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Major League Soccer will dive straight into the deep end of lower-league soccer in the United States with the implementation of a Division 3 league, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter and Pablo Maurer.

The league would be a step between MLS and its MLS Next academy structure, says the report, providing more minutes to young players against grown men with “over half of MLS’s clubs fielding teams” with intention to add independent clubs later.

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MLS already has 11 clubs with affiliates in the USL Championship (Division 2) and another five in USL League One (Division 3).

The only other Division 3 league is the National Independent Soccer Association, a league headlined by grassroots success stories Chattanooga FC and Detroit City FC but just three years old.

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USL also boasts USL League Two, but it is an amateur league. The New York Red Bulls U-23 side and Portland Timbers U23s are joined by several teams with USL or NISA affiliations, and USLL2 is considered an unofficial “Division 4” with the National Premier Soccer League.

What does this all mean? This development in a vacuum could be a natural progression that fills a developmental hole for MLS, but it is also curious given a previously strong cooperative vibe with the USL, who had delivered proof of concept for several markets prior to them making the jump to MLS.

Taken at its most vicious, it could also be loosely read as Major League Soccer’s bid to take down NISA or USL and take hold of Division 3. Is it somewhere between the two? Probably, and we look forward to reading up on this new projects as the league presumably confirms it in the coming days.

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Report: MLS launching Division 3 league to bridge top-tier, academy play originally appeared on