Major League Soccer has announced its long-awaited third-tier professional league, MLS Next Pro.
MLS Next Pro will include reserves sides for all Major League Soccer teams as well as some independent clubs, though the Rochester New York FC — formerly the Rochester Rhinos, rebranded after investment from Leicester City star Jamie Vardy — are the only independently-run club currently in the division.
“We look forward to showcasing Rochester as a premier professional club and are excited to kick off that process by helping to launch the inaugural season of MLS NEXT Pro in 2022,” said Vardy. “Joining this league, full of opportunity for communities, fans, players and staff – on the pitch and off – is a tremendous point of pride for our club.”
Joining in 2022 will be MLS affiliates for Colorado, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Portland, Salt Lake, San Jose, Seattle, St. Louis, and Vancouver in the Western Conference.
The Eastern Conference will feature Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Miami, New England, NYC, Orlando, Philadelphia, Rochester, and Toronto.
2023 will see MLS affiliates for Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, DC, LA Galaxy, LAFC, Nashville, and New York Red Bulls.
MLS says teams will play up to 24 games per team plus an 8-team playoffs with a league cup final.
Major League Soccer intends MLS Next Pro to be a bridge between its top tier and academy set-up, called MLS Next.