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Youth Boys Apr 14, 2023

East Coast based MLS NEXT clubs lead launch of National Academy League

(MAY 3 UPDATE: Twelve additional clubs join National Academy League for inaugural season)


By Quinn Casteel
Managing Editor

A large contingent of MLS NEXT youth clubs are leading the launch of the National Academy League, which will begin play in Fall 2023.

Founding member clubs consist largely of current MLS NEXT member clubs who are not the official academies of Major League Soccer (MLS) organizations. In total, 54 clubs are featured on the first public list of National Academy League members.

The National Academy League’s initial membership spans from the Northeast down to the Southeast. Several high profile clubs listed as founding members include Players Development Academy (PDA), IMG Academy, Bethesda SC, three Cedars Stars Academy branches, Tampa Bay United and New England FC (NEFC), among many others.

Boston Bolts CEO Brian Ainscough stated the following in an announcement from the founding member club: “We’ve had the pleasure of working closely alongside the best clubs in the country in the MLS Next and together, we’re excited to continue building an exceptional player pathway for elite players in the United States. This competition is going to be fantastic and it’ll give our Bolts players a wonderful platform to develop to their full potential.”

Only one member of the founding group – Orlando City Soccer School Seminole – features the branding of an MLS club, and is not the official Academy program for the Orlando City SC MLS team.

Northern Virginia club SYC Soccer stated in a press release that the club would be joining the National Academy League as a founding member of the Mid-Atlantic Conference, while remaining committed to existing competition platforms including MLS NEXT.

“We are excited to announce that we will be joining the National Academy League starting next season,” SYC Technical Director Este Maldonado stated. “The league will provide high level competition that will further enhance the development of our players.”

Each of the National Academy League’s conferences will feature competition across the U13-U19 age groups. Directors of Coaching within each conference will have the autonomy to make additional sporting decisions. For example, adding additional ages or crafting specific events or formats that enhance their players’ growth opportunities.

Participating clubs will also have the opportunity to attend the NAL competition as part of the IMG Cup College Showcase in December and compete for a National Academy League Championship in June 2024. The league’s official website has been launched at

See below for a look at each of the league’s five founding conferences:

New England Conference: Boston Bolts, IFA, NEFC, Seacoast United, Valeo, Bayside FC, NY Rush Select, SDA, NY Elite

Northeast Conference: BW Gottschee, Cedar Stars Academy North Bergen, Beachside SC of CT, FC Westchester, Cedar Stars Academy Monmouth, TSF Academy, Ironbound SC, New York SC, DUSC, Met Oval, Barca Academy Pro, Cedar Stars Academy Hudson Valley, FA Euro, LI Slammers

Mid-Atlantic Conference: Alexandria SA, Achilles, SACBA, Bethesda SC, FC DELCO, PA Classics, PDA, Real Jersey, Sporting Athletic, SYC

Southeast Conference: Hoover-Vestavia Soccer, Inter Atlanta FC, Kalonji Soccer Academy, Lanier Soccer Academy, Southern Soccer Academy, Wake FC, Triangle United SC

Florida Conference: Florida Rush, Tampa Bay United, Weston FC, Miami Rush Kendall SC, West Florida Flames, Jacksonville FC, IMG Academy, United Soccer Alliance, Ideasport Soccer Academy, Chargers SC, Plantation FC Academy, FC Tampa Rangers, SFFA, Orlando City Seminole

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