Major League Soccer and the University of South Carolina announced Wednesday a historic multi-year partnership making South Carolina an official education partner of MLS. Through the strategic partnership, MLS players and former greats will have access to online educational opportunities and unique post-secondary academic resources offered through the university system, as well as world-class personal and professional development.

With a shared vision for creating experiences that are accessible, inclusive, and authentic, MLS and the University of South Carolina have created pathways for a variety of academic offerings and flexible higher education solutions — such as the recently announced Carolina Online initiative — for MLS’ multicultural soccer community.

In the ever-evolving academic landscape, Major League Soccer is proud to partner with the University of South Carolina to provide current and former players and league and club staff members with immersive opportunities to pursue high-quality education,” said Gary Stevenson, MLS Deputy Commissioner, President and Managing Director of MLS Business Ventures said in a league release. “The University of South Carolina is a leader in modernizing higher education. We are thrilled to partner with them to deliver benefits to MLS players and executives for many years to come.”

The partnership will empower MLS players — ranging from current players to MLS greats and eMLS players (the League’s esports competition) — to pursue higher-education through customized degree programs that address the unique needs of professional athletes. The collaboration will also provide a pathway for higher education for future MLS stars, specifically programming and resources for MLS Academy and MLS NEXT players. MLS club and League office staff will have the ability to pursue higher education opportunities through the partnership as well.

“At the University of South Carolina, we are committed to increasing access to higher education for all students — including students whose lives have interrupted or otherwise prevented them from fulfilling their educational goals in a traditional resident model,” said the University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen. "In fulfillment of this mission, we are proud to partner with Major League Soccer to provide higher education to these exceptional athletes and prospective students across the country through Carolina Online.”

University of South Carolina students will benefit from engaging with a variety of MLS stakeholders through coursework integration, league-based internships, and a dedicated speaker series for sport and entertainment management students. MLS will also provide exclusive learning opportunities and experiences to University of South Carolina students. The agreement also includes several community-based initiatives aimed at supporting marginalized communities and civic engagement, in addition to leadership development training. An executive from MLS and the University of South Carolina will also jointly chair a committee to review proposals for collaborative research as an additional benefit to South Carolina faculty, staff and students.  

“Our partnership positions us to educate some of the world’s greatest athletes and the community that supports them across the globe,” said William Tate, the executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Carolina. “The partnership reflects our aim to democratize the opportunity to learn. At times, geography or occupational commitments restrict access to education. Our learning alliance eliminates barriers to entry, and instead opens the door to earning a degree while competing at the highest level of professional sports. We are honored to partner with MLS as we fulfill the vision of making higher education accessible and affordable through Carolina Online.”

Carolina Online, which launched earlier this month, is the University of South Carolina’s system-wide comprehensive effort to deliver rigorous bachelor and graduate degree programs online. With over 65 programs offered through Carolina Online, and a single tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state students, UofSC is ensuring that higher education is accessible for all with this new initiative.

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