Shawn Lanza, Rocket Ritarita named to MLS NEXT All-Star Game presented by Allstate

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ATLANTA (June 29, 2023) — MLS NEXT today announced the rosters, details, and broadcast information for the second annual MLS NEXT All-Star Game presented by Allstate. Atlanta’s Shawn Lanza and Rocket Ritarita were selected as players for the game, while Atlanta United Academy’s U-16 head coach Kevin Kratz will join the two as an assistant coach in the match. The game will provide a world-class experience for North America’s rising stars to showcase their talents in an East vs. West format at the Naval Academy’s Glenn Warner Soccer Facility in Annapolis, Md. on Wednesday, July 19 at 10:30 a.m. ET. The match will be streamed live from MLS NEXT’s (@mlsnext) TikTok account with multiple access points in the app.

Ritarita is coming off an outstanding MLS NEXT Cup performance where he earned MVP honors as Atlanta’s U-16 group took home the title. The midfielder made his professional debut as a second half substitute in ATL UTD 2’s 5-0 victory over Inter Miami CF II on June 4. The 16-year-old academy player went on to record his first professional assist, a shot and two key passes in 16 minutes of play. 

Lanza earned his professional debut with ATL UTD 2 as a 17-year-old against Philadelphia Union II on April 30. The defender has started in three of the six games played, with two interceptions and a 78% passing percentage in 234 minutes played.

MLS NEXT and Allstate will provide the selected players with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity during MLS All-Star Week, which will include a full slate of evening programming events and activities in advance of the match. The players will be fully integrated into MLS All-Star Week festivities, which include team training, the All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G on July 18 and the MLS All-Star Game on July 19. Each MLS NEXT All-Star team will also conduct their own training sessions leading up to their match on Wednesday morning.

“The MLS NEXT All-Star Game has proven to be the premier showcase for the top youth soccer players in North America,” said MLS NEXT General Manager Justin Bokmeyer. “Each of these talented athletes have earned this opportunity through their tremendous performances this season and we are excited for them to experience a memorable week in Washington, D.C.”

Among the players who were selected to the inaugural game in 2022, 24 of those have gone on to sign professional contracts, including nine as Homegrown players. Atlanta’s Noah Cobb was one of the standout players, who has gone on to earn a Homegrown contract and contributed to Atlanta’s First Team this season. Other notable standout players who have made an impact in MLS include New England’s Esmir Bajraktarevic and Jack Panayotou, along with Inter Miami CF’s Benjamin Cremaschi. Orlando City SC’s Favian Loyola, who was named the Player of the Game last year, has been a key performer in MLS NEXT Pro, scoring seven goals over the past two seasons.

“Our MLS NEXT All-Star Game is about giving players opportunity and we’re excited this year’s game will keep positively impacting the next generation players,” said Dan Keats, director of consumer marketing at Allstate. “Continuing this partnership means we can stay committed to our goal of preserving, protecting and growing the future of soccer in America.” 

The 44 players were selected by MLS NEXT personnel following the conclusion of the 2023 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs and Showcase. To be eligible for selection, players must have been born between 2005-2007, have competed in the MLS NEXT regular season, and played in at least one of the MLS NEXT premier events this season – MLS NEXT Fest, MLS NEXT Flex, Generation adidas Cup, or the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs and Showcase.

The two teams will compete in an East vs. West format at the Naval Academy’s Glenn Warner Soccer Facility in Annapolis, Md. on the day of the MLS All-Star Game, Wednesday, July 19. All 29 MLS academies had at least one player selected to the roster, and nine clubs had multiple selections. Five non-MLS academies will also be represented in Annapolis: BW Gottschee, FC DELCO, Real Colorado, Strikers FC, Total Futbol Academy.

MLS NEXT personnel also advised on the selection of the coaching staff for both East and West teams. The head coach of the East team will be D.C. United academy director Patrick Ouckama. Ouckama has been with D.C.’s academy since 2021 and has over a decade of coaching experience in MLS, college, and at the youth club level. Under Ouckama’s stewardship, D.C. United won the U-16 MLS NEXT Cup title in 2022. 

The West squad head coach will be former U.S. Men’s National Team defender and current St. Louis CITY SC U-15 head coach Anthony Wallace. As a coach, Wallace previously spent time with various teams in Washington including Hawks SC, Eastern Washington Surf SC, and Washington State University Women’s Soccer. Wallace had an 11-year professional career and saw MLS action for FC Dallas, the Colorado Rapids, and the New York Red Bulls. Strikers FC head coach Willie Diaz will serve as assistant coach for the West squad, after leading the U-16 side to the final of MLS NEXT Cup in each of the last two seasons. Diaz has over a decade of collegiate and youth club coaching experience in his career.

Admission to the MLS NEXT All-Star Game presented by Allstate at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility is free of cost. Fans are highly encouraged to park at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and ride the free shuttle bus to and from the game due to security restrictions. Pedestrians can enter through the Naval Academy Visitors Center where they must go through security and present a valid U.S. ID.

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