MLS NEXT elite youth development platform officially unveiled ahead of inaugural season

MLS NEXT - 2020 - primary image

MLS NEXT, the new elite youth development platform promising to set new standards for world-class player development in North America, was officially unveiled ahead of the kickoff of the inaugural season.

Created by Major League Soccer in collaboration with the top elite youth academies around the country, MLS NEXT will encompass over 489 teams across 113 clubs and six age groups, together charting the course for a new future for the sport.

”MLS NEXT advances player development in North America, furthering Major League Soccer’s commitment to developing world-class players through an elite competitive pathway,” said Fred Lipka, VP and technical director of MLS Player Development, in a statement. “Major League Soccer is excited to begin MLS NEXT competition which will place player development at the forefront while giving players a safe and healthy environment to advance from academies to MLS first teams.”

MLS NEXT was first unveiled exclusively on Monday to elite young players and their families across the country. Watch that presentation below:

How MLS NEXT works

MLS NEXT clubs will kick off the inaugural season this weekend, Sept. 11-12, adhering to detailed health and safety protocols developed under guidance from federal, state and local government officials, and in keeping with U.S. Soccer’s PLAY ON guidelines. 

The competition structure prioritizes athlete, staff and community health and safety through regional play and minimized travel. 

Featuring six age groups (U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16, U-17 and U-19), the competition will highlight local rivalries and eliminate air travel and overnight trips, with select matches to be played at neutral sites in geographically centered locations. Clubs in areas with limited access to matches due to the minimized travel resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic will play additional local matches. 

The MLS NEXT fall 2020 competition schedule is being created and announced in four-week phases in order to allow for adjustments to evolving health and safety recommendations. The first week of matches have been released and future matches and schedule updates will be posted throughout the fall competition.

Watch: Academy players who became pro stars

Consisting of elite year-round competition, as well as player identification initiatives, coaching education opportunities and personal development programming, MLS NEXT seasons beyond 2020 will also feature regional and national competitions that engage the global soccer community to accelerate the growth of each individual MLS NEXT player.

Adidas will provide the official match ball for all MLS NEXT matches and it will partner with MLS to create an atmosphere that supports these elite young players on the professional pathway.