Youth squads throughout MLS will head to Dallas for the inaugural MLS NEXT Cup next month. The league announced on Wednesday morning that the event, which takes place from June 25-July 3, will pit 32 teams in four different age groups against one another in a single-elimination knockout tournament based on the number of points per game accrued during the MLS NEXT regular season.
“The MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs will provide more opportunity for clubs to play important matches and our players to further showcase their abilities in front of scouts and coaches,” MLS NEXT technical director Fred Lipka said in a statement. “This will be the culmination of an exciting season and serve as a celebration of everything our players, coaches, referees and staff achieved over the last year.”
Four of the six age groups that make up MLS NEXT will be represented during the tournament, as teams from the U15, U16, U17, and U19 levels will make their way to Dallas. Per a release, 25 of the games will air on MLS’ official website, while six of them will take place at FC Dallas’ home, Toyota Stadium. It’s the next step forward for the youth soccer league that MLS launched 2020, which includes a total of 521 teams and more than 11,000 players across the United States and Canada.
As for the location, FC Dallas has been one of MLS’ premier clubs with regards to developing young talent — Juventus standout Weston McKennie and Bayern Munich youngster Chris Richards both came up through the system before making their respective jumps to Europe. This commitment to being a springboard for young players was mentioned in Dallas manager Luchi Gonzalez’s statement about the tournament coming to the city.
“We are very excited to host the inaugural MLS NEXT Cup at our facilities,” Gonzalez said. “As a club, developing homegrown talent is something we have been focused on for many years and is evident in the talented players emerging from our club. MLS NEXT is an extremely valuable component as we continue to enhance the professional player pathway and we look forward to welcoming the best players in our country to Dallas in June.”