MLS Youth Academy

About Major League Soccer (MLS) Youth Academy

The Major League Soccer (MLS) Youth Academy is a comprehensive player development system implemented by the MLS, the top professional soccer league in the United States and Canada.

The MLS Youth Academy is designed to identify, develop, and nurture young soccer talent within the league’s clubs, with the ultimate goal of producing homegrown players capable of competing at the highest level of professional soccer.


The primary objective of the MLS Youth Academy is to create a sustainable and competitive player development pathway for young players, with a strong focus on technical and tactical skills, physical fitness, and mental development.

By providing a professional environment and high-quality coaching, the academy system aims to help young players reach their full potential and contribute to the growth of soccer in the United States and Canada.


Each MLS club operates its own youth academy, providing a complete player development pathway from the youngest age groups to the professional level.

The academy programs typically cater to players aged 12 to 19, with age groups structured as U-13, U-14, U-15, U-17, and U-19.

The MLS Youth Academy system emphasizes a holistic approach to player development, focusing not only on soccer skills but also on education, character-building, and life skills.

Many academies offer academic support and tutoring to ensure that student-athletes maintain a balance between their soccer and academic commitments.


MLS Youth Academy teams compete in various regional and national competitions, including the MLS NEXT, which is the elite player development platform that replaced the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in 2020.

MLS NEXT features competition across six age groups (U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16, U-17, and U-19) and includes not only MLS academies but also top youth soccer clubs from across the United States.

Additionally, MLS Youth Academy teams often participate in international youth tournaments, providing valuable exposure and experience for players competing against top talent from around the world.

Notable Success Stories

The MLS Youth Academy system has produced numerous notable players who have gone on to have successful careers in professional soccer, both domestically and internationally. Some examples include:

  • Tyler Adams – A product of the New York Red Bulls Academy, Adams has become a key player for both RB Leipzig in the German Bundesliga and the U.S. Men’s National Team.
  • Alphonso Davies – A product of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Academy, Davies is now a standout player for Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga and the Canadian Men’s National Team.
  • Weston McKennie – A product of the FC Dallas Academy, McKennie has played for clubs like Schalke 04 and Juventus, and is a regular starter for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

By offering a structured and competitive player development pathway, the MLS Youth Academy system plays a crucial role in the growth of soccer in the United States and Canada, providing opportunities for young players to develop their skills and pursue professional careers both domestically and internationally.

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