Atlanta United’s Academy teams will compete in three different competitions this year, highlighted by the newly-launched MLS NEXT program, the club announced today. The Academy U-13s through U-19s will compete in MLS NEXT, the new elite youth development platform created by Major League Soccer in collaboration with the top elite youth academies around the country, ushering in the future of soccer in North America.
Additionally, the U-14s, U-15s, U-16 and U-19s will also compete in the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) Boys program, while the U-12s will compete in Southeastern Clubs Champions League (SCCL) only.
“After careful consideration, we made the decision to play games across three platforms of competition so we can get the maximum exposure and development opportunities for our players,” Atlanta United Academy Director Tony Annan said. “Each of these programs offer high-level competition that is vital to our overall philosophy, and we’re truly excited to be competing in each of them. We feel strongly that this approach and increasing focus on games will help us continue to develop players in an effort to reach their full potential.”
MLS NEXT clubs will kick off the inaugural season this weekend, Sept. 11-12, while adhering to detailed health and safety protocols. MLS NEXT competition was developed under guidance from federal, state and local government officials, and in keeping with U.S. Soccer’s PLAY ON guidelines. The 2020 competition structure for MLS NEXT prioritizes athlete, staff and community health and safety through regional play and minimized travel.
- CLICK HERE to see the full Atlanta United Academy team rosters
- CLICK HERE for a full list of platform teams, listed by club.
- CLICK HERE for the first phase of the fall 2020 MLS NEXT schedule
Featuring six age groups (U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16, U-17 and U-19), competition will highlight local rivalries and eliminate air travel and overnight trips, with select matches to be played at neutral sites in geographically centered locations. The MLS NEXT fall 2020 competition schedule will be created and announced in four-week phases in order to adjust evolving health and safety recommendations. The first four weeks of matches were today released, and future matches will continue to be posted throughout the fall competition.
MLS NEXT is working with clubs in areas with limited access to matches due to the minimized travel resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Those clubs impacted will play additional local matches. As the schedule is being released in four-week phases, future adjustments to the fall competition calendar may be made as conditions permit.
“MLS NEXT advances player development in North America, furthering Major League Soccer’s commitment to developing world-class players through an elite competitive pathway,” said Fred Lipka, Vice President and Technical Director of MLS Player Development. “Major League Soccer is excited to begin MLS NEXT competition which will place player development at the forefront while giving players a safe and healthy environment to advance from academies to MLS first teams.”
The industry leading partnership between adidas and Major League Soccer continues to drive the evolution of player development. Adidas will not only provide the official match ball for all MLS NEXT matches but will also partner with MLS in advancing the game in North America and creating an atmosphere that supports these elite young players on the professional pathway.
MLS NEXT’s approach to player development will address all key areas of development. In addition to top level competition, MLS NEXT is focused on and will advance coaching education, personal development, player identification and community service. MLS NEXT seasons beyond the fall of 2020 will also feature regional and national competitions that engage the global soccer community to accelerate the growth of each MLS NEXT player.
Meanwhile, Atlanta’s U-14s, U-15s, U-16s, U-19s will also compete in ECNL Boys for the 2020-2021 season, where the teams will participate in the newly revamped Southeast Conference. The 2020-2021 ECNL Boys season will kick off in August, with 10 Conferences and over 130 Member Clubs.