MLS NEXT Plans To Transform Player Development in North America
#MLSnext is here
There have been unprecedented and difficult times in America because of the impact of the Coronavirus COVID-19, and, as MLS Commissioner says, there has been an “almost unimaginable” impact on soccer. In the midst of the pandemic, bringing together MLS Academies with top youth soccer clubs, the MLS takes a leadership position in developing players. The inaugural season of the new MLS NEXT starts this weekend on September 11-12.
Telling the players how special they are, that they are the best of the best and part of a 9,000 player group that comprises 90% of the Youth National Team Player Pool (for boys), a new elite player platform launched this week on September 8th.
As the MLS NEXT website states, a new paradigm for player development is born.
The new MLS NEXT kicks off this weekend. This new elite youth development platform created by Major League Soccer is a collaboration with the top elite youth academies around the country, and ushers in the future of soccer in North America.
MLS NEXT was unveiled exclusively to the elite youth player group, as well as young players aspiring to achieve a spot on one of the platform’s 113 clubs. MLS NEXT has a total of 489 teams competing in the U13, U14, U15, U16, U17, and U19 ages.
The MLS deserves credit for stepping up and taking responsibility for the future of the men’s game in America, especially in the middle of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
As a transformative movement, MLS NEXT has committed itself to nurture and develop the best of today’s youth soccer players.
MLS NEXT is clearly shaking up the system and promises to take player development to the next level.
When U.S. Soccer failed to continue its focus on developing its portion of America’s talent pool and abruptly announced the closing of the Development Academy (DA) on April 15, 2020, literally thousands of players, coaches, and families were left wondering what would come next. Now, MLS NEXT has taken over, and as a commercial entity dependent upon the success of the beautiful game in America, they are probably better suited to the task.
“The future starts here.”MLS NEXT website
While high priced players from across the Atlantic may still dominate the MLS fields, the glory of developing the homegrown player who grows up to make an impact on the professional circuit is clearly increasing. The international player is important for the growth of the league but the future of American soccer rests on the shoulders of our country’s youth players.
MLS NEXT is a platform that will transform the way players learn and grow.MLS NEXT website
According to the MLS press release, the 2020 competition structure for MLS NEXT prioritizes athlete, staff, and community health and safety through regional play and minimized travel. The entire MLS NEXT fall 2020 competition schedule will be announced in four-week phases in order to adjust to evolving health and safety recommendations.
As the MLS NEXT schedule is being released in four-week phases, future adjustments to the fall competition calendar may be made as COVID-19 conditions change.
- CLICK HERE for a full list of platform teams, listed by club.
- CLICK HERE for the first phase of the fall 2020 MLS NEXT schedule
This is the latest and the strongest-ever launch of a youth soccer program or league in the USA. Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber introduced the platform on a video call hosted by Fox Sports’ Katie Witham with panelists Tyler Adams, Jordan Morris, Chris Mueller, Jesus Ferreira, Luchi Gonzalez, and Gregg Berhalter.
With a nod to the past and a clear gaze into the future, MLS NEXT launch promised to take youth soccer to the next level. With multi-million dollar expansion fees for new professional soccer clubs participating in MLS’ expansion, and these clubs being paid player compensation when an MLS Academy product signs with a European club … there should be funds available to reinvest in player development.
MLS’ Commissioner Don Garber referred to the MLS NEXT as “creating opportunity out of challenges.”
The Future of our Sport is our Country and the future strength of our league depends on the improved and growing quality of our players.Don Garber, MLS Commissioner
FC Dallas’ head coach Luchi Gonzalez joined the MLS Next video call launching the platform and discussed the potential for domestic players. “I am a product of the academy and the youth soccer system in this country,” said Gonzalez who commented that he is unsure if any young player is really ever ready to debut on the pro circuit but he certainly should be prepared.
“I am really proud. This is about developing people,” said Gonzalez. “It is all about a vision. MLS Clubs and non-MLS clubs working collaboratively together to have the same vision for the player.”
“MLS is taking one of the most challenging economic moments in the history of our country and is really doubling down in youth soccer and youth development.”Luchi Gonzalez, FC Dallas Head Coach
The goal? It is about improving game decisions, playing creative football and becoming thoughtful, smart players.
“The MLS and the Elite Academies have taken a major step forward and created a platform that will revolutionize soccer in the US,” said Noah Gins, CEO Albion Soccer Club.
“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, Vice President and Technical Director of MLS Player Development. “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.”
“This is a fantastic opportunity to play in the MLS league! It’s the perfect platform for our top-level boys to continue their soccer development! City S.C. is very excited to be a part of everything that’s happening and look forward to the future,” said Michael Duggan, City SC.
“Players need to be challenged to continue to grow to progress. So in this program, you have the best playing against the best which is really important.”Gregg Berhalter, U.S. Soccer Men’s Head Coach
“Then, the second thing is coaching — it’s a very high level of coaching [in the MLS NEXT] and I can tell you the impact coaches can make on players’ careers and the advice they can give on the small things, the detail — that’s what this is all about — and this very high level of coaching is going to help the player progress,” said Gregg Berhalter, U.S. Soccer Men’s Head Coach.
“The third thing that I would say is the pathway becomes clear for the player and when you enter an MLS academy, you know that you’re not far away from the first team,” said Berhalter.
“Some of the things we are looking for from a personality standpoint is competitiveness,” said Berhalter. “We want to see players that can bring that intensity in the match and want to win — I think that’s really important.”
“You know, things aren’t always going to go your way on the soccer field. It’s how you deal with negative events and how you’re able to bounce back … resiliency is really important to making a high-level player,” said Berhalter.
Follow U.S. Soccer’s PLAY ON guidelines, MLS NEXT competition was developed under guidance from federal, state, and local government officials.