National Academy League: Get to Know the Youth League

National Academy League: Get to Know the Youth League

A large number of MLS NEXT clubs on the east coast are leading the way to launch a newly formed league, National Academy League (NAL). The league is anticipated to kick off fall of 2023.

Founding members include many MLS NEXT member clubs who are not officially affiliated with Major League Soccer (i.e. – New England Revs, Philadelphia Union, New York City FC, etc.).

There are 54 boys soccer clubs on the original members list for the National Academy League. These teams include some of the top clubs from the northeast down to the southeast of the U.S. and will be broken up into five conferences: New England, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Florida.

Some of the founding members include well-known and established clubs including:

  • Florida Rush
  • IMG Academy
  • Inter Atlanta FC
  • Alexandria SA
  • Achilles
  • PA Classics
  • Cedar Stars
  • BW Gottschee
  • FA Euro
  • Boston Bolts
  • NEFC
  • Seacoast United

For each of the league’s conferences, there will be a U13-U19 group with the flexibility to create events and tournaments within the conference.

As part of the competition, teams will have the opportunity to attend the IMG Cup College Showcase in December. Top teams will also be invited to compete at the National Academy League Championship taking place in June of 2024.

Founding Member Conferences

New England Conference: Boston Bolts, IFA, NEFC, Seacoast United, Valeo, Bayside FC, NY Rush Select, SDA, NY Elite

Northeast Conference: BW Gottschee, Cedar Stars Academy North Bergen, Beachside SC of CT, FC Westchester, Cedar Stars Academy Monmouth, TSF Academy, Ironbound SC, New York SC, DUSC, Met Oval, Barca Academy Pro, Cedar Stars Academy Hudson Valley, FA Euro, LI Slammers

Mid-Atlantic Conference: Alexandria SA, Achilles, SACBA, Bethesda SC, FC DELCO, PA Classics, PDA, Real Jersey, Sporting Athletic, SYC

Southeast Conference: Hoover-Vestavia Soccer, Inter Atlanta FC, Kalonji Soccer Academy, Lanier Soccer Academy, Southern Soccer Academy, Wake FC, Triangle United SC

Florida Conference: Florida Rush, Tampa Bay United, Weston FC, Miami Rush Kendall SC, West Florida Flames, Jacksonville FC, IMG Academy, United Soccer Alliance, Ideasport Soccer Academy, Chargers SC, Plantation FC Academy, FC Tampa Rangers, SFFA, Orlando City Seminole


Mid-America Conference

The NAL recently announced that it has opened a new region and is set to welcome twelve new clubs for its inaugural season. The Mid-America Conference will be represented by clubs from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

These youth soccer clubs include:

  1. Bavarian United (WI)
  2. Cincinnati United Premier (OH)
  3. FC United (IL)
  4. Indiana Fire (IN)
  5. Javanon FC (KY)
  6. Lou Fusz Athletic (MO)
  7. Michigan Hawks (MI)
  8. Michigan Jaguars (MI)
  9. Midwest United FC (MI)
  10. SC Wave (WI)
  11. Sockers FC Chicago (IL)
  12. Vardar (MI)

This expansion will bring the total number of participating clubs to 67 and include over 400 teams. The league, which is set to begin play in fall of 2023, will feature youth boys teams from the eastern region of the United States.

The National Academy League was founded by a large contingent of MLS NEXT youth clubs, and its mission is to provide a high-level, development-focused league for young soccer players. Stay tuned for more updates on the new youth league and its growing number of conferences and clubs.

Creating a New Pathway for Boys Youth Soccer

Essentially, the National Academy League is creating a new (and, maybe better?) pathway for boys youth soccer on the east side of the U.S.

It will be interesting to see how this affects the non-affiliated MLS teams in MLS NEXT and ECNL. I think the former will be most affected with many ECNL teams transitioning to the NAL but this will be determined by the individual club.

We’ll also have to wait and see if and when the new league expands to the rest of the country.

In their press release, The National Academy states that “The nation’s top Academy Clubs collaborate to support their developmental pathway for players focused on their professional and college careers through the National Academy League.”

For more information, check out The National Academy League Game Day Guide.


FAQ – National Academy League

What is the National Academy League (NAL)?

The newly formed National Academy League will aspire to help the nation’s top clubs support their pathway for players focused on their future playing at the next level. As of 2023, this is a boys-only league.

What’s the difference between ECNL and National Academy League?

ECNL has been around longer so it has many more teams in various regions throughout the U.S. Additionally, ECNL has boys and girls teams while National Academy League is only boys.

Is National Academy League better than MLS NEXT

MLS NEXT is a higher-tier in U.S. youth soccer.

Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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