Major League Soccer and the U.S. Youth Soccer Association have announced a partnership to collaborate on initiatives to support and engage soccer players and soccer communities throughout the United States. The agreement aims to enhance player identification and monitoring, coaching and scouting education, competition and fan engagement throughout the USYS community, which includes more than 3 million boys and girls soccer players across 55 member state associations.

The agreement is also designed to create a clear pathway for boys and girls to be seen and scouted, regardless of their geographic location or financial resources.

“We are very proud that USYS and its 55 member state associations have decided to make MLS their league of choice,” said Gordon Bengtson, MLS senior director of player development. “The state associations are crucial partners in creating more meaningful connections to the professional levels while supporting the overall growth of the game. This is particularly important in communities that have not historically had access to elite development environments or professional pathways. This is a first step towards our goal of making the size and diversity of our country, our biggest strength.”

Under terms of the deal, players who excel in high school programs, on club teams, or in local soccer leagues will be recommended for a regional competition platform. MLS has agreed to absorb all expenses for players attending and participating in the regional competitions in select age levels. The deal will also create educational and development opportunities for USYS parents, coaches and volunteers.

“This is not a short-term vision, but rather one in which we realize the opportunity to truly connect the whole system of soccer in our country,” said U.S. Youth Soccer CEO Skip Gilbert. “For too long the professional and youth systems have been working relatively independent of each other and with this MLS partnership, we start down the path of true collaboration. This will not only expand resources to grow the game at the grassroots level, but also reveal to players and families that there is a clear pathway to any level of soccer they want to achieve.”