MLS NEXT announced Thursday that it has launched a series of initiatives that are aimed at combating racism, hate and discrimination while advocating for social justice in soccer.
Ahead of its second season, the youth league, which features 118 clubs and over 11,000 players across the United States and Canada, has established an Equity Action Committee (EAC). This area will help lead educational sessions, guided discussions and shared experiences among players, coaches and staff.
“Major League Soccer is committed to cultivating and ensuring an inclusive environment at all levels of the game,” Sola Winley, MLS’s EVP and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, said in a release. “The MLS NEXT platform offers an important opportunity to increase access and representation for diverse athletes and administrators, while educating the next generation of players, coaches, leaders and fans who will shape the future of our sport and our communities. Through the implementation of these key initiatives, our hope is that each participant that comes through this program will grow as an athlete and as a person.”
Added Fred Lipka, MLS NEXT’s technical director: “We are committed to creating lasting change in youth soccer and continuing to build a platform that does not tolerate racism or other discriminatory language or behavior in any context. MLS NEXT will reach tens of thousands of young athletes during a critical time in their life and educating all participants on the value of diversity from the moment they enter our platform is a top priority as we continue to build the sport for a new North America.”
Five initiatives are being immediately actioned:
Working to build antiracist environments throughout the platform, MLS NEXT will welcome Dr. Sonja N. Robinson of Thrive Mind Solutions for this first in a series of instructional discussions.
Exchange of best practices
MLS Next will work with the Girls Academy and Black Players for Change to further enhance player development and youth programming.
Increased representation in positions of influence
MLS NEXT is committed to incorporating an increased number of diverse coaches with the opportunity to earn a coveted Elite Formation Coaching License.
Policy review and implementation
The MLS NEXT Equity Action Committee is actively reviewing, enhancing, and implementing policies to ensure an environment free from discrimination of any kind, in any context.
Coaches, players and parents will have access to training materials amplifying stories, voices and experiences of minority/racialized players, their caregivers and coaches.
MLS NEXT Equity Action Committee
The EAC will guide MLS NEXT to facilitate positive change for an aware, equitable, just and responsible soccer community. It consists of MLS NEXT coaches, directions and Girls Academy League leaders, contributing to the following nine members:
- Akinola Lake (Baltimore Armor)
- Arnold Rijsenburg (Real Salt Lake)
- Chris Nurse (Weston FC)
- Mutanda Kwesele (Columbus Crew SC)
- Omar Cervantes (Sheriffs FC)
- Rumba Munthali (Sporting KC)
- Justin Morrow (Black Players for Change)
Girls Academy League
- Lesle Gallimore (Commissioner)
- Nikki Washington (Representative of the GA)