Minor league

Minor leagues are professional sports leagues which are not regarded as the premier leagues in those sports. Minor league teams tend to play in smaller, less elaborate venues, often competing in smaller cities/markets. This term is used in North America with regard to several organizations competing in various sports. They generally have lesser fan bases, much smaller revenues and salaries, and are used to develop players for bigger leagues.

The minor league concept is a manifestation of the franchise system used in North American sports, whereby the group of major league teams in each sport is fixed for long periods between expansions or other adjustments, which only take place with the consent of the major league owners. In Europe, and many other parts of the world, the Association football leagues have many divisions below the top-flight as part of the football pyramid. In other parts of the world there is usually either a system of annual promotion and relegation, meaning that clubs have no fixed status in the hierarchy, or there is only one professional league per country in each sport, rendering the major/minor distinction irrelevant.

American footballEdit

While there are various semi-professional football leagues, none have any affiliation with the National Football League (NFL). The NFL and its teams have had working relationships with several independent leagues in the past, including the Association of Professional Football Leagues, the Atlantic Coast Football League, and most recently, the league owned-and-operated NFL Europe. In modern times, the NFL has developed players not ready for the active roster through each team's practice squad.

Several NFL owners had purchased teams in the Arena Football League in the mid-2000s, prior to its bankruptcy and restructuring. Arena football is played under very different conditions, and the AFL had its own minor league, af2, until 2009. Several other independent indoor football leagues that play a similar game exist.

Similarly, the Canadian Football League, though it has developed ties with the NFL in recent years and has moved away from competing with the NFL for talent, plays a visibly different game than the American game, and the two sports favor different types of skills; the CFL arguably holds major league status in its home territory of Canada.

Several minor or developmental leagues, independent of the NFL, have come and gone. Some, such as the Alliance of American Football and Fall Experimental Football League (along with the FXFL's successor, the still extant but non-paying The Spring League), have explicit minor league and developmental aspirations. Others, such as the United Football League and both the 2001 and 2020 incarnations of the XFL, have sought to maintain independence and maintain a national profile while acknowledging the lack of funds (particularly from television, which is by far the NFL's largest revenue stream) that would be needed to compete for NFL-caliber talent. The UFL during its existence was recognized and accepted as the second tier of professional football behind the NFL, with several former NFL stars playing in the UFL near the ends of their careers.

Current American football minor leaguesEdit

Pro FootballEdit





Indoor American footballEdit




Flag footballEdit


Association football (soccer)Edit

Below Major League Soccer several lower-level leagues operate on both sides of the U.S.–Canada border as part of the American and Canadian soccer pyramids. As is standard for sports in both countries, the formal promotion and relegation system is not used, although teams have been informally "promoted" from lower leagues up to Major League Soccer. As of the upcoming 2021 U.S.–Canada soccer season, the second level is the USL Championship (USLC; previously the United Soccer League, or USL). The North American Soccer League had previously been the second level, sharing that status with the USL in 2017, but major instability in the NASL led to the loss of that league's second-division status and ultimately its demise. The USL Championship's parent organization, known as the United Soccer League (originally "Leagues"), also operates USL League Two (formerly the Premier Development League, or PDL), a semi-professional league that has some age restrictions. The National Premier Soccer League operates at approximately the same level as USL League Two. In the spring of 2019, the USL organization launched USL League One (USL 1),[18] which is sanctioned as a third-level professional league, and another third-level circuit, the National Independent Soccer Association, also began play in 2019.

In 2013 Major League Soccer announced a partnership with the USL organization which began formal affiliation between some USL teams and MLS teams.[19] The partnership has continued to deepen; most MLS teams now field their own reserve teams in the USLC, while a few have their reserve sides in USL 1 instead of the USLC. MLS now nominally requires all of its teams to either field a reserve team in the USL or officially affiliate with a separately owned USL team (though this has yet to be strictly enforced).[20] No formal relationship existed between NASL and the other leagues; NASL's commissioner had said he believed it would "stay that way for some time".[21]

MLS Next (stylized in all caps) is a system of youth soccer leagues that are managed, organized and controlled by Major League Soccer. It was introduced by the league in 2020.

The system was introduced in mid 2020 and will be active for the first time during the 2020–21 season. It is a successor to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. The system covers the under-13, under-14, under-15, under-16, under-17 and under-19 age groups.

The MLS Reserve League is planning to restart in 2022.

Indoor soccerEdit

The Major Arena Soccer League 2 (M2) is a North American indoor soccer league that serves as the developmental league of the Major Arena Soccer League.


Minor league baseball is almost as old as the professional game itself, and at first consisted of attempts to play baseball in smaller cities and towns independent of the National League, the first true major league. Soon, scouts for the National League were traveling to watch minor league teams play and attempting to sign the more talented ones away. Soon Major League Baseball began formal developmental agreements with some minor league teams, while others remained independent.

Since it was first developed in the 1920s by St. Louis Cardinals executive Branch Rickey, the formal developmental affiliations have come to dominate minor league baseball, and the majority of minor leagues are part of the affiliated system. A general decline in minor league attendance occurred following the advent of television; minor league clubs only survived in many markets because their major league affiliations included financial support. The trend began to reverse in the 1990s, as new independent minor leagues began for the first time in decades and have become successful to varying levels.

