NEW YORK (December 6, 2021) – Today, Philadelphia Union, in conjunction with MLS NEXT Pro, announced Philadelphia Union II will be among the 21 clubs that will compete in the new professional league’s inaugural 2022 season. Adidas will serve as MLS NEXT Pro’s first corporate sponsor.
Established in June by Major League Soccer, the new professional league will complete an integrated player pathway from MLS NEXT through to MLS first teams. The new league will offer young players and experienced professionals the opportunity to develop and showcase their talents while competing for an MLS NEXT Pro championship.
MLS NEXT Pro will debut in 2022, a FIFA World Cup year, and just four years prior to the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. MLS NEXT Pro will bring professional soccer closer to fans and supporters, while providing more opportunities for players, coaches, referees, and sports business professionals throughout North America.
Cities across North America will experience the excitement and passion of professional soccer through the inclusion of both independent teams and MLS-affiliated teams. The 21 clubs competing in MLS NEXT Pro’s inaugural season include 20 teams affiliated with MLS clubs and one independent club, Rochester NY FC.
As a founding partner of MLS NEXT Pro, adidas will continue to expand upon its deep relationship with MLS and MLS NEXT. The partnership affirms adidas’ commitment to the growth and advancement of the sport of soccer in local communities throughout the United States, Canada and globally.
Rochester NY FC will serve as MLS NEXT Pro’s inaugural independent club. Rochester NY FC, founded in 1996 as the Rochester Rhinos and rebranded this September, is owned by David and Wendy Dworkin, and co-owned by Premier League striker, and former England National Team star, Jamie Vardy of Leicester City F.C.
“We are thrilled that Rochester NY FC will be the first independent club to join MLS NEXT Pro, said David and Wendy Dworkin. “Rochester established itself as a winning club with the Rhinos, and we are pleased to add a new chapter in the city’s rich soccer history as Rochester NY FC. We are excited to develop the future international stars of soccer, right here in our local community. By joining this league, Rochester is on the cusp of the future and the evolving global game of soccer.”
“We look forward to showcasing Rochester as a premier professional club and are excited to kick off that process by helping to launch the inaugural season of MLS NEXT Pro in 2022,” said Vardy. “Joining this league, full of opportunity for communities, fans, players and staff – on the pitch and off – is a tremendous point of pride for our club.”
In addition to Rochester NY FC, the following MLS clubs will compete in MLS NEXT Pro’s 2022 season:
Eight additional MLS-affiliated teams will join MLS NEXT Pro in 2023, including: Atlanta United, Charlotte FC, D.C. United, LA Galaxy, LAFC, Nashville SC, and New York Red Bulls. In addition to Rochester NY FC, MLS NEXT Pro will introduce additional independent clubs to the league in 2023 and beyond.
MLS NEXT Pro will kick off its inaugural season in March, just one month after Major League Soccer action starts, and see its season culminate in postseason action in September. The full 2022 match schedule and competition details will be announced at a later date.
The league has appointed its two leading executives. Charles Altchek has been named President and Ali Curtis will be Senior Vice President of Competition and Operations of MLS NEXT Pro.
Previously, Altchek was Senior Vice President of League Growth and Operations at Major League Soccer. In this role, Altchek has led the planning and development of MLS NEXT Pro since its inception, and drove MLS’ expansion strategy and efforts, including serving as the point of contact for all recent and prospective new ownership groups. Before joining MLS in 2014, Altchek worked for Goldman Sachs and in Business Development for the New York Red Bulls and New York Mets.
For the last three seasons, Curtis was General Manager of Toronto FC, leading the Club to MLS Cup in 2019. Previously, he was sporting director for the New York Red Bulls, who won the Supporters Shield under his leadership in 2015. Curtis also worked extensively with NYRB II, gaining invaluable experience for his new role with MLS NEXT Pro. A former MLS player and winner of the Hermann Trophy for top male player in college soccer, Curtis worked in the MLS league office for eight years, holding the position of senior director of player relations and competition before joining the Red Bulls.
“Charles and Ali have the experience, enthusiasm and values to lead the growth and development of MLS NEXT Pro,” said MLS Commissioner, Don Garber. “They will partner with MLS-affiliated and independent teams to bring professional soccer to more communities throughout North America.”
“MLS NEXT Pro completes Major League Soccer’s pro player pathway, connecting our youth academies through to our first teams,” said Altchek. “As we continue to push the future of soccer forward in the United States and Canada, player development, community, innovation and diversity form the pillars of MLS NEXT Pro. The inaugural season in 2022 will be another historic moment for the sport.”
“I’m excited for the opportunity to join Charles in building and launching MLS NEXT Pro,” added Curtis. “MLS NEXT Pro will enhance the quality of all players, coaches, referees, and executives along the development pathway and it is an important step to the growth of the sport in North America leading up to the World Cup in 2026.