Major League Soccer announced the launch of a new elite youth competition platform intended to provide year-round high-level matches for MLS club academy teams and non-MLS academy teams that previously participated in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy which ceased operations.
The new platform will provide elite competition against domestic and international teams, and MLS is evaluating expanding participation to include clubs beyond the former Development Academy.
"Major League Soccer is deeply committed to developing world-class players through an elite competitive pathway, from our academy teams through the professional game," said Todd Durbin, MLS EVP of Competition & Player Relations in a statement. "As we look ahead to the 2026 FIFA MLS World Cup here in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, now more than ever it is incumbent on us to establish a competition that sets a new standard for elite youth play and allows athletes to achieve their full potential."
"We are seeing significant contribution to the quality of play in MLS from homegrown talent," said Jeff Agoos, MLS Senior Vice President of Competition, Operations, and Medical Administration, two-time World Cup veteran with the U.S and five-time MLS Cup winner. "As we currently have 2,500 elite players and 250 top youth coaches in our academies, MLS is uniquely positioned to provide a new and enhanced platform that will include high quality coaching, professionalized environments and enhanced player identification."
The new platform will include league season matches and both regional and national tournaments with international teams. It will also expand coaching education and improve the approach to player identification to ensure top players have the opportunity to participate in a high-level development environment.
"Participating in high quality, competitive matches on a consistent basis is essential to the development of our young players," said Fred Lipka, Vice President and Technical Director of MLS Player Development. "Launching this new competition will allow us to consistently challenge players, staffs and teams, optimizing the potential of every player on the field."
In addition, MLS is evaluating the potential to provide future competition opportunities for girls.