MLS NEXT Combats Racism, Hate and Discrimination
In recent years, inequality and discrimination have made their way into everyday conversations. 2020 was no different, with discussions and concerns voiced louder in the streets and on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic. People from all backgrounds have taken on the task of diversifying their understanding of the world. MLS NEXT announced its embrace of progress with a series of initiatives to the issues that dominated conversations over the last year.
YOUTH SOCCER NEWS: Major League Soccer (MLS) NEXT is stepping up their game with a new series of social justice initiatives to combat racism, hate and discrimination in the sport of soccer.
The MLS academy’s mission has always been to ensure an inclusive player development environment that is free from racism, hate and discrimination. Now it is showing their commitment to the worthy cause.
As part of the initiative, the Equity Action Committee (EAC)—a new diversity, equity, and inclusion arm of the player development platform—was established and incorporated into the MLS NEXT governance structure.
MLS NEXT’s press release outlined the league’s intention of creating and enacting policies and programs that protect and educate its players, coaches and staff through initiatives that include educational sessions, guided discussions and shared experiences. MLS NEXT further emphasized the league’s commitment to drive positive social change.
“Major League Soccer is committed to cultivating and ensuring an inclusive environment at all levels of the game,” said Sola Winley, Major League Soccer’s EVP and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer.
“MLS NEXT will reach tens of thousands of young athletes during a critical time in their life and educating all participants on the value of diversity from the moment they enter our platform is a top priority as we continue to build the sport for a new North America,” said Fred Lipka, MLS NEXT Technical Director.
“The MLS NEXT platform offers an important opportunity to increase access and representation for diverse athletes and administrators, while educating the next generation of players, coaches, leaders and fans who will shape the future of our sport and our communities,” said Winley. “Through the implementation of these key initiatives, our hope is that each participant that comes through this program will grow as an athlete and as a person.”
Launched in 2020, MLS NEXT continues to transform youth soccer in North America. Current MLS NEXT membership includes 118 clubs, 521 teams and over 11,000 players across the U.S. and Canada.
MLS NEXT Has Launched The Following Initiatives:
MLS NEXT — Exchange of Best Practices
MLS NEXT will enhance its strategic partnership with the Girls Academy in order to offer a holistic approach to player development. MLS NEXT also collaborated with Black Players for Change to continue youth programming development in the U.S. and Canada.
MLS NEXT — Educational Seminars
Instructional discussion led by Dr. Sonja N. Robinson of Thrive Mind Solutions. Through this educational workshop, leaders throughout MLS NEXT will focus on implementing equity and inclusion principles, and practices, in their clubs.
MLS NEXT — Increased Representation in Positions of Influence
MLS NEXT highlighted the importance of increasing diversity in leadership positions within the league and participating clubs.
Two members of the MLS NEXT Equity Action Committee joined the MLS NEXT Executive Committee, and one member of the MLS NEXT Equity Action Committee now also sits on the MLS Diversity Committee. In addition, diversity in club leadership has been added as admission criterion for MLS NEXT expansion clubs.
MLS NEXT — Increased Opportunities for Diverse Coaches
Similarly, MLS NEXT will now provide an increased number of diverse coaches with the opportunity to earn a coveted Elite Formation Coaching License. The EFCL program is a year-long intensive coaching course, available to select MLS academy coaches and staff. The EFCL is in partnership with the French Football Federation. Top academy directors and coaches as well as MLS first team trainers participate in the program.
MLS NEXT — Policy Review and Implementation
The MLS NEXT Equity Action Committee stated that it is actively reviewing, enhancing and implementing policies to ensure an environment free from discrimination of any kind, in any context. To date, the Equity Action Committee established a direct line of communication to report incidents and implemented a Disciplinary Process to address infractions with disciplinary measures.
MLS NEXT — Training Materials
Coaches, players and parents will have access to training materials that amplifying stories, voices and experiences of minority/racialized players, their caregivers, and coaches.
The launch of these programs came following the hire of Sola Winley as Major League Soccer’s Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer.
The 2021-22 MLS NEXT Equity Action Committee consists of the following nine members.
MLS NEXT Coaches/Directors
- Akinola Lake (Baltimore Armor)
- Arnold Rijsenburg (Real Salt Lake)
- Chris Nurse (Weston FC)
- Mutanda Kwesele (Columbus Crew SC)
- Omar Cervantes (Sheriffs FC)
- Rumba Munthali (Sporting KC)
Major League Soccer Player
- Justin Morrow (Black Players for Change)
- Lesle Gallimore (Commissioner)
- Nikki Washington (Representative of the GA)
For more information about MLS NEXT, visit here.