Jan. 28, New England Revolution and USL PRO Rochester Rhinos executives and coaches spoke to the media about their new partnership, which makes the Rhinos the official Division 3 affiliate of the Revolution.
"It’s important for us in terms of development," said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps. "As a coach, knowing that whether it’s four players, five players or six players they’re going to get, from the scouting we’ve done with the USL - very high-level, competitive games - so much more on the line than a lot of the reserve games. We feel there’s that much more – they’re in a conference chase, they’re in a playoff chase – that’s important for development in my eyes."
The two teams’ agreement is part of the new approach to player development announced last week, in which MLS teams may affiliate with a third division team or face a USL PRO team twice in the now inter-league MLS Reserve League. Matches between these MLS Reserve teams and USL PRO sides will count in both the official USL PRO and MLS Reserve League standings. Four MLS teams chose to affiliate with USL PRO teams and thus won't compete in the MLS Reserves.
The four MLS-USL PRO affiliations:
New England Revolution/Rochester Rhinos
Sporting Kansas City/Orlando City
D.C. United/Richmond Kickers
Philadelphia Union/Harrisburg City Islanders
"It’s very important for their players to get some competitive games and I think we can provide the environment for them to do that," said Rhinos head coach Jesse Myers. "Those players coming in will be a major part and be one of the boys."
Revolution-Rochester Rhinos deal
Under the agreement, which Heaps described as a work in progress, the Revolution will loan a minimum of four players to the Rhinos for the season. The selected players, yet to be named, may be exchanged by the Revolution throughout the season depending on the team's needs and injuries to first team players. The Rochester coaching staff will travel to Tucson to watch New England's preseason training to observe and select players with the Revolution coaches.
Heaps stressed that the affiliation does not pertain to additional rights to Rhinos players.
"Our relationship with Rochester does not give us any priority, so to speak, over any of their players," said Heaps. "So, although we’re loaning Rochester some of our players – we don’t get priority on Rochester players if we wanted to sign them or bring them to MLS or to the Revolution. ... That doesn’t just go for our relationship with Rochester – any relationship with an MLS club and a USL club is the same in that regard."
Revolution General Manager Michael Burns noted that once a Revolution player competes in the U.S. Open Cup for either the Rhinos or New England, he won't play for the other side in that competition.
"Once and if a Revolution player does play in an Open Cup match for Rochester, that player will be cup-tied," said Burns. "So whether we played against each other or they’ve already played for Rochester, they would be committed to play for Rochester in the Open Cup."
The Division 2 North American Soccer League (NASL) are not party to the deal, once again raising questions about jockeying in the U.S. soccer pyramid.
“The partnership announced last week secured the USL’s position directly underneath Major League Soccer, and our affiliation with New England will allow us to maximize this relationship," said Rochester Rhinos President and Chief Operating Officer Pat Ercoli. "On the soccer side this also allows us to continue our focus on player development and builds a pipeline for our professional players to Major League Soccer.”