Expanding MLS Unveils 21 Clubs for New Pro League

    • MLS Next Pro is slated to debut next year.
    • The league will have 21 teams in its inaugural season.

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Major League Soccer established MLS Next Pro back in June, and on Monday it announced the 21 clubs that will compete in its inaugural 2022 season.

The new professional league aims to bridge the gap between the pros and youth academy MLS Next, which held its second season this year with close to 600 teams. 

The Next Pro players will reportedly be paid unless they wish to retain college eligibility.

Twenty of MLS Next Pro’s 21 teams are affiliated with MLS clubs. MLS teams brought $1.1 billion in revenue during the 2019 season when it had 24 clubs. The league is set to have 29 teams by 2023, and a report on Tuesday named Las Vegas as a front-runner for a 30th club by 2024 at the earliest.

  • The sole independent MLS Next Pro team, Rochester New York FC, is partially owned by Leicester City player Jamie Vardy.
  • St. Louis City SC, an MLS expansion team slated to join in 2023, will debut next year before its first-level club. The MLS team will open a $458 million stadium and surrounding area.
  • Sporting Kansas City II, Seattle Sounders affiliate Tacoma Defiance, and Real Salt Lake affiliate Real Monarchs were the first teams announced in June. 

Adidas will serve as Next Pro’s first corporate sponsor. The company previously signed a reported six-year, $700 million extension with MLS until 2024.