MLS’ New League Looks Toward ‘Biggest Sporting Event’ Ever

    • Major League Soccer launched its new affiliate league: MLS NEXT Pro.
    • The league is a major part of MLS' long-term growth plan.

Major League Soccer recently launched one of the biggest pieces of its long-term growth plan: MLS NEXT Pro.

The 21-team league serves as an affiliate league for MLS, a training ground, a business and gameplay laboratory, and a way to bring soccer to many more communities across the country.

“The reason that MLS NEXT Pro exists, first and foremost, is to complete the pro-player pathway,” league president Charles Altchek told Front Office Sports. “Our academies are firing on all cylinders, and producing so many more high-quality young players, that there isn’t enough time and space on the field with our first teams anymore.”

  • The league plans to add around eight teams next year, including ones affiliated with MLS clubs in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York.
  • The Rochester club is an independent team not affiliated with an MLS team. Altchek anticipates more of those in the future.
  • “We’re going to have independent teams around the country, competing with our MLS-owned teams,” he said. 

Today the U.S., Tomorrow the World

The league brings professional soccer to many more communities, as MLS builds toward the U.S. hosting the World Cup in 2026.

“The 2026 World Cup is going to be the biggest sporting event of all time,” said Altchek.

“MLS NEXT Pro is an opportunity for us to get ready for that moment to be able to capture that energy and excitement around the sport. And what better way to do that than to introduce professional soccer to new cities and markets around the country.”