MLS Next Pro
FoundedJune 21, 2021; 2 years ago (2021-06-21)
First season2022
CountryUnited States
Other club(s) fromCanada
ConfederationCONCACAF
Number of teams29
Level on pyramid3
Domestic cup(s)U.S. Open Cup
Current championsAustin FC II
(2023)
Current regular
season title
Colorado Rapids 2
(2023)
TV partnersMLS Season Pass
YouTube
Websitemlsnextpro.com
Current: 2024 MLS Next Pro season

MLS Next Pro (MLSNP) is a men's professional soccer league in the United States and Canada that is affiliated with Major League Soccer. It launched in 2022 with 21 teams and now comprises 27 reserve sides of MLS clubs and 2 independent clubs. MLS Next Pro is classified as part of the third tier of the United States soccer league system.[1]

History

On June 21, 2021, Major League Soccer announced the creation of a new professional league which would begin play in 2022. MLS has applied to the United States Soccer Federation for the league to be sanctioned as a Division III professional league, the same level currently occupied by USL League One and the National Independent Soccer Association and one level below the USL Championship.[2] MLS announced that Next Pro would start with at least 20 teams, many of them owned by Major League Soccer and development teams between their first-teams and their youth academies.[2] All MLS clubs with reserve teams in the USL Championship or USL League One initially planned to move those sides to MLS Next Pro by 2023. D.C. United's formerly owned-and-operated reserve team was sold to independent buyers.[2]

The inaugural match of MLS Next Pro was played on March 25, 2022, at Hermann Stadium in St. Louis. St. Louis City SC 2 defeated Rochester New York FC 2–0. Wan Kuzain scored the first ever goal in the 20th minute.[3][4][5]

The league makes use of unique rules such as all regular season draws being decided by penalty shootouts and the addition of concussion substitutions. On July 6, 2022, new rules for the league were introduced in the middle of the season. This included an off-field treatment rule meant to curb gamesmanship and timewasting and a new rule for red card suspensions: The suspension a player gets for getting a red card or two yellow cards in the same game will be served by the player when next playing against the same opponent.[6]

Competition format

The league runs from spring to fall with the season kicking off in March. Each team plays 28 regular-season games, followed by an 14-team playoff tournament. The league is divided into Eastern and Western Conferences.[7]

Unlike Major League Soccer, MLS Next Pro does not feature a salary cap and player contracts are held by the teams, not the league. Team rosters can have up to 24 professional players (not including amateur academy players) with a maximum of seven international players.[8] An MLS Next Pro club's active roster contains up to 35 players, all of whom are eligible for selection to each official match roster during the MLS Next Pro season.[9]

