In 2023 the MLS Next Pro season will be 28 games long for each of the 27 teams. There will be no cross-conference play until the MLS Next Pro Cup. Tacoma Defiance will have a few new rivals as the Pacific Division of the Western Conference adds LA Galaxy II and LAFC2.
Defiance’s schedule starts out tough, with a slight road lean and lots of travel. Their opener is at St. Louis City 2 on March 26, then host Real Monarchs April 2. April 7 they head to Austin 2 prior to a bye. After their bye week they are back in Texas, facing Dynamo 2.
The full schedule shows variable times, variable days of the week. Coach Wade Webber and his staff will have a challenging, arrhythmic schedule to deal with while rotating players from the first team and academy into the core side of 16.
All Defiance home games are at Starfire Stadium ($18 per seat with all proceeds going to the RAVE Foundation, or a season pass for $200) and most will be on MLS Season Pass. Next Pro Decision Day and the entire playoffs will be on Season Pass.
The six-month season ends in September with three of four matches at home, including two Cascadia matches (T2 on Sept 4 and Whitecaps2 on Sept 24).
Defiance are attempting to win the Pacific again. Last season they finished with 49 points and a +32 goal differential, good for 2nd in the West and 3rd overall. Defiance return nine of those players, with Juan Alvarez away on loan.
New to 2023 is the ability for higher-seeded playoff teams to pick their opponent. The top team in each conference gets a bye. The top two seeds of the remaining six teams will be able to pick their opponent, with the two unpicked teams facing off.
The regular season conference champ and top advancing side will pick their opponent in that round.
The conference finals and MLS Next Pro Cup will be hosted by the higher seed (regular-season points).
Timed Substitution Rule
Substituted players will have 10 seconds to leave the field of play. If they do not, their replacement cannot enter for at least 60 seconds. They will then wait to be waived on by the center referee. Yes, that means Next Pro will have even more power plays.
Old rules staying
There are no draws in this league. If the match ends in a tie each team will earn a point. Then they will take kicks from the spot to determine a winner. That winner earns an additional point.
Off-field Treatment Rule
Injured players will have 15 seconds to recover. If they receive medical attention they cannot re-enter the field for three minutes after leaving the pitch.
Red Card Suspension Rule
If a player receives a red card, he will serve the resulting one-game suspension against that same opponent.
If there are no remaining matches against the same opponent than they will serve the suspension in the next match.