In 2021, a major reorganization of the minor leagues saw the number of affiliated teams (i.e., those with formal links to MLB teams) reduced from 160 to 120, the Short-Season A level eliminated from the minor leagues, and all leagues above Rookie level in the affiliated system renamed. Also, four independent leagues were officially designated as "MLB Partner Leagues".


The National Basketball Association has affiliated minor leagues: the NBA G League (formerly called the "NBA D-League") and NBA Summer League. The now-defunct Continental Basketball Association (CBA) served some of the purposes of a minor league for the NBA for many years. However, there were no direct developmental agreements between CBA and NBA teams the way that there are between Major League Baseball and National Hockey League teams and their minor league affiliates.

Current basketball minor leaguesEdit





Ice hockeyEdit

The sport with the next most extensive system of minor league teams other than baseball is ice hockey. In North America, between 1988 and 2005, 233 minor league ice hockey teams played in a total of 160 cities in 13 minor professional leagues. The vast majority of these teams played in the United States, with only 21 of these teams based in Canadian cities. 123 of these minor professional teams played in the southern United States.[22] One reason given for the large number of American-based teams is that minor league franchises will frequently move from city to city, and even between leagues.[22] In contrast, Canadian cities more commonly host major junior teams, which develop teenage prospects prior to their move to the professional leagues.

All National Hockey League teams have a farm team in the American Hockey League and often have a secondary affiliated team in the ECHL. On "the farm", the NHL team will develop young players, occasionally rehabilitate older players who are injured or whose quality of play has slumped. These teams, in turn, have lower-level minor leagues to draw players from and pass players down to. Minor professional ice hockey leagues should not be confused with Junior (amateur players) or Senior (semi-professional to amateur) ice hockey leagues.

The American Hockey League is the most prominent of the minor hockey leagues in North America.

Current ice hockey minor leaguesEdit




Senior ice hockeyEdit

Former minor leaguesEdit


Minor League Cricket (MiLC) is a developmental league of Major League Cricket that began play in 2021.

Other sportsEdit

Other sports organizations considered to be minor leagues are golf's Korn Ferry Tour and Symetra Tour, respectively affiliated with the PGA Tour and LPGA; NASCAR's Xfinity Series, Camping World Truck Series and Whelen All-American Series (and to a lesser extent ARCA and its ARCA Menards Series due to ARCA's buyout by NASCAR in 2018); Monster Jam's Triple Threat Series; Overwatch Contenders; and various other affiliated satellite tours of other individual sports, including the Challengers Tour of Professional Tennis.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "How much do XFL players get paid? Breaking down salary structure for new league". www.sportingnews.com.
  2. ^ "Home - Gridiron Developmental Football League". www.gdfl.org.
  3. ^ a b Earlywine, Aaron (February 9, 2017). "A closer look at football developmental leagues". Sports Illustrated. Time, Inc. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  4. ^ "Liga de Fútbol Americano Profesional".
  5. ^ "Fledgling pro league trying to gain foothold with Mexico's NFL fans".
  6. ^ "Rivals Professional Football League". Rivals Professional Football League.
  7. ^ Autullo, Ryan (April 3, 2014). "New league not coming to Toledo". The Blade. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  8. ^ Shea, Bill (March 23, 2014). "Spring football ... in Detroit? 2 groups think so". Crain's Detroit Business. Crain Communications, Inc. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
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  10. ^ Clayton, John (December 23, 2016). "Spring league kicking off 4-team, 3-week development plan in April". ESPN. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  11. ^ "Can Fan Controlled Football meld video games, real sports, Johnny Manziel?". The Athletic. Feb 11, 2021.
  12. ^ "A guide to all the new non-NFL football leagues".
  13. ^ a b "At $75 a game, indoor football isn't about the money". AP. May 29, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Zimmer, Matt (August 30, 2017). "Sioux Falls Storm leaving IFL for Champions Indoor Football". Argus Leader.
  15. ^ "As arena football struggles to keep franchises, Portland hopes to be Hail Mary". Portland Press Herald. April 1, 2018.
  16. ^ "Kenny McEntyre revives Orlando Predators in National Arena League". Orlando Sentinel. January 16, 2019.
  17. ^ "Indoor football: Massachusetts Pirates continue to focus forward".
  18. ^ "USL League One Unveils 2019 Season Structure". USL League One. 2018-11-17. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-14. Retrieved 2014-09-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ Cranford, Aaron. "RSL launch Real Monarchs, latest MLS-backed USL Pro team". Soccer By Ives. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  21. ^ Morris, Neil (2014-04-08). "NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson discusses league expansion, playoffs, MLS, paid match streaming and other topics in advance of 2014 regular season kickoff | Sports". Indy Week. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  22. ^ a b Scott, Jon C. (2006). Hockey Night in Dixie: Minor Pro Hockey in the American South. Heritage House Publishing Company Ltd. pp. vii. ISBN 1-894974-21-2.