Teams

MLS Next Pro is located in the United States
Locations of announced teams in MLS Next Pro:
  • Eastern Conference - Northeast Division
  • Eastern Conference - Southeast Division
  • Western Conference - Frontier Division
  • Western Conference - Pacific Division
  • future teams
Team Location Stadium Capacity Founded Joined Head coach Affiliate
Eastern Conference
Northeast Division
Chicago Fire FC II Bridgeview, Illinois SeatGeek Stadium 20,000[10] 2021 2022 Ludovic Taillandier Chicago Fire FC
Columbus Crew 2 Columbus, Ohio Historic Crew Stadium 19,968[11] 2021 2022 Kelvin Jones Columbus Crew
FC Cincinnati 2 Highland Heights, Kentucky NKU Soccer Stadium 1,000[12] 2021 2022 Tyrone Marshall FC Cincinnati
New England Revolution II Foxborough, Massachusetts Gillette Stadium
Mark A. Ouellette Stadium (Hooksett, NH)
20,000[13]
1,500
2019 2022 Richie Williams New England Revolution
New York City FC II New York City, New York Belson Stadium 2,168[14] 2021 2022 Matt Pilkington New York City FC
New York Red Bulls II Montclair, New Jersey MSU Soccer Park at Pittser Field 5,000[15] 2015 2023 Ibrahim Sekagya New York Red Bulls
Philadelphia Union II Chester, Pennsylvania Subaru Park 18,500[16] 2015 2022 Marlon LeBlanc Philadelphia Union
Toronto FC II Toronto, Ontario York Lions Stadium 4,000[17] 2014 2022 Gianni Cimini Toronto FC
Southeast Division
Atlanta United 2 Kennesaw, Georgia Fifth Third Bank Stadium 8,318 2017 2023 Steve Cooke Atlanta United FC
Carolina Core FC High Point, North Carolina Truist Point 4,500[18] 2022 2024 Roy Lassiter Independent
Chattanooga FC Chattanooga, Tennessee Finley Stadium 20,412 2009 2024 Rod Underwood Independent
Crown Legacy FC Matthews, North Carolina Sportsplex at Matthews 5,000[19] 2022 2023 José Tavares Charlotte FC
Huntsville City FC Huntsville, Alabama Joe W. Davis Stadium 6,000[20] 2022 2023 Jack Collison Nashville SC
Inter Miami CF II Fort Lauderdale, Florida Chase Stadium 18,000[21] 2019 2022 Federico Higuaín Inter Miami CF
Orlando City B Kissimmee, Florida Osceola County Stadium 5,300[22] 2015 2022 Manuel Goldberg Orlando City SC
Western Conference
Frontier Division
Austin FC II Austin, Texas Parmer Field 1,000 2022 2023 Brett Uttley Austin FC
Colorado Rapids 2 Denver, Colorado Dick's Sporting Goods Park (Commerce City)
Denver Soccer Stadium
18,061
2,000
2021 2022 Erik Bushey Colorado Rapids
Houston Dynamo 2 Houston, Texas SaberCats Stadium 3,200[23] 2021 2022 Kenny Bundy Houston Dynamo FC
Sporting Kansas City II Lawrence, Kansas Rock Chalk Park
Swope Soccer Village (Kansas City, MO)
2,500[24]
1,500[25]
2015 2022 Benny Feilhaber Sporting Kansas City
Minnesota United FC 2 Saint Paul, Minnesota Allianz Field
National Sports Center (Blaine)
19,400[26]
5,500[27]
2021 2022 Jeremy Hall Minnesota United FC
North Texas SC Arlington, Texas Choctaw Stadium 48,114[28] 2018 2022 John Gall FC Dallas
St. Louis City SC 2 St. Louis, Missouri CityPark 22,423 2021 2022 Bobby Murphy St. Louis City SC
Pacific Division
Los Angeles FC 2 Fullerton, California Titan Stadium 10,000[29] 2023 2023 Junior Gonzalez Los Angeles FC
Portland Timbers 2 Portland, Oregon Providence Park[30] 25,218[31] 2014 2022 Serge Dinkota Portland Timbers
Real Monarchs Herriman, Utah Zions Bank Stadium 5,000[32] 2014 2022 Mark Lowry Real Salt Lake
The Town FC Moraga, California Saint Mary's Stadium 5,500[33] 2021 2022 Dan DeGeer San Jose Earthquakes
Tacoma Defiance Tukwila, Washington Starfire Sports Complex 4,500[34] 2014 2022 Hervé Diese Seattle Sounders FC
Ventura County FC Thousand Oaks, California William Rolland Stadium 2,000[35] 2014 2023 Matt Taylor LA Galaxy
Whitecaps FC 2 Burnaby, British Columbia Swangard Stadium 5,228[36] 2021 2022 Ricardo Clark Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Future teams

Team[37] Location Stadium Capacity Founded Joining Affiliate
Connecticut United FC Bridgeport, Connecticut New Waterfront Stadium 10,000 2024 2025[38] Independent
Jacksonville Armada FC Jacksonville, Florida New Eastside Stadium 2,500 2013 2025
Cleveland Pro Soccer Cleveland, Ohio TBD 2022 2026[39]

Former teams

Club City Stadium Capacity Founded Joined Last season Affiliate
Rochester New York FC Brighton, New York John L. DiMarco Field 1,500[40] 1996 2022 2022 Independent

Timeline

League member Former member Future member Other leagues

Champions

Season Playoff champions Regular season champions
2022 Columbus Crew 2 Columbus Crew 2
2023 Austin FC II Colorado Rapids 2

Finals

Year Winner Score Runner-Up Venue MVP Attendance Ref.
2022 Columbus Crew 2 4–1 St. Louis City SC 2 Lower.com Field Marco Micaletto (CC2) 7,446 [41]
2023 Austin FC II 3–1 Columbus Crew 2 Lower.com Field Valentin Noël (AU2) 7,500 [42]

