MLS establishes committee tasked with addressing discrimination in youth development program

Major League Soccer announced on Thursday the formation of a committee which will seek to address racial and discriminatory barriers that exist at the youth soccer levels in the United States.

The Equity Action Committee will operate within MLS NEXT, the youth development initiative established last spring after the U.S. Soccer Development Academy shut down. MLS NEXT consists of 489 teams affiliated with 113 clubs from MLS and the lower divisions of the U.S. Soccer pyramid, and runs competitions for over 11,000 players ages Under-13 through U-19.

Systemic discrimination and racism have long plagued the youth levels of soccer in the United States, from lack of diversity in coaching and administrative positions to lack of access to elite travel teams for minorities. MLS NEXT has outlined several areas of growth it wants the Equity Action Committee to help address, including increased representation in positions of influence, increased opportunities for diverse coaches, policy review and implementation, and educational seminars.

“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 technical director Fred Lipka said in a statement. “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.”

The Equity Action Committee consists of nine members, including six MLS NEXT coaches and directors, two representatives from the female youth initiative Girls Academy, and Toronto FC's Justin Morrow, who was a founding member of MLS' Black Players Coalition last summer and serves as its executive director.

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