As we continue to push the future of soccer forward in the United States and Canada, player development, community, innovation and diversity form the pillars of MLS Next Pro. The inaugural season in 2022 will be another historic moment for the sport.
MLS Next Pro will begin play in March 2022, and will essentially bridge the gap between MLS NEXT, the system of youth leagues covering U13 to U19 age grades throughout North America that only launched last year, and MLS.
The season will start with 20 existing MLS clubs competing alongside Rochester NY FC, which is co-owned by former England international Jamie Vardy of Leicester City.
More independent clubs will come on board in 2023, when eight more MLS franchises debut in the MLS Next Pro championship.
Along with Rochester NY FC, the founding MLS Next Pro clubs include the new 2021 MLS Cup winners, New York City FC, which defeated Portland Timbers on penalties on December 11 to win their first title.
The Timbers' next generation will also be on show next year, as will: Colorado Rapids, Chicago Fire, FC Cincinnati, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Columbus Crew, Sporting Kansas City, Inter Miami, Minnesota United, New England Revolution, Real Salt Lake, Orlando City SC, San Jose Earthquakes, Philadelphia Union, Seattle Sounders, St Louis FC, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps.
Charles Altcheck, President of MLS Next Pro, said: “As we continue to push the future of soccer forward in the United States and Canada, player development, community, innovation and diversity form the pillars of MLS NEXT Pro. The inaugural season in 2022 will be another historic moment for the sport.”
Ali Curtis, Senior Vice-President of Competition and Operations of MLS Next Pro, added: “MLS Next Pro will enhance the quality of all players, coaches, referees, and executives along the development pathway and it is an important step to the growth of the sport in North America leading up to the World Cup in 2026.”
South Americans dominate MLS youth xTV
MLS Next Pro will provide a further pipeline of young North American talent into MLS to join the likes of Daryl Dike, Ricardo Pepi and Tajon Buchanan.
That trio all appear among the top 10 highest-valued Under-23 players in MLS, according to TransferRoom’s Expected Transfer Value calculations.
The list is headlined by FC Cincinnati’s 21-year-old Brazilian striker Brenner (main picture), who has an xTV of €13.245m at present.
Another Brazilian, 19-year-old Talles Magno, whose goal sent New York City FC into the MLS Cup final, is third on the list at €8.575m, just below Atlanta United’s Argentinian winger Ezequiel Barco (€8.935m).
Dynamic Dike: the young Orlando City striker is the most valuable U23 American in MLS
Magno and Barco are joined in the same €5-10m xTV range by USA internationals Dike, of Orlando City, and Pepi, of FC Dallas, and Canadian Buchanan, who will move from New England Revolution to Club Brugge in Belgium now the MLS season has finished.
Half of the U23 Top 10 are South American, with another Argentine Santiago Sosa and Uruguayan pair Santiago and Brian Rodriguez included.
Brenner is actually the highest valued player in MLS, even with age restrictions lifted, according to TransferRoom data, slightly ahead of fellow Brazilian Luis Araujo of Atlanta United (€13.22m).
Barco, Magno and Dike also feature in that top 10, highlighting MLS teams' commitment to youth, which will only be amplified by the launch of MLS Next Pro.
TransferRoom’s team of executives and analysts created xTV to provide a real-time reliable assessment of the value of more than 75,000 players worldwide, with the top 10 U23 players in MLS showcased in the below table.
TransferRoom signed a three-year deal with MLS earlier this year, giving all clubs access to the platform.