When does the 2022 MLS season start?
As the 2021 MLS campaign draws to a close with the showpiece game between the Portland Timbers and NYCFC, we take a look ahead to next season.
The 2021 MLS season draws to a close this weekend with the MLS Cup final between Portland Timbers and NYCFC at Providence Park, the 460th game in a campaign that has so far reaped 1,282 goals witnessed by a total of 1,174,289 fans across the United States and Canada. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the start of the 2021 season was pushed back from February to mid-April, the latest ever start to an MLS campaign.
The 2022 MLS regular season, which will be the 27th league competition in the history of the US top flight, is scheduled to begin on 26 February and run until 9 October, with the MLS Cup final slated for 5 November, just two weeks before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is due to kick off.
The league will also expand once more in 2022 with the addition of Charlotte FC as an expansion team, taking the number of teams in MLS to 28. 2021 saw the addition of Matthew McConaughey-backed Austin FC, who finished 12th in the Western Conference in their inaugural season.
The format for the 2022 season will be a home-and-away league in both the 14-team Eastern and Western Conferences, with each participating side playing 17 home and 17 away games across the regular season, including eight cross-conference matches.
New MLS league to be introduced in 2022
MLS will also feature a new league in 2022, MLS Next Pro. The new league will rank one rung below the second-division USL Championship and is scheduled to kick off in March as a Division III professional league, operating at the same level as the USL League One and the National Independent Soccer Association. The inaugural league competition will feature 20 MLS reserve teams and former USL side Rochester New York FC.
The goal of MLS is that every franchise will have a second team in the MLS Next Pro by 2023, providing opportunities for homegrown talent and players from the MLS academy system.
“The key missing piece for us was this place where our young players could get meaningful minutes in high-level competition,” said MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott when the new league was announced in June. "This will also create more job opportunities for young coaches to start their professional careers at the lower levels.”
2022 MLS All-Star Game
MLS also announced last month that the 2022 All-Star Game will be hosted by Minneapolis and Saint Paul on August 10, 2022 at Minnesota United's Allianz Field.