A lifeline for rec soccer? What to know about MLS GO youth leagues … – Goal.com

A new MLS-backed youth soccer program in the U.S. called MLS GO will launch later this year and aim to reduce long-standing access inequalities.
WHAT HAPPENED? MLS on Tuesday announced the new U.S. youth sports initiative – its second active foray into the complicated youth sports landscape alongside MLS NEXT. But unlike MLS NEXT, which is a higher-pressure national travel league meant to feed the professional ranks, MLS is touting MLS GO as a hyper-local recreational system beginning at younger ages that prioritizes affordability and fun. MLS GO will include both boys and girls, according to a press release, and target kids aged 4 through 14.
MLS GO will engage with "existing community organizations and local recreation programs" in partnership with RCX Sports, an organization that already works with the NFL, MLB and NHL on similar projects. The vision is to provide funding and MLS branding to public recreational leagues that have lost popularity as more expensive youth travel clubs have gained traction.
AND WHAT'S MORE: The first markets for MLS GO will be in Birmingham, Alabama; Phoenix, Arizona; Los Angeles, California; Denver, Colorado; Washington, D.C.; Orlando, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; Foxborough, Massachusetts; Detroit, Michigan; Las Vegas, Nevada; New York, New York; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Dallas, Texas; Seattle, Washington (launching next spring); Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
WHAT THEY SAID: "MLS GO will provide an opportunity for children across the country to play soccer and create a direct connection between our MLS clubs and future soccer fans,” said Kyle Albrecht, MLS Senior Director of Properties, in a statement. “We are excited to work with RCX Sports and local community organizations to provide a structured introductory soccer program, with connections to a developmental pathway that will enable greater access to the sport, regardless of age, gender, location, or talent level.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: An increasingly expensive youth soccer system has frustrated families with children, and MLS is trying to address the problem with direct support for local rec leagues that strengthen a local alternative to travel clubs. But it remains to be seen whether these fortified divisions will prompt an increase in youth soccer participation as hoped or mitigate a youth sports culture that is as cut-throat as ever.
WHAT'S NEXT? The first round of games in MLS GO leagues will take place in August, while registration will start in the next few weeks.
For more insight into youth soccer in the United States, read GOAL's two-part feature series on the challenges of the landscape for boys and for girls.


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