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MLS Next Pro 2022: Teams, format & structure



In a bid further support player development in the United States and North America in general, the MLS Professional Development League or MLS Pro was introduced by the Major League Soccer.


The MLS Pro is the top tier professional soccer development environment or a pathway for young players to develop.


It sits just below the Major League Soccer as the second-tier league that is next to the first team players of the MLS.


What this means for clubs and coaches is the opportunity to easily access and monitor the best upcoming players that could be useful to the main professional team.


Apart from the MLS owned clubs, or independent pro soccer development teams would also take part in the league from 2022 and beyond.


What’s the difference between the MLS Next and MLS Next Pro? The MLS Next is for amateur whilst the MLS Pro is an environment for professional development which is closer to the first team.


For the 2022 MLS Pro season, 21 clubs will begin as inaugural teams with more teams expected to join from 2023


The MLS Next Pro was established in June 2022 as part of moves by the Major League Soccer to upgrade the league to the level of other European leagues like the Premier League, Bundesliga and Série A from 2022.


The professional league will complete an integrated player pathway from MLS NEXT through to MLS first teams.


It is an environment for young players and experienced professionals to showcase their talent at the highest professional development level.


The league is subdivided into Eastern and Western Conferences just as it is in the Major League Soccer.


MLS Next Pro 2022 inaugural teams


Eastern Conference Teams

  • Chicago
  • Cincinnati
  • Columbus
  • Miami
  • New England
  • New York City
  • Orlando
  • Philadelphia
  • Rochester New York
  • Toronto


Western Conference Teams

  • Colorado
  • Dallas
  • Houston
  • Kansas City
  • Minnesota
  • Portland
  • Salt Lake
  • San Jose
  • Seattle
  • St Louis
  • Vancouver


MLS Pro Future Expansion Teams

By 2023, more teams would be part of the new league. About eight additional MLS-affiliated teams will join MLS NEXT Pro in 2023.


The list of teams in Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, D.C., LA, LAFC, Nashville and NY Red Bulls.


Independent professional soccer development teams are expected to be part of the league from 2023.


Mls Next Pro Structure And Format


Established: 2020

Level: 2

Teams: MLS 2nd teams (including independent teams)


The MLS NEXT Pro aims to bring professional soccer closer to fans and supporters. Young players would have the opportunity to showcase their talent whilst competing and developing their careers.



Teams would be subdivided into two groups (Eastern and Western Conference). It operates similar to Major League Soccer.


Regular Season

Every club will go through the regular season matches. About 24 league games per club.



Eight teams at the end of the regular season would qualify for the playoffs.

League Cup final

The top two teams at the end of the playoffs would qualify to the MLS Next Pro final.


MLS Next Pro Player Pathway

It is an integrated path to MLS and by supporting players across all key stages of development.


Mls Next Pro Age

Availability to all in the professional soccer development levels.

I'm a sports enthusiast, love writing about football. I have been writing about top teams in Europe, the Premier League and La Liga.



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