MLS NEXT Pro today named Columbus Crew 2 General Manager Corey Wray as the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro Executive of the Year and a finalist for the 2023 accolade. This award is designed to recognize an MLS NEXT Pro executive who displays exemplary commitment to their organization on and off the pitch. While the league officially launched the honor this year, MLS NEXT Pro additionally shared that Corey Wray was selected as the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro Executive of the Year for his efforts during the league’s inaugural season and beyond.
Under Wray’s direction, Columbus Crew 2 hoisted the league’s first trophy at Lower.com Field following a 4-1 win over St. Louis CITY2 on Oct. 8, 2022. With 16 wins, the most out of any team in 2022, Crew 2 finished top of the table and led the league in expected goals and expected assists. The 2022 MLS NEXT Pro regular season accolades included Head Coach Laurent Courtois winning Coach of the Year, Patrick Schulte earning Goalkeeper of the Year, and Mohamed Farsi, Isaiah Parente, Jacen Russell-Rowe, and Schulte recognized in the Best XI. Russell-Rowe also earned the Golden Boot for his record setting 21 goals and MLS NEXT Pro Cup MVP honors for his goal and assist. In 2023, Farsi, Russell-Rowe, and Philip Quinton signed contracts with the First Team and have logged a combined 3,909 minutes in MLS play with 70 total appearances.
The Club’s and Wray’s ultimate mission with Crew 2 is to provide players with resources for future success in their playing careers and personal lives. The Capybaras prioritize developing players through the shared methodology of the First Team, giving players the opportunity to train in an MLS environment and having access to MLS resources while also connecting players with the City of Columbus through community outreach. Wray firmly believes in developing athletes as players and as people, and his continued focus in both areas played a massive role in receiving the 2022 and 2023 recognition.
In 2023, Crew 2 became back-to-back Eastern Conference Champions and hosted their second consecutive MLS NEXT Pro Cup at Lower.com Field against Austin FC II on Oct. 22, 2023. Crew 2 experienced continued success after revamping the roster and incorporating younger personnel, comprised mostly of Academy talent, with the average age of the squad dropping from 23 in 2022 to 21 in 2023. Three Columbus Crew Academy products penned Crew 2 contracts this year and the squad featured 16 players 18-years-old or younger in matches who logged a combined total of 9,357 minutes, 167 appearances, 107 starts, 13 goals, and 13 assists.
“What we’ve seen Columbus accomplish in just the two short years since the League’s inception has set the standard. With Corey’s leadership the Crew has really optimized the professional development pathway – not just for players, but for staff as well,” said MLS NEXT Pro Senior Vice President of Competition & Operations, Ali Curtis. “It was no small feat to win Cup in the first year and to host Cup again in the second season was exceptional.”
“Corey is incredibly deserving of this recognition. It’s been an amazing two years watching Crew 2 flourish and grow under Corey’s direction,” said Columbus Crew President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “As an organization, we strive to connect and unite our Club vision, style of play and values from youth through the First Team. Corey, Laurent and our entire staff have done a fantastic job instilling the mission of our Club into Crew 2, which has also significantly benefitted our First Team this season and in the future.”
“It’s an honor to be in this role with Crew 2 and to be recognized by the league with this award,” said Wray. “I am incredibly grateful to Laurent, the technical staff, and all of our players for keeping the level of competition high and ensuring we collectively remain committed to developing these young men as players and individuals.”