MLS Launching New League, Expanding To New Cities

    • MLS’ new league will serve as a pathway for professional soccer players.
    • Last year, MLS Next was introduced as a successor to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.

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Major League Soccer is expanding its reach with a new professional league created to develop rising soccer talent.

The league kicks off with 20 clubs in 2022 and will serve as a pipeline to MLS for the most promising players — who will be paid unless they wish to retain college eligibility.

Several MLS clubs already participate in the USL Championship, a Division II soccer league, to source talent. That relationship remains intact, though likely not forever.

“Over time, I would anticipate that most [MLS] clubs will ultimately be in this league,” MLS president Mark Abbott said about the new, still-untitled league.

  • Last year, MLS Next was introduced as a successor to the disbanded U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
  • A record 20% of MLS roster spots are currently filled with players from academy systems.

MLS is growing quickly on other fronts, too. FC Cincinnati, Inter Miami CF, Nashville SC, and Austin FC have all entered the league since 2019. Charlotte FC and St. Louis SC are slated to join in 2022 and 2023.

MLS might also merge with Liga MX to form one giant North American league.

Earlier in June, Houston Texans running back Mark Ingram II bought a minority stake in D.C. United at a $710 million valuation, per Sportico.

That figure represents one of the highest club valuations in MLS history. LAFC also recently received a valuation north of $700 million when some of its owners bought out Vincent Tan, a Malaysian businessman who owns Wales-based Cardiff City FC.