Ahead of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season, St. Louis’ MLS expansion team has announced the coaching staff that will lead St Louis NEXT Pro while the club continues to build out its sporting department. Director of Coaching, John Hackworth will serve as Head Coach for the first MLS NEXT Pro season.
Fans will recognize another member of St. Louis’ MLS NEXT Pro staff for 2022 as Elvir Kafedžić will join as an Assistant Coach. The development team’s staff will also have some new faces with Alex Langer as Director of Goalkeeping, Tyler Harris as the Athletic Trainer, Brendan Gittemeier as Equipment Manager and Bomi Park as Player Relations Manager.
“It’s an unbelievable advantage for our club to field an MLS NEXT Pro team in 2022,” said Lutz Pfannenstiel, Sporting Director of St. Louis CITY SC. “Not only does this team serve as the next evolutionary stage between our academy and first team, but it also gives us a full season to identify and acquire players, test innovative ideas and fine tune the details of our high-press soccer philosophy ahead of our inaugural MLS season.”
St. Louis’ new development team provides the club with a unique opportunity to serve as an incubator for the club’s young players and academy, accelerating their development as they gain valuable experience practicing and playing alongside and against professional players, not only in MLS NEXT Pro league play, but in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as well.
St. Louis is one of 21 clubs that will compete in MLS’ new professional league MLS NEXT Pro and will compete in the Western Conference alongside Colorado, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Portland, Salt Lake, San Jose, Seattle and Vancouver. The new league will complete MLS’ professional player pathway by bridging the team’s youth academy to the first team.
2022 St Louis NEXT Pro Staff
John Hackworth, Director of Coaching and STL NEXT Pro Head Coach
Renowned soccer coach, John Hackworth, is named St. Louis CITY SC’s director of coaching and the head coach of St. Louis CITY2. Hackworth joins the team with over 30 years of experience at various levels of the U.S. soccer landscape. In his role, Hackworth will support sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel in implementing and managing the team’s coaching development programs, working closely with the coaches to ensure that the club’s sporting philosophy is consistent at all levels.
Prior to joining St. Louis CITY SC, Hackworth served as the head coach and sporting director of Louisville City FC, winning the USL Championship title in his first year and guiding the team back to the finals a year later. Hackworth spent five seasons in Major League Soccer (MLS) with Philadelphia Union - three years as an assistant coach, responsible for developing the team’s academy program before serving as the head coach of the first team from 2012-14. Hackworth was an assistant coach for the U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team in 2003. In 2015, he rejoined the team as head coach leading them to 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup, his fourth World Cup tournament with the team.
Elvir Kafedžić, Assistant Coach
Elvir Kafedžić is announced as the Assistant Coach for St. Louis CITY2. Kafedžić joined the club in Fall of 2020 as a sporting consultant where he helped the club in building meaningful relationships with the larger soccer community, especially within St. Louis’ Bosnian community. He was actively engaged in scouting to find the most talented players for the club’s first-ever academy teams. In the summer of 2021, Kafedžić took the role of the assistant coach for the clubs U17 academy team.
Kafedžić played soccer for various teams throughout his professional playing career, including the St. Louis Steamers, Chicago Storm, California Cougars, AC St. Louis and St. Louis Ambush. He also represented the U.S. on the international level, playing for the U.S. National Futsal team. In 2014, Kafedžić established the Saint Louis Dragons, a local youth soccer club, where he began coaching to get more involved and share his knowledge of the game with the youth in the St. Louis community.
Kafedžić played collegiate soccer at Lindenwood University, and in 2004, played a major role in leading the team to its only NAIA National Championship in school history. He graduated from Lindenwood University in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in International Business.
Alex Langer, Director of Goalkeeping
Alexander Langer is named as St. Louis CITY2’s director of goalkeeping and will be responsible for creating the club’s goalkeeping training curriculum and fostering a competitive environment that recruits and develops goalkeepers within the St. Louis region. Additionally, Langer will oversee St. Louis CITY2’s goalkeeping development philosophy and will focus on improving players both on and off the field.
Langer started his coaching career in Germany with as an intern academy coach of goalkeeping in Hamburg SV, where he coordinated and led training sessions geared towards developing youth players. Prior to joining the club, he was as an assistant and goalkeeper coach at UNC Wilmington while concurrently working as the director of goalkeeping at Wilmington Hammerheads Youth FC.
Tyler Harris, Athletic Trainer
As the athletic trainer, Harris will be responsible for providing professional physical therapy and athletic training care for injuries and illnesses to players on St Louis MLS NEXT Pro team. Also, within his role he will collaborate with the club’s medical partners to oversee the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and monitoring of injuries.
Harris joins the club with over 7 years of experience as an athletic trainer, working for US Soccer Federation and most recently at United Soccer League (USL) team New Mexico United.
Brendan Gittemeier, Equipment Manager
Gittemeier will primarily be responsible for overseeing the sporting equipment and apparel for the club’s teams. Additionally, he will work closely with the coaches to manage the club’s athletic gear to ensure that both players and coaches are equipped to perform on the field.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Gittemeier started his career as an intern with local club Saint Louis FC, before serving as the assistant equipment manager for the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) and head equipment manager for the U-20 USMNT.
Bomi Park, Player Relations Manager
As player relations manager, Park will provide administrative support and enhance communication among players, families, coaches and club staff. Her role will work directly with the MLS NEXT Pro team and is essential for coordinating travel plans and preparation for game matches, as well as updating and tracking the team schedule.
Park comes from a rich background in project management at World Trade Center St. Louis and St. Louis Mosaic Project where she built and strengthened connections within the community to develop strategies aimed at attracting and retaining foreign-born population. Her previous roles provided tremendous experience in assisting and supporting people and their families relocate to St. Louis.