NEW YORK — New York City FC Thursday announced it will operate the City Select League, which will begin play this fall.

Launched in 2016 as the NYCFC Affiliate League, the expanded City Select League will include more than 20 clubs across the Boys Under-9 to U-12 age groups.

“With the U.S. Soccer Development Academy dropping the U-12 age group starting in the fall of 2019, we had a natural platform to expand our youth league to the U-12 age group, while also including a number of new clubs in the area,” NYCFC Academy director Sam Pugsley said. “Moving forward, we’re confident that the City Select League will offer clubs in the broader Tri-State area an optimal competitive platform for player development and pathway.

“We’ve reached out to and chosen some very good clubs that will help facilitate the launch of the City Select League. They know and understand what we’re looking for and what the general philosophy and overall ethos of the league is.”

In its current form, the youth league consists of NYCFC’s seven affiliate clubs: Downtown United SC, Manhattan SC, Met Oval, New York Soccer Club, TSF, SUSA and World Class FC. Once the expanded league format starts this fall, additional local clubs will be involved throughout New York City, Long Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, Connecticut and New Jersey.

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“The City Select League came from NYCFC as a club wanting to connect and have relationships with local youth soccer clubs in the area,” NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna said. “We’ve done that from day one and for us it’s been very important to make sure our door is always open.

“Creating a competition that we oversee and manage will ensure it’s the right environment for youth players in the Tri-State area. It’s really unique amongst MLS teams and it is important to continue every year to develop more and more relationships with the local soccer community and this is one big step towards that.”

The expanded league has four goals:

* Meaningful competition: The inclusion of top-level clubs in talent-rich areas

* Managing league format and structure: It prioritizes development with age appropriate guidelines

* Reduced travel and cost: It increases local competition with no team registration fee

* Shared sporting values: It allows a transparent player pathway to professional soccer