See also

References

  1. ^ Straus, Brian (December 6, 2021). "MLS Next Pro Adds Another Element to U.S. Soccer's Ever-Evolving Lower Club Tier". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved December 6, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Bonagura, Kyle (June 21, 2021). "Major League Soccer to launch development league in 2022". ESPN. Retrieved June 21, 2021.
  3. ^ Schneider, Jacob (March 24, 2022). "St Louis CITY2 hosts RNY FC in Inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Match". mlsnextpro.com. Retrieved March 25, 2022.
  4. ^ "Match Report: stlvsroc 03-25-2022". mlsnextpro.com. March 25, 2022. Retrieved March 25, 2022.
  5. ^ Schneider, Jacob (March 25, 2022). "Historic Day in St. Louis as CITY2 beats RNY FC to begin the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro campaign". mlsnextpro.com. Retrieved March 25, 2022.
  6. ^ "MLS NEXT PRO IMPLEMENTING TWO NEW COMPETITION RULES FOR SECOND HALF OF INAUGURAL SEASON". MLS Next Pro. July 6, 2022. Retrieved July 7, 2022.
  7. ^ "MLS NEXT Pro unveils 21 clubs for inaugural season starting March 2022". mlssoccer. December 6, 2021. Retrieved December 7, 2021.
  8. ^ Rueter, Jeff (January 14, 2022). "MLS Next Pro to have no salary cap, other key differences from MLS structure, sources say". The Athletic. Retrieved January 16, 2022.
  9. ^ "2022 MLS NEXT PRO Roster Guidelines". MLS Next Pro. January 31, 2022. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  10. ^ "Fun Within Reach". Toyota Park. Archived from the original on December 30, 2018. Retrieved September 10, 2023.
  11. ^ "Historic Crew Stadium". www.ColumbusSports.org. Greater Columbus Sports Commission. Retrieved September 10, 2023.
  12. ^ "NKU Soccer Stadium". Northern Kentucky University Athletics. Retrieved September 10, 2023.
  13. ^ "Gillette Stadium Overview". revolutionsoccer.net. March 8, 2012. Archived from the original on October 5, 2013. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  14. ^ "BELSON STADIUM". www.RedStormSports.com. St. John's University. Retrieved September 13, 2023.
  15. ^ "MSU Soccer Park". www.MontclairAthletics.com. Montclar State University. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  16. ^ "About Talen Energy Stadium". philadelphiaunion.com. Archived from the original on May 26, 2022. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
  17. ^ "York Lions Stadium Conversion". www.YorkU.CA. York University. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  18. ^ "Ball Park A-Z". High Point Rockers. 2019. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  19. ^ "Mecklenburg County Sportsplex at Matthews". www.MatthewsNC.gov. Town of Matthews, NC. Retrieved September 10, 2023.
  20. ^ Brazelton, Dave (May 19, 2023). "Huntsville businesses benefit from new Joe Davis Stadium". WAAY 31 ABC. Huntsville, AL. Retrieved September 13, 2023.
  21. ^ "Inter Miami increases DRV PNK Stadium capacity for Lionel Messi's debut". as.com. MLS Digital. Archived from the original on July 13, 2023. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  22. ^ "Osceola County Stadium". www.OHPark.com. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  23. ^ "Sabercats Stadium". www.HoustonSabercats.com. Houston Sabercats. Retrieved September 13, 2023.
  24. ^ "Rock Chalk Park". www.TravelKS.com. Kansas Tourism. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  25. ^ "Swope Soccer Village". KCParks.org. Kansas City Parks & Recreation. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  26. ^ "Stadium Facts". www.MNUFC.com. Minnesota United. Retrieved September 13, 2023.
  27. ^ "NSC Stadium".
  28. ^ Sullivan, T. R. (October 30, 2012). "Rangers Resume Fan-Focused Park Renovations". Major League Baseball Advanced Media. Archived from the original on May 10, 2013. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  29. ^ "Titan Stadium". Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  30. ^ Timbers2, Portland. "Portland Timbers2". Portland Timbers2. Retrieved August 30, 2023.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  31. ^ "Providence Park Stadium". www.Portland.gov. City of Portland. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  32. ^ Meyer, Taran (April 25, 2018). "Zions Bank Stadium Provides Unique Soccer Experience". www.RSL.com. Real Salt Lake. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  33. ^ "Facilities". Saint Mary's Athletics. Retrieved March 11, 2024.
  34. ^ "Outdoor Fields". www.StarFireSports.com. Star Fire Sports. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  35. ^ "William Rolland Stadium". Retrieved March 16, 2024.
  36. ^ "Swangard Stadium – Home of your Whitecaps". Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Archived from the original on April 11, 2009. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
  37. ^ "Seven MLS Affiliated Clubs To Join MLS Next Pro In 2023". mlsnextpro. August 4, 2022. Retrieved August 6, 2022.
  38. ^ "CONNECTICUT AWARDED MLS NEXT PRO EXPANSION TEAM". CTUnited.com. Connecticut United. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  39. ^ "Cleveland's MLS NEXT Pro Team". Cleveland Pro Soccer. 2023. Retrieved December 20, 2023.
  40. ^ Reuter, Jeff (March 10, 2023). "Jamie Vardy's U.S. club Rochester New York FC ceases operations". The Athletic. San Francisco, California. Retrieved September 26, 2023.
  41. ^ Tellitud, Jesus (October 8, 2022). "Columbus Crew 2 hoist MLS NEXT Pro Cup with 4-1 win over St Louis CITY2". MLS Next Pro. Retrieved October 8, 2022.
  42. ^ "Austin FC II Defeats Defending Champion Columbus Crew 2 To Win 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Cup". MLS Next Pro. October 22, 2022. Retrieved October 22, 2022.