In what is sure to be a shake up for the game in the United States, Major League Soccer has announced plans to launch a new professional league in 2022.

The idea of MLS’s new professional league is to offer a route that completes the player pathway, while also bringing the excitement and passion of professional soccer to cities that currently do not have a professional soccer team. The current setup in North America sees Major League Soccer as the pinnacle of the game, with USL Championship existing as an unaffiliated division II. 

What that means is that, while the battle to be the best is as enthralling as in any league across the world, there is no threat of relegation to the teams in and around the bottom of the MLS table, leaving them with nothing much to play for once they’re out of the running for a play-off place. Whether this new league will change that is yet to be announced, but in the interests of competition it would certainly make sense down the line. What this second MLS league means for USL is also unclear, but it must be a concern for the franchise.

mls 2-min.jpg

The MLS setup as it is also leaves little room for development. It’s hoped that this new league will provide an integral step in the professional player pathway, accelerating the development of elite talent by providing a highly competitive environment for rising stars to compete alongside established professional players.

We are excited to launch a new league to complete the professional pathway between our academies and the MLS first teams,” said MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott in a league release. “In addition to providing more opportunities for MLS-caliber players, the new league will develop a diverse talent pool of coaches, referees and front office executives while also attracting fans who previously were unable to support a local club in their hometown.

Further to the player development side, its also hoped that the new league will rise to meet a growing interest for professional teams around the country, launching as it is in a World Cup year and just four years prior to the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosted by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With vibrant soccer cultures throughout North America, the new league will provide those fanbases with the opportunity to support a local team. 

Alongside MLS club-owned and operated teams, the new competition will also open the door for new owners and markets, not affiliated with MLS, to join the league, bringing professional soccer teams to additional communities throughout the country.

mls 3-min.jpg

Further details, including the league’s name and logo, participating teams in the inaugural season, and application process for expansion clubs will be unveiled over the course of this year.