The Elite Academy League (EA) was launched to provide enhanced player development opportunities primarily for clubs already part of the MLS NEXT Youth Platform and to extend best in class standards, infrastructure and to support the MLS NEXT platform and player pool in the club. The national league launched with the start of two divisions, the Southwest and Northeast with over 30 clubs in the boys age groups of U11-U19 The league will build off the standards of the former DA and mirror those of the new MLS NEXT Youth Platform and is committed to furthering elite player development in the United States. The EA will incorporate added benefits as determined by the collective experience and knowledge of the elite club members.


The Elite Academy League is composed of member clubs primarily from the new “MLS NEXT” Academy as well as other top competitive clubs, recommended by the conferences, and admitted by the Elite Academy League Technical Group.

The Elite Academy League is an Elite platform developed to address the needs of its membership primarily assisting with developing top players inside the elite club’s player pool. It allows the member clubs of the “MLS NEXT,” to work together to promote the highest standards in competitive soccer and integrate both leagues with this common goal and direction.

By unifying clubs from within the conferences, we have found a way to maintain the defining standards of the former DA, with the new enhanced standards of “MLS NEXT.” This integration further presents long needed flexibility in two key areas; (1) permission for all players to participate in High School Soccer and, (2) revising the substitution rules to encourage clubs to better utilize their player pools, especially when showcasing their players to college coaches.


The Elite Academy League has a mission to maintain the standards that exist inside the “MLS NEXT” league, bridging the gap and developing the player pool in the most effective manner to promote advancement of qualified players.


Our vision is to advance the player pool who have shown and developed the skills necessary to progress to the highest level of play. This league provides and fosters a vertical integration approach, leading to direct access and movement into the next level of play, with the “MLS NEXT” clubs. This league will serve to provide a seamless pathway of development for all top players who are motivated to establish themselves at the elite level, for competitive youth soccer, the collegiate environment, and beyond.