Major League Soccer announced on December 6th the 21 clubs that will compete in MLS NEXT Pro in the new professional league’s inaugural 2022 season. Sounders FC affiliate Tacoma Defiance is set to join the new league alongside the 20 other clubs for the debut season, having previously competed in the USL Championship. Adidas will serve as MLS NEXT Pro’s first corporate sponsor.
Established by MLS, the new professional league completes an integrated player pathway from MLS NEXT through to MLS First Teams. The new league offers young players and experienced professionals the opportunity to develop and showcase their talents while competing for a MLS NEXT Pro championship.
“The formation of MLS NEXT Pro gives clubs in our league further opportunity to develop and showcase young talent,” said Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. “Player development is a cornerstone of our franchise, and we saw this season the fruits of our efforts not only in Tacoma Defiance’s campaign, but also at the MLS level with Sounders FC. We look forward to competing against other MLS clubs and independent organizations in this new league.”
MLS NEXT Pro debuts in 2022, a FIFA World Cup year, and just four years prior to the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico. MLS NEXT Pro brings professional soccer closer to fans and supporters, while providing more opportunities for players, coaches, referees and sports business professionals throughout North America.
The 21 clubs competing in MLS NEXT Pro’s inaugural season include 20 teams affiliated with MLS clubs and one independent club, Rochester NY FC. In addition to Defiance, the following MLS clubs are competing in MLS NEXT Pro’s 2022 season: Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Sporting Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota, New England, NYCFC, Orlando, Philadelphia, Portland, Real Salt Lake, San Jose, St. Louis, Toronto and Vancouver.
Eight additional MLS-affiliated teams will join MLS NEXT Pro in 2023, including: Atlanta United, Austin FC, Charlotte FC, D.C. United, LA Galaxy, LAFC, Nashville SC and New York Red Bulls. MLS NEXT Pro will introduce additional independent clubs to the league in 2023 and beyond.
MLS NEXT Pro kicks off its inaugural season in March, just one month after Major League Soccer action starts, and sees its season culminate in postseason play in September. The full 2022 match schedule and competition details are being announced at a later date.
ABOUT MLS NEXT PRO
MLS NEXT Pro is a professional men’s soccer league in the United States and Canada debuting with 21 clubs for its inaugural season in 2022. MLS NEXT Pro completes the pro player pathway by connecting youth academies in MLS NEXT to First Teams in Major League Soccer. More so, it grows the game through innovation and diversity by bringing professional soccer to new markets, creating career opportunities for professionals on and off the field, and providing communities with a strong sense of pride. For more information about MLS NEXT Pro, visit www.mlsnextpro.com.
– DEFIANTLY TACOMA –