We are still waiting on all the details, but a new MLS DII league was officially unveiled by the league, made up of teams from USL Championship and USL League One, in addition to other independent origins.
When three MLS-owned teams in USL Soccer–Philadelphia Union II, Portland Timbers 2 and Orlando City B–with from USL Championship and League One in 2021, the stated goal was to play in a new MLS U-23 league come 2022. Other teams, such as Tacoma Defiance and Orlando City B, were also rumored to be interested in the new MLS circuit.
And so they are–in a new MLS DIII league. The goal for the new league, per MLS, is to complete the player pathway, from the youth development platform MLS NEXT to the professional ranks. Consisting of 20 MLS clubs along with the potential for independently owned teams for the inaugural season in 2022 (including some existing USL teams), the league will begin in late March and conclude with playoffs in the fall and a championship match in early December.
The new MLS DII league will complete directly with USL League One. The MLS teams in USL League One are expected to shift to the new MLS DII league, as well as some existing USL Championship teams controlled by MLS, such as Tacoma Defiance and Real Monarchs. (Confirmed as joining them: Portland Timbers 2, Sporting KC 2 and St. Louis City SC.) By 1923 you can expect every MLS team to be fielding a team In this new league, which may eventually seek Division II status.
The details still remain to be announced. During the coming months, a leader and new staff of league office employees will be hired to oversee the launch and ongoing management of the new league, which will have dedicated space in MLS’ New York City headquarters. The new league will be supported by the infrastructure, experience, and resources of MLS. Further details, including the league’s name and logo, participating teams in the inaugural season, and application process for expansion clubs will be unveiled over the course of this year.
And this is still a work in progress, as evidenced by comments made by Minnesota United’s CEO Chris Wright on the launch of the new league:
In April, Wright said “by 2022 we will have a reserve team in place.” On Tuesday, however, Wright couldn’t confirm that will happen. MLS hopes to start a new lower-level league next season, and Wright couldn’t say whether Minnesota will go with a team in the USL, an affiliate setup or some other route….
“There might be one iteration of where we go in 2022, and there might be a completely different iteration in 2023,” Wright said. “We think that we will probably crawl before we run in that space. But those decisions as yet have simply not been made. It’s too early. There are all sorts of player, contractual, support staff, budget ramifications to all of that.”
“We are excited to launch a new league to complete the professional pathway between our academies and the MLS first teams,” said MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott in a press release. “In addition to providing more opportunities for MLS-caliber players, the new league will develop a diverse talent pool of coaches, referees and front office executives while also attracting fans who previously were unable to support a local club in their hometown.”
Real Monarchs photo courtesy MLS.
RELATED STORIES: Clearer plans emerge for MLS DIII circuit