Thursday, January 24, 2013

USL and MLS reach landmark agreement

It has been rumored for months but yesterday it became a reality.

USL and MLS reached an multi-year agreement that looks to beneficial to all parties involved.

Over the years MLS has been searching for a way to help develop their youth players and this decision could be the beginning of a better way to improve player development in the US.

Basically the plan looks like this.

MLS teams have their choice for four paths.

  1. Affiliate with a USL Pro club.  This would include sending a minimum of four MLS players on season long loans to their affiliated club.  From a report in Rochester, it looks like USL coach will have a decision in which players would come on loan.  MLS clubs that choose this route will not enter a team into the MLS reserve league.  It appears there will be at least four affiliations for the 2013 season.  Sporting KC with Orlando, Rochester with New England Revolution, Richmond with DC United and Harrisburg with Philadelphia Union.
  2. MLS clubs can continue with their current reserve league but will play a home and home series with a paired USL club.  This increases the amount of games a MLS reserve squad would have in and would be against a competitive foe. The majority of MLS teams have opted for this route for the first season.
  3. A third route would be for a MLS team to field their own USL Pro side.  A choice which would benefit both USL and MLS the most in my opinion but would also be the most difficult both logistically and financially for MLS teams.   None of the MLS teams have gone this route but several already have PDL or NPSL squads that they might look at moving up to USL Pro in the future.
  4. Forgo any affiliation or reserve league play.  It is rumored that Chivas USA may have chosen this route.
MLS team that choose to not be affiliated can still loan players with lower division teams and may enter into agreements in the future.  It was also mentioned that future announcements regarding mutual commercial and marketing would be coming over the next couple months.

So How does this effect Battery fans?  We ask Andrew Bell, Charleston Battery president.

No Quarter:  How does the Battery feel about the announcement?

Andrew Bell: "We are very excited about the new partnership, its something that we've been a long a vocal advocate for.  The Battery is fully supportive of the concept and we will do everything we can to ensure its long term success."

NQ:  Is the Battery working on an affiliation with a MLS club?

AB: "We are open to an affiliation but we need tom make sure it makes sense for both sides.  This season we are very much looking forward to playing a home and away against an MLS reserve side."

NQ:  From other reports it seems like this will be an evolving process, what do you see happening in the next year or two?

AB:  "I'd have to defer to the USL office for an specifics on that but I'm personally hopeful that this is just a small step in a growing partnership.  We all need to work together to help grow our sport and develop players."

NQ"  Some have said that this will cause clubs to loose their individual identity,  how will the Battery maintain its identity?

AB:  "I don't think there is any danger of that.  The Battery is entering its 21st season this year and I think our brand, history, coaching staff, fans and all the intangibles that make up a club will endure for a long, long time."

Thanks to Andrew Bell for taking the time to discuss the matter with us.

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