MLS NEXT Rules
Updated for the 2023-2024 season.
Below are the MLS NEXT Rules and technical standards for the 2023-2024 season. We’ve summarized and provided color to the most important topics.
General Rules & Standards for the 2023-2024 Season
|DIVISION||Born In or Before||Playoffs?|
|U19||2006 & 2005||Yes|
Middle School and High School Participation
Are players allowed to play high school soccer? No, high school soccer is not permitted unless there is a waiver in place. The waiver is primarily for players who receive financial aid for soccer participation and/or have been accepted into a private school for soccer.
The waiver must be signed by the player’s Academy Director and the school’s Principal AND approved by MLS NEXT.
Here’s the most current waiver form.
Participation in Other Leagues
MLS NEXT players and teams are not allowed to play in any outside leagues. Teams may only participate in approved tournaments and showcases.
Also, players can only participate in approved outside Talent ID events with U.S. Soccer and CSA National Teams. This includes USYNT Talent IDs.
MLS NEXT Roster Rules
The following are the roster rules for the MLS NEXT season:
- Roster Minimum: 14 Primary Players per team
- Roster Maximum: 24 player average per MLS NEXT team within a club (teams can have less or more than 24 as long as it averages 24 or less across the club)
- Game Day Roster Maximum: 18 players per team
- Over-age Players: A team can have a maximum of 3 over-age players
It is recommended that Primary Players start in 25% of the games and the U13, U14 & U15 age groups participate in 50% of minutes per week.
MLS NEXT Players Playing Up
Any player is eligible to play in an older group while rostered for their age group (by birth year) as long as they meet competition standards and play only 90 minutes per day across a maximum of 2 matches.
What are ‘Primary Adds’? They are players that are added after the close of the initial registration period. The rules include:
- Only six Primary Adds per team across the club
- The club will not be charged with a ‘Primary Add’ if that player signs a professional contract or moves to another MLS NEXT club.
There is a roster freeze that doesn’t allow any new roster adds after a certain date (usually sometime in April 2024).
MLS NEXT Bio Banding Rules
Also known as Late Developers (L), the following bio banding rules must be adhered to:
- (3) Late Developers per team
- All age groups are eligible
- Must complete Late Developer forms and receive approval from MLS NEXT
MLS NEXT Club Staff
Staff requirements for each MLS NEXT team are as follows:
- Academy Director must have USSF Academy Director Course, EFCL Certificate or USSF/CSA A license or equivalent
- Academy Head Coach must have B License or equivalent (exceptions must be approved by MLS NEXT Technical Director)
- Recommended best practice of Head Coaches operating 1 2 teams at the club with additional Assistant Coaches, especially if coaching more than one team
- Recommended best practice: A coach shouldn’t be Head coach of 2 teams, but can be a Head coach of one team and an assistant on other teams
MLS NEXT Game Day Rules & Regulations
- Playing Time: Players can only in 90 minutes per day across a max of two matches. Also, they should not play in more than two consecutive days of games.
- Match Ball: All teams will play with a Size 5 Official MLS NEXT adidas match ball.
- Hydration: The home team must provide adequate hydration for BOTH teams.
- Technical Area: The home team must provide sufficient benches for both teams.
- On-field Athletic Trainer: The home team must provide a Qualified Medical Professional (QMP) on the field.
- Video: The home club must record and upload match footage for U15-U19 games (prior to 12pm EST on the Tuesday after the games). Clubs should record U13 & U14 games but it is not required.
MLS NEXT Game Length
- U13: (2) 35 minutes halves and 10 minute halftime
- U14 & U15: (2) 40 minute halves and 15 minute halftime
- U16 and older: (2) 45 minute halves, 15 minute halftime
Age Group Order
It is recommended that older age groups play first to accommodate the younger players who play up.
MLS NEXT Substitution Rules
- U13 & U14: Unlimited subs over 3 moments per half, plus halftime. A subbed player cannot re-enter in the same half.
- U15 and older: Unlimited subs over 3 moments per game, plus halftime. A subbed player cannot go back into the game after they are subbed out.
On Field Discipline
- Yellow Card Accumulation for players:
- 5 Yellow Cards = 1 match suspension;
- 10 Yellow Cards = 2 additional matches;
- 15 Yellow Cards = 3 additional matches
- Yellow Card Accumulation for staff:
- 3 Yellow Cards (YC) = 1 match suspension;
- 5 YC = 2 additional matches;
- 6 YC = 3 additional matches
The Yellow Card accumulation will follow a player and staff member across all age groups within the same year. If a player (or staff) receives two yellow cards in the same game it will result in a red card and immediate absence from the game. But, in this case, only one yellow card will count towards the accumulation.
- Red Card accumulation for players and staff:
- 1st offense = 2 match suspension
- 2nd offense = subject to additional discipline
- 3rd offense = Subject to additional discipline and potential long-term suspension from MLS NEXT games and related events.
- Red Cards received in friendly matches will only result in suspension if deemed egregious
The Red Card accumulation will follow a player and staff member across all age groups within the same year.
Field & Training Expectations for MLS NEXT Teams
Minimum Field Sizes
- U13 & U14: 64’x105′
- U15 & Older: 70’x110′
- MLS NEXT Clubs can use multiple locations for regular season matches but must be approved by MLS NEXT
- If possible, MLS NEXT encourages neutral sites to prevent overnight stays. From personal experience, this is rare.
- U13 MLS NEXT teams must train a minimum of 3 times per week
- U14 & older must train a minimum of 4 times per week
Each player must be provided at least one day off per week