MLS Next Pro Primer – What to expect from the newcomer to soccer

Next Friday night, with the first regular season game between St Louis City II and Rochester New York FC, the first edition in the history of the Next MLS Pro.

Third attempt in MLS history to found a kind of minor league on the model of the NBA G-League, compared to those that preceded it, which existed respectively between 2005 and 2008 and 2011 and 2014, the competition is presented with new ambitions and could also play a significant role in structuring Major League Soccer’s next television rights deal.

After documenting the first rumors about the birth of this league and the official announcement of its formation, So let’s find out what exactly this MLS Next Pro will be.answering all the top questions about this new creature on the American soccer landscape.

What is MLS Next Pro?

There MLS Next Pro is the new development league linked to Major League Soccer and will have a USSF affiliation as third division championship. In the intentions of the league will play the role of connection between the newborn MLS nextthe association that brings together all the most important youth teams in the country, including the youth sectors of the MLS, but not only, and the professionalism of the elderlya role that has been played for years by the collaboration with the USL, which for yet another year will host some of the teams from the second MLS that have not made the leap to the new competition, but with whom relations seem destined to end amicably in a historical moment in which both address a new phase in their history.

It should not be considered as a strictly youth leaguebut a professional league in every way, with no age limit and yes, with a maximum of five players without a professional contract, leaving the youth sector on the pitch in each game of each team.

What is the format of the MLS Next Pro?

In this first edition of the league will participate twenty one team. Nineteen MLS franchises, St Louis City II, whose MLS franchise starts in 2023, and Rochester New York FCthe first independent club in the league, with Jamie Vardy among its owners.

The participants are divided into two conferences, Eastern, with eleven teams, and Western, with ten, divided into two divisions – experiencing a model that the MLS with the expansion at thirty could make its own – Northeast and Central for the West, Frontier, a single division of six teams, and Pacific for the East.

Each team will play twenty four regular season games, challenging teams from their conference two or three times and up to a maximum of four matches against rivals from the opposite coast. The first in the standings at the end of these games has the title of winner of the regular season.

The top four teams from each conference qualify for the playoffswhere the challenges start from the quarterfinals with confrontations between first against fourth and second against third, without re-seeding in the WNBA model.

Will new rules be introduced?

Yes, MLS sees this Next Pro as a kind of free ground to experiment with the rules and try new things.a bit like FIFA does with the youth world cup or the NBA with its G-League.

A first experiment, already active in this 2022 season, will see for example i penalty kicks to decide which regular season games must end in a tiein a kind of throwback to the era of MLS 1.0 in which the good old shots to the hockey model served to resolve equal situations.

It’s unclear how much leeway MLS has to change the rules, and how much it may be willing to eventually use them, should tests come back positive, above, but it’s clear that the definition of a development league is not to be seen. exclusively as restricted to players, but also to other sectors.

Is there a salary cap?

No. And this is the biggest difference from MLS itself.

It cannot be said with certainty if this choice is due to a difficulty in structuring the cap of a competition that will include players with MLS contracts, others under contract with the MLS Next Pro and other amateurs coming out of the youth sectors. or if instead it represents in its own way an experiment that MLS itself wants to try to understand if there are margins and if there are reasons to abolish it even at its highest level.

What we do know, in fact, is that there will be no salary cap neither for teams nor for individual players – for which at the moment it is not planned not even a specific minimum wage.

Each roster, in accordance with the provisions posted on the league website, may have one maximum of thirty-five playersconveniently divided into twenty-four players with a professional contract and eleven reserved for amateur contracts for players coming out of the youth sector.

The parameters for the amateur contract

To participate as fans, players must have aage under twenty-one at the start of the seasonnot have played at the collegiate level, subject to the definition of NCAA and FIFA “Amateur”and have grown up in the team’s youth academy or at a club with proven ties to the representative MLS franchise.

As with MLS, there will be a maximum number of international slots – seven – to spend on players, and these can also be sold via trade, but only on a short-term basis and will need to return to the original team at the end of each season.

How does the market work?

There the sale of individual players within the league itself should not be done with the North American professional sports trade model, but through the buying and selling of player cards.

4-day mini-contracts to play in the MLS

In fact, the players sign their contracts with individual clubs, and not, as in MLS, with the league itself. In addition, players with contract Next MLS Proand therefore not directly linked to the MLS franchise, he will be able to play in the first team through four-day contracts up to a maximum of four contracts per season -and therefore sixteen days- and use this type of contract for up to four players each season.

An example of this rule, similar to the NBA decadals, has already been seen with the start of the season noah allen. The 2004 Inter Miami starred in the first two games of the MLS season using two of their four-day contracts, then signed a deal with Homegrown that certified him as a first-team player.

Where can you watch MLS Next Pro?

For the first season, all matches will be visible on the league website. Every week there will be one or two Game Of The Weeks with an advanced and locally produced television production, beginning with the opening meeting in St Louis, with ESPN columnist – and enfant du pays – Taylor Twellman in the commentary booth.

During the first season, all teams will have at least one Game of the Week. By the end of this year 2022, some or all of the games in this minor league will be packaged by MLS as part of the substantial number of games that will be offered to broadcasters for the signing of the new TV rights contract, which will also include a greater number of regular live season matches at the national level and the renewed Leagues Cup. It is not yet clear if this decision is restricted exclusively to the domestic market or even to the international market.

Who are the players to follow with more attention?

Many of the players we covered earlier in the season will be hitting the pitch over the course of the season in this new league, but there are some other very interesting players who may have slipped under the radar a bit.

We must first highlight the case of Rochester New York, which as an independent club did not appear in the ranking. In particular, the class of 2001 should be emphasized Lightning GibranDribbling winger who grew up in the FC Dallas nursery and often seen in the USL with North Texas, and former Orange County in 2003 raymond draihe too wing.

But there is not only the internal market. Rochester has brought in a large number of international players, such as the former NAC Breda Belgian midfielder born in 2001 milan vacker. In the other team that will play the inaugural game in the history of the league, St Louis City II, stands out in addition to the many young people from the already thriving nursery, the class of 2000 Akil Wattsright back passed through the Mallorca nursery and seen in the USL Championship with Louisville City.

One of the most interesting projects is the north texasDallas’ second team from the USL and whom he has chosen as coach Pa Modou Kah, former Norwegian defender returning from a great season at Pacific FC in the CPL. With him came the Canadian 2003 Pablo Bello Amedume on loan with the right to redemption. Another interesting name is Tanzanian 2002 bernard kamungosigned by North Texas last year after impressing in an open trial run by the team.

Another team former USL are the Royal Monarchsalso trained by a former MLS defender like Jamison Olave, who they can count on the arrival of Leo Torres. The Class of 2004 comes from San Antonio in the USL, one of the best junior sections outside of MLS, and seems to be one of the main candidates to make the jump to the big boys this season.

In addition to the usual wave of youngsters from the nursery, Philadelphia made interesting hits in Venezuela – the 2000s maike villero Y John Perdomo – and in Germany – with Italian-German Gino Portellaformerly Memmingen, both countries that proved to be thriving markets for the franchise with Ernst Tanner at the helm.

Other scattered names to follow are those of the former Valor Shaan Hudal1999 Canadian from Inter Miami II already seen in USL, 2001 Brazilian Michelcame to New England from Botafogo, the former Las Vegas Lights nursery – and RSL – Julian Vazquez, 2001 from Kansas City, Cal product born 1999 Thomas Williamsonwho came to Minnesota after a stint in Pittsburgh in the USL, and the former Japanese UMass yosuke hanyain force in Colorado.

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