What is MLS Next Pro? 

What is MLS Next Pro? 

What is MLS Next Pro? MLS Next Pro is a men’s professional soccer league in North America that is directly affiliated with Major League Soccer (MLS). It is considered a third-tier league behind MLS and USL Championship.

The league launched in 2022 with 21 teams and has since expanded to 27 reserve sides of MLS clubs.

The league aims to provide a high-quality player development experience for young players who aspire to play at the Division I professional level.

MLS Next Pro is an important addition to the soccer landscape in North America. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about MLS Next Pro. Enjoy!

MLS Next Pro Overview

MLS Next Pro is a professional men’s soccer league in the United States and Canada that was launched in 2022 by Major League Soccer.

It is designed to complete the pro-player pathway, and it continues to grow the game through innovation and diversity, bringing professional soccer to new communities and creating opportunities for young players to further develop their skills.

MLS Next Season Structure

There are 27 teams in the league and they compete in a single table. The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs. The winner of the playoffs is crowned the champion.

Teams in MLS Next Pro

MLS Next Pro logo

As of 2023, there are 27 teams in MLS Next Pro and 29 teams in the MLS. The league has continued to grow, and new teams have been added in subsequent seasons.

The league has expanded into four divisions: Northeast, Central, Pacific, and Western. Each team plays 28 games during the regular season, with 14 home games and 14 away games.

MLS Next Pro provides a great platform for young elite players to develop their skills and showcase their talent. It is a crucial step in the pro-player pathway, and it offers a unique opportunity for players to gain professional experience and exposure.

With the continued growth of the MLS, especially since Inter Miami’s signing of Messi, I think we’ll see the league benefit from the steady rise. More talented players will want to develop in the States knowing that the next step is a future in a league with Messi and other incredible players.

MLS Next Pro Season


The MLS Next Pro season typically runs from late March to October.

The official match schedule can be found on the league’s website at MLSNEXTPro.com. The schedule includes the date, time, and location of each game, as well as the teams that will be playing.


At the end of the regular season, the top eight teams from each conference qualify for the MLS Next Pro playoffs.

The playoffs consist of a single-elimination tournament, with the winner of each game advancing to the next round. The final match of the playoffs is called the MLS Next Pro Championship.

We are yet to see who wins the 2023 season but the Columbus Crew 2 were crowned the champions in 2022.

MLS Next Pro and MLS do not have a promotion and relegation format so the winner of the MLS Next Pro Championship is not promoted to Major League Soccer.

MLS Next Pro Players

Player Eligibility

Each team can roster up to 35 players. They can include:

  • 24 roster slots may be filled with professional players. These roster slots include International and Domestic players, and players on loan.
  • 11 roster slots may be filled with amateur players. There shall be a maximum of five (5) youth academy players per team on the field during an official match.

Additionally, each team has seven roster slots for international players.

Also, there is no minimum salary or maximum salary for the league. And, there are no age limits for players, and clubs will be able to sign players directly to an MLS Next Pro agreement, as described above.

MLS Next Pro Player Development

MLS Next Pro completes the pro pathway in the U.S. Young talented players are provided an opportunity to jump from college (or an MLS Academy team) to develop in a professional setting.

Players will gain experience and exposure while playing against top competition.

If they excel in this environment, they may be awarded an opportunity to play for their MLS team.

MLS Next Pro Player Salaries

MLS Next Pro teams are not subject to the same salary cap restrictions as MLS teams. This means that teams can spend more money on players if they choose to do so. At the same time, they can offer as little as they can with no minimum salary.

Money isn’t a primary motivator for MLS Next Pro players. The opportunity to be seen and play for an MLS club is what they are playing for.

MLS Next Pro Broadcasting

MLS Next Pro has gained significant attention since its launch in 2022. One of the reasons for its success is its broadcasting partners. In this section, we will discuss the broadcasting options available for games.

Official Broadcast Partner

As of 2023, all MLS games including MLS Next Pro matches can be streamed on Apple TV. To watch all the action, you’ll need an MLS Season Pass.

Prior to this year, the league had a multi-year agreement with ESPN, which included the broadcasting of ten games per season. These games aired on ESPN2, ESPNU, or ESPN+.

In addition to the live games, fans can also watch MLS highlights here.

Final Thoughts

The development of MLS Next Pro is a fantastic integration into the pathway for professional soccer in the U.S.

I think in the years to come, we’ll see young stars come up through the system and get an opportunity to play at the highest level in North America!

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between MLS and MLS Next Pro?

MLS (Major League Soccer) is the highest level of professional soccer in the United States and Canada, while MLS Next Pro is a lower-tiered league for MLS clubs that was launched in 2022. MLS Next Pro provides a pathway for youth development players to reach the top MLS league.

Is MLS Next Pro semi-pro?

No, MLS Next Pro is not a semi-pro league. Instead, MLS Next Pro is a professional soccer league that is considered a reserve league for MLS clubs.

How many MLS Next Pro teams are there?

There are 27 MLS Next Pro teams.

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 soccernovo.com 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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