Today Major League Soccer and USL PRO announced a partnership that is arguably the biggest news released by the MLS since news broke about the formation of MLS itself. The partnership will integrate the MLS Reserve and the USL PRO leagues. This partnership between the two soccer leagues will allow for better development for younger players and will improve competition for both USL PRO and MLS teams.
“This partnership represents the first step in a long-term alliance between MLS and USL PRO to connect domestic professional soccer through a system that benefits player development, competition and the overall business of our sport,” MLS Executive Vice President of Player Relations & Competition Todd Durbin said. “Over the past several years, USL PRO has made great strides in restructuring in a manner that serves to complement the objectives of MLS. This is a win-win for all involved and it demonstrates our strong commitment to growing North American professional soccer at all levels.”
The Philadelphia Union has partnered with USL Pro affiliate Harrisburg Islanders since the Union’s inception, and will continue to do so in this new agreement. This partnership overall will include games between MLS Reserve teams and USL PRO teams. Each of the USL PRO teams will partake in a home and home series with a single MLS Team with the exception of Antiqua. Antiqua will play both games at the MLS Reserve team stadium. All of these games with count in the official standings in both the USL PRO and MLS Reserve League. Expect a schedule of whose playing who when the USL PRO officially releases the league schedule.
Also worthwhile mentioning is that each affiliation between a MLS club and an USL Pro team will be customized to both of teams’ needs, but every affiliation will include four MLS players that are loaned to the USL PRO affiliate. Moreover, MLS teams that have an USL PRO affiliate will not take part in the MLS Reserve League in 2013. More specifics of the affiliations will be announced in the future, and neither the MLS clubs nor the USL PRO Clubs are required to enter into a formal affiliation.
“USL PRO has for the past several years been the most sophisticated and competitive professional soccer league under MLS,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “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.”
It will be interesting to follow all of the details as they are announced in the near future. For now, this is one of the biggest news stories for the MLS, and it is a great move by the MLS and USL PRO that will allow for better growth of soccer player in North America.