. 18 remaining clubs will now battle in the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs to lift the MLS Cup on December, each with its own collection of former League Two stars in its ranks. We took a look at which of those players are most likely to shine on one of American soccer’s biggest stages.
Once a star in League Two for the Ventura County Fusion, Zardes has been turning heads in MLS and for the U.S. men’s national team ever since. The Columbus striker scored 12 goals and provided four assists in helping Crew SC to a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference this season.
To say Morris had an efficient season in 2020 would be an understatement. He bagged 10 goals and set up another eight, the driving force behind one of MLS’ top attacks. The Sounders will need him to keep up his excellent play if they’re to defend their title from last year.
Dike burst onto the scene as a rookie this year. While his size and strength are the first things that catch the eye, he plays the center forward position with an excellent soccer IQ. His eight goals and four assists in 15 starts fueled Orlando to one of the club’s best MLS seasons, justifying his selection as a top-five draft pick back in January.
Bassett’s performances as a 19-year-old Homegrown midfielder this year bode very well for his future. After getting called in to the U.S. U-20 national team at the start of the year, Bassett continued to improve, with his five goals and five assists helping Colorado overcome a rocky start to finish well within the playoff positions.
MLS veteran Finlay continued to produce this season, his fourth with Minnesota and 10th in the league. He made just 14 appearances, but chipped in four goals and two assists in that time. His leadership was a key piece in the Loons getting back to the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
In his sixth season as a Sounder, Roldan is still as critical as ever to Seattle’s success. It’s hard to believe Roldan is still only 25. He has carved out a place as one of the best central playmakers in MLS thanks to his skill on the ball, and the fact that he appeared in every match for the Sounders during the regular season suggests he is likely to feature prominently in the club’s bid to lift a third MLS Cup in five years.
A perfect example of the player pathway between Reading United in League Two and the Philadelphia Union, Gaddis has been with the Union since 2012. He started 15 matches and used his veteran wisdom in helping Philadelphia allow a league-fewest 20 goals on the team’s way to winning the Supporters’ Shield.
The 2018 MLS Defender of the Year is a rare blend of physical ability, soccer smarts, and technical ability. An established face on the U.S. men’s national team and a stalwart for the Red Bulls, look for Long to play an integral role in the team’s playoff run.
If you were watching Kessler play for the first time this season, you could be forgiven for assuming he had many years of professional soccer experience under his belt. Yet the AC Connecticut product was only a rookie as he hit the ground running in New England, starting 19 matches for the Revolution and earning the trust of his coach Bruce Arena. A big, physical center back with skill on the ball, expect to see Kessler in the thick of the action for the duration of New England’s postseason push.
Johnson led MLS in saves with 81, displaying yet again why he’s one of the league’s top goalkeepers. A vocal leader at the back with excellent command of his area, Johnson will look to continue anchoring NYCFC’s effective defensive unit and help the club overcome recent postseason disappointments.
Turner put together a solid campaign between the posts for New England, posting six clean sheets and 68 saves. Agile and athletic, Turner’s performances have drawn attention from U.S. men’s national team fans hoping to see him represent the Stars and Stripes in the future.