The MLS NEXT regular season kicks off on Aug. 21 and features nearly 600 teams competing in over 9,000 matches over a ten-month calendar. Top players from the country’s leading 134 clubs, including all 29 MLS Academies, will field teams in up to six age groups: U13, U14, U15, U16, U17, and U19. Four (4) of the five (5) Austin FC Academy teams, U13, U14, U15 and U17, will compete in the 2021-22 MLS NEXT season.

The 2021-22 season will allow the top prospects in the U.S. and Canada to compete in a ten-month regular season and a chance to become MLS NEXT Champions by winning the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs in July 2022. New to the second edition of the competition, the 2021-22 MLS NEXT campaign will feature two national events, a winter event and a qualifying event for the annual MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs. 

Throughout the season, the competition format aims to balance a diversity of opponents and an efficient travel schedule, minimizing flights and hotel stays for the majority of participants, especially at the U13 and U14 age groups. Additionally, the competition will continue to operate under the MLS NEXT Return to Play protocols, ensuring teams are competing in a manner consistent with local, state, and federal health recommendations. 

Visit www.MLSsoccer.com/MLSNEXT for more information about individual team schedules.

“We are excited to launch our second year of competition, providing the most meaningful competition for the top players in the U.S. and Canada,” said MLS’s Technical Director of Youth Development, Fred Lipka. “When we launched MLS NEXT, we intended to provide the most competitive matches for the best players in North America and our second season brings us closer to this goal.” 

The top 32 teams from the regular season will compete to be crowned MLS NEXT champion in the four oldest age groups (U15, U16, U17, U19) next July at the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs. The two youngest ages (U13 & U14) will join the older teams not participating in the Playoffs at the MLS NEXT Cup Showcase held at the same venue. 

Sixteen of the 32 teams will qualify for MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs based on their standings in their League table. League matches will be played on a regional basis from August to June, featuring eight regional divisions, plus new MLS divisions at the U15 and U17 ages.   

The other sixteen teams will qualify for MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs based on their performance at the qualifying event held in May. The qualifying event will feature the top 64 teams in each age group competing in 16 groups of 4 teams with the winner of each group advancing to MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs. Participants in the qualifying event will qualify and be seeded based on their performance in local matches from August to March.

The industry leading partnership between adidas and Major League Soccer continues to drive the evolution of player development. adidas provides the official match ball for all MLS NEXT matches and works with MLS to advance the game in North America by creating an atmosphere that supports the next generation of rising stars on the professional pathway.

Austin FC Academy is the fully funded development academy that began competition in the Fall of 2019 with the U14 team participating in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy (USSDA). It later expanded to include the U13, U14, and U15 teams in 2020 under MLS NEXT. 

Four (4) of the five (5) Austin FC Academy teams will compete in MLS NEXT, apart from the U-12 team. Major League Soccer (MLS) manages, organizes, and controls the MLS NEXT system of youth soccer, which was launched in 2020 with the goal of transforming elite youth soccer in North America. MLS NEXT players have access to the highest level of competition, training and personal development opportunities that will prepare them for their professional futures.

The Austin FC Academy represents the highest level of training and competition for aspiring professional soccer players in Central Texas across Austin, San Antonio, and surrounding cities. The Austin FC Academy trains at St. David’s Performance Center, the Club’s $45 million, privately funded, state-of-the-art training facility located near Parmer Pond in North Austin.

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