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Despite budding rivalry, USL and MLS Next Pro are helping each other on the field

Plus, the top Next Pro-to-Championship moves of the offseason.

6 min read

It’s easy to focus on the budding rivalry between MLS Next Pro and the USL, but cross-pollination between the leagues has been the real headline this offseason. 

Yes, there’s direct competition between Next Pro’s Chattanooga FC and USL League One’s Chattanooga Red Wolves, and more feuding is on the way between the Jacksonville Armada and Sporting Club Jacksonville. Yes, the MLS third-division affiliate league is aggressively pursuing expansion into attractive markets like Cleveland.

On the field, though, the two parties are increasingly cooperative and better off because of the other. Already this offseason, nearly 40 players have migrated from Next Pro to the USL Championship or League One, and more such moves are sure to follow in the final weeks of the preseason. That’s nearly double the number that carved a similar path last offseason, and it’s part of a larger pattern.

From USL to MLS Next Pro

When Huntsville City FC joined MLS Next Pro as Nashville SC’s affiliate, it raised eyebrows thanks to longstanding mutual interest between USL HQ and city administrators.

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