The MLS has announced plans to launch a new professional league in 2022 designed to complete the player pathway, as well as bring professional soccer to cities that currently do not have a professional soccer team.
The new league, coined MLS NEXT, will consist of 20 MLS clubs along with the potential for independently owned teams for the inaugural season in 2022. The league will begin in late March, conclude with playoffs in the fall, and a championship match in early December.
“We are excited to launch a new league to complete the professional pathway between our academies and the MLS first teams,” says MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott. “In addition to providing more opportunities for MLS-caliber players, the new league will develop a diverse talent pool of coaches, referees, and front office executives while also attracting fans who previously were unable to support a local club in their hometown.”
There is currently a record high of 20% of MLS roster slots occupied by players who were developed through MLS club academies. The creation of a new league will provide MLS clubs with the optimal environment to produce the next generation of players and more opportunities for talented young players. The new league also hopes to offer more professional opportunities on the technical and business side of the game, developing new jobs for coaches, referees, and executives to become involved in the growth of the game. Importantly, the new league will follow MLS’ commitment to activate programs as part of the Soccer Upward Mobility initiative to develop talent and create opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups.
More details about the new MLS NEXT will be announced later this year.