NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Soccer is launching an elite youth competition platform for teams that had been in the U.S. Soccer Federation’s development academy, which folded Wednesday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The extraordinary and unanticipated circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a financial situation that does not allow for the continuation,” the USSF said in a statement.

Launched in 2007, the USSF academy had included competitions in five age groups.

MLS said it will include U.S. and international teams in the new venture. It plans league season matches, and regional and national tournaments with international teams. MLS intends to expand coaching education and improve player identification.

“We are seeing significant contribution to the quality of play in MLS from homegrown talent,” Jeff Agoos, a former U.S. national team player who is a MLS senior vice president, said in a statement. “As we currently have 2,500 elite players and 250 top youth coaches in our academies, MLS is uniquely positioned to provide a new and enhanced platform.”

MLS said it is evaluating future competition opportunities for girls.

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