Get Recruited Faster with a Player Profile on

Youth Boys Aug 17, 2023

National Academy League makes waves ahead of first season

By Sean Maslin
SoccerWire Staff Writer

Ever since the National Academy League announced the creation of their league in April, sending waves throughout the youth soccer landscape, the level of anticipation for the inaugural season has been high within the league and its participating clubs.

The NAL begins its inaugural season in September with 70 clubs competing in the Boys U13-U19 divisions, spread across six conferences throughout the East Coast and Midwest. Most of the NAL member clubs are also part of MLS NEXT, and will use the NAL as a way to broaden development opportunities for their respective player pools.

The NAL is expected to serve as a pathway to MLS NEXT for players looking to work their way up through the ranks of their club’s roster pool, while also competing in high level events and getting exposure to the college recruiting process at the same time.

“When it seemed to appear overnight, it almost really did,” said Sean Carey, Founder of CM8 Soccer Consulting and Management, which manages the National Academy League along with the National Academy Championship and the Regional Academy League. “It wasn’t a big long process and then all of a sudden we released it. It turned around pretty quickly.”

NAL teams will have the opportunity to participate in the aforementioned National Academy Championships in February as well as the IMG College Cup Showcase in December and the National Academy League National Championships, slated for June. (View League Schedule)

Although they will not be hosting additional events throughout the year, the league is working with state associations to allow clubs to participate in State Cup competitions as well as the US Youth Soccer National Championships.

It’s never easy pulling together a league in such a short time, but having a top-notch championship certainly helps. While the NAL is a league competition, its foundations come from the 2023 National Academy Championships, a tournament that brought together some of the top U16, U17, and U19 boys teams from MLS NEXT clubs. It is part of the annual IMG Showcase that is held during the winter.

In addition to their Championships and Showcases, the NAL hosts on their website a tournament board page where clubs can post their upcoming regional tournaments.

“We want to help our clubs and partners as much as possible,” said Carey.

The event attracted over 120 college coaches and received positive feedback from college coaches, clubs, and players on the level of play and the unique format. That experience and opportunity to organize laid the groundwork for the NAL.

“Some things that happened outside of what we are trying to do were some of the drivers behind the clubs deciding that they want to be more formally connected and decide to create the National Academy League,” he added.

Since their initial announcement, the NAL has continued to grow both in terms of their club ranks and on their social media, with over 5,000 followers on Instagram before kickoff of their opening season.

In addition to high level competition, the league’s goal is to provide an authentic pathway and connection between the club’s MLS NEXT and the National Academy League teams and to ensure that their game day experiences are similar. Part of the process in establishing those connections is standards and regulations.

“Our schedule has already been out for a few weeks because we want families to have a proactive approach in how they plan their upcoming year,” said Carey. “We have also communicated to all of our clubs our gameday standards, which all of them have agreed to.”

As for the future, the NAL is in communication with multiple other clubs about expansion opportunities and is looking at creating a league specifically for girls teams. But as for now, Carey and the NAL are looking forward to play kicking off this fall.

“We are very excited,” said Carey. “We are well ahead of where some of the other more established leagues are for this upcoming season. So we are feeling good that we can provide an excellent experience for our clubs and their players and parents.”