Chicago Fire Partner with Saint Louis FC as USL Pro Affiliate


Everyone knows that the success of a sport, team or talent starts at the foundation. MLS took the first leap by announcing a partnership with USL Pro in 2013 to integrate reserve sides in the USL Pro schedule. This set the stage for league improvement, as newly drafted players need not be thrown into the line of fire and can develop to fill the gaps seen from the college game to the pro game by plying their trade in USL Pro.

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The Chicago Fire became the 18th MLS team to announce a partnership with a USL Pro side when they announced Saint Louis FC as an affiliate yesterday. Better late than never for the Men in Red, right? Chicago had recently used NASL side Indy XI as a make shift affiliate, sending players like Victor Pineda and Marco Franco to the expansion club on loan. This will mark the first time that the Fire has an official partner and affiliate, which brings plenty of advantages.

Chicago Fire Technical Director Brian Bliss shared his take on the partnership on Friday:

"“We’re excited to partner with Saint Louis FC as our USL PRO affiliate. This is a great opportunity for our players to gain valuable playing time and continue their development in a competitive environment. St. Louis is a city with a rich soccer history and a tradition of producing talented players, and will allow our organization to broaden our reach in the Midwest.”"

Under the agreement, the Fire will be able to send players on loan to Saint Louis FC and recall them at any time. This will be convenient if a player develops faster than expected or if a string of injuries strikes the club, requiring an emergency call up.

Those short-term advantages are minuscule in comparison to the long-term advantages such a partnership will reap. As mentioned earlier, the speed of MLS is overwhelming for many college stars that try to make the jump. These are footballers that were used to being a focal point on their side and many will be in for a rude awakening when going against others of similar skill and speed. The transition of playing in USL Pro, adjusting to the speed of the game, acclimating to the real world while being a consummate professional and learning about the organization they will become a part of will all be helpful in a young player’s development.

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Fire fans don’t have to look far to see how well the system has worked for some teams and players. Sporting KC operated with Orlando City as their affiliate before recently switching to the Oklahoma City Energy, due to Orlando City entering MLS. Dom Dwyer spent time with OCSC before making the enormous impact he has bagging goals at will for Sporting. Future Seattle Sounder superstars Lamar Neagle and Osvaldo Alonso were developed by Charleston Battery 10 or so years ago.

Hopefully, the Chicago Fire can benefit from such a partnership. As stated in my Chicago Fire SuperDraft Review, it seems that 2nd round pick Kingsley Bryce may be the first player to benefit from such a loan. Homegrown talents such as Patrick Doody and Collin Fernandez could also see stints at Saint Louis FC in order to increase their first team starts and playing time, which should play a helpful role in the transition to Toyota Park.

Next: Altidore Makes it Official with Toronto