MLS Announces MLS NEXT Development Grant Program, Continuing Commitment to Pro Player Pathway

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Program will provide funds to support and reward MLS NEXT Elite Academies that help develop emerging Homegrown talent

Major League Soccer today announced the MLS NEXT Development Grant program, an initiative to recognize the significant contributions of MLS NEXT Elite Academies to the professional player pathway by continuing to invest in the youth development ecosystem.

The program provides compensation to MLS NEXT Elite Academies (non-MLS academy programs) for eligible players that progress through the professional player pathway, from MLS NEXT Elite Academy to MLS club academy to an MLS first team as a Homegrown player. The 2023-24 MLS NEXT season features more than 100 MLS NEXT Elite Academies in 30 different states.

The Development Grant program will provide additional opportunities for players across the United States and Canada to access the highest level of player development, while recognizing the considerable impact that clubs make in the early stages of an athlete’s development. The program has already compensated a total of more than $100,000 to eight different MLS NEXT Elite Academies for players that are retroactively eligible for the Development Grant. Detailed information on eligibility, funding mechanisms, notable quotes, and retroactive recipients can be found HERE.

What They Are Saying About the MLS NEXT Development Grant

“Adam Beaudry's tenure at Real Colorado, from ages 9 to 16, embodied a journey marked by leadership and unwavering dedication. Real Colorado believes our impact extends from player development, into fostering a culture of teamwork and beyond with cohesion in our community. The club enthusiastically applauds the initiative of the Development Grant. We believe it will allow us to continue to elevate our standards as well as enrich the landscape of youth soccer, benefiting Real Colorado and the wider community alike."– Clint Baumstark, Academy Director, Real Colorado

"Benjamin Cremaschi played an important role in securing a National Championship for Weston FC, showcasing teamwork and leadership. This achievement speaks to the winning culture in our Club. Benjamin's legacy at the Club serves as an inspiration for all our players. He is a role model emphasizing that with grit, determination, and humility, dreams can become reality. We are very appreciative of the grant being provided to us by MLS NEXT. Weston FC provides significant financial aid to players and families in need. This grant will help to support players who otherwise would not have the opportunity to play with an MLS NEXT club like ours.” – Luis Mendoza, Technical Director, Weston FC

Player Development Impact on MLS First Teams

Through the continued investment in player development, MLS Homegrown players are now integral figures in the pro player pathway and club roster-building. Since the beginning of 2023, more than 70 different players signed MLS contracts as a Homegrown, 84% of those having played in MLS NEXT Pro. In 2023, nearly 175 different Homegrown players saw regular-season action and a record 187 goals were scored by those players, marking a 15% increase from the 2022 season. Of the 174 Homegrown players, exactly half of them (87) played in at least 50% of MLS regular-season matches.

MLS NEXT Graduates on the International Stage

The 2023 season saw many young academy graduates excelling in MLS, propelling them onto the international stage. Standout talents like Inter Miami CF midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi leveraged their MLS impact into a call-up to the U.S. Men’s National Team in September. At the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup, 23 current and former Homegrown players represented five different countries in Argentina and several of these players are also poised to join the U.S. Men’s National Team in Paris for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

A Continued Commitment to Funding Player Development

The Development Grant initiative is a continuation of Major League Soccer’s commitment to developing talent and fostering the growth of MLS NEXT Elite Academies around the country. Through just the second cycle of the MLS NEXT Delivering Access presented by DoorDash program, MLS NEXT and DoorDash have partnered to invest $250,000 across 12 different non-MLS clubs, funding that has helped open training centers, provide funding for player scholarships, hire staff, and identify and reach more players for financial aid.