NEW YORK – Major League Soccer Monday announced plans to launch a new professional league in 2022 that will complete the player pathway, from the youth development platform MLS NEXT to the professional ranks.

With a record 20 percent of MLS roster slots occupied by players who were developed through MLS club academies, MLS NEXT and the new league will provide more opportunities to players to participate for the first team. The creation of a new league will provide MLS clubs with the optimal environment to produce the next generation of players and more opportunities for talented young players.

The USL Championship will be severely affected by this new MLS league’s as many of its 31 teams are MLS affiliates.

According to an MLS press release, the new league, launching in a World Cup year and four years prior to the 2026 World Cup hosted by the Mexico, Canada and the U.S., will strive meet a growing interest for professional teams around the country.

Alongside MLS club-owned and operated teams, the new competition also will open the door for new owners and markets, not affiliated with MLS, to join the league, bringing professional soccer teams to additional communities.

The new league is expected to have more professional opportunities on the technical and business side of the game, developing new jobs for coaches, referees, and executives.

“We are excited to launch a new league to complete the professional pathway between our academies and the MLS first teams,” MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott said in a statement. “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.”

The league, which will consist of 20 MLS clubs along with the potential for independently owned teams for the inaugural season in 2022, will begin in late March and conclude with playoffs in the fall and a championship match in early December.

Further details, including the league’s name and logo, participating teams in the inaugural season, and application process for expansion clubs will be unveiled later this year.