It has been circulating for some time, but today Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League Pro announced their new deal that is sure to help with player development. The multi-year dea integrates MLS reserve league teams with the 13 USL Pro teams into a schedule that will feature interleague matches. Also from the release:
In the year ahead, that deal also includes affiliations for select teams, facilitating loans from MLS to USL Pro clubs (the third tier of the US soccer pyramid) for players who otherwise wouldn’t get much playing time in the top flight. The goal is to immediately improve professional player development in the United States and Canada, providing more and better competition for young pros with big-league dreams.
The coming months will also see joint “technical and commercial initiatives” between the two leagues as the details are ironed out.
The MLSRL and USL Pro will play a pair of matches with each having a home date except for Antigua. Antigua will travel to an MLS Reserve side for both matches. Each of the 19 MLS teams will either create an affiliation or have their own reserve team. Those MLS teams with a USL Pro affiliation will not play in the 2013 MLS Reserve League. Four players can be sent to the affiliate in a long time loan. Affiliations are not required.
To sum up: There will be 4 MLS/USLPro affiliations this year. Likely SKC-Orlando, Revs-Rochester, Union-Harrisburg, DCU-Richmond.
— Brian Straus (@BrianStraus) January 23, 2013
USL CEO Alec Papadakis is happy with the new partnership.
USL Pro has for the past several years been the most sophisticated and competitive professional soccer league under MLS. This new partnership with MLS will elevate and strengthen the level of competition for domestic professional soccer while simultaneously creating a more sustainable financial model for team owners. As a result, we expect this partnership will forge a seamless system for the development of players and coaches, and promote the expansion of professional soccer into new North American markets.
This will have influence in both the United States and Canada. The reserve system in the MLS has been less than stellar with players not getting much real competition and only going through training. Rookies and inexperienced players will be the first choice for the affiliates and they would remain eligible to play for the MLS squad.
The idea here is to help with player development. However, will this become more of a minor league system or stress the development? It is about playing time and improved competition. It is an investment that will take a couple years to see its impact. Remaining details and further structuring will go a long way to determining importance of today’s announcement. What are your thoughts on the agreement?