In Don Garber’s State of the League event on Tuesday, a lot of news was made regarding the future of MLS and North American soccer in general. One aspect that hasn’t received too much discussion is the official disbandment of the MLS Reserve League and the league officially becoming “deeply committed to the USL Pro.”
“The Reserve League is going away. Every one of our clubs is either going to own or be affiliated with a USL Pro team,” the commissioner said. “And the reason why we’re doing it with the USL Pro is because they’re interested in doing that. They’re interested in affiliating with us and working together to help develop players.”
So what does this all mean for USL Pro?
For starters, it means a major influx of teams into the league. The 2014 USL Pro season saw the league field 14 teams with only one, LA Galaxy II, being directly owned by an MLS club. In 2015, the league expands to 24 teams, including seven that are directly owned by and named after their MLS counterparts, and another nine which are directly affiliated with an MLS parent club (i.e. Louisville City to Orlando City).
How will that influx affect the league itself in 2015? In a Twitter conversation, I spoke with Chad Hollingsworth, the USL Pro co-editor of recklesschallenge.net, about the impact on USL Pro of its new MLS relationship.
“I think the overall quality of play (in the league) will go up simply because there will be more teams of higher quality,” he said. “It provides a competitive environment for those young players to develop into pros.
“It does firmly brand USL Pro as a ‘minor’ league, but it is bringing a lot of attention and new fans,” Hollingsworth continued. “Besides, no one was ever going to think a division three league was anything ‘major’ league. My real concern is that the long-time independent USL Pro clubs need to maintain their independence.”
Will the influx of developing MLS talent upset the competitive balance of the league and give an advantage to MLS-operated or MLS-affiliated teams?
“Not necessarily,” said Hollingsworth. “Galaxy II were definitely not the best team I saw on the pitch this season. USL Pro clubs had a very good record against MLS Reserves over the last two seasons. I think the talent that needs development isn’t light years ahead of the talent already in USL Pro. The independent teams are going to have to fight and claw to compete, which will also be good. ”
How does the creation of MLS owned “MLS Team Name 2” clubs affect the fan experience of clubs with their own identities? Does it cheapen it?
“I relish the opportunity to go up against the MLS-2 clubs as a fan. It’s a chance to show that we’re every bit as good as them,” he said. “The only thing that cheapens the experience is the uncreative way the MLS-2 teams have chosen to brand themselves. Especially S2 (Seattle Sounders FC 2) with the ‘Earn Your Crest‘ garbage. That is a slap in the face to existing USL Pro teams.”
Louisville City FC News and Notes for Dec. 5:
- The first three players in Louisville City FC history are all reportedly midfielders. According to Johnathan Lintner of Courier-Journal.com, the club has signed Juan Guzman, Kadeem Dacres and Guy Abend. You can read more on the signings here.
Louisville City FC has signed its first three players: Juan Guzman, Kadeem Dacres and Guy Abend. Details in a bit… @LouCoopers
— Jonathan Lintner (@JonathanLintner) December 5, 2014
- Louisville fans can head to Molly Malone’s in the Highlands for the annual Louisville Coopers meeting followed by an MLS Cup watch party, this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Louisville City officials will be on hand as well.
— Louisville City FC (@loucityfc) December 3, 2014