The race for Major League Soccer teams to own a USL Pro franchise is heating up
A possible six Major League Soccer teams could possibly create their own United Soccer League Pro teams by the year 2016.
The Vancouver Whitecaps, the New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, the Seattle Sounders FC, the Orlando City SC and FC Dallas could be the next Major League Soccer clubs to follow the footsteps of the Los Angeles Galaxy and run their own United Soccer League Pro team within the next couple of years or sooner.
A trend that began with the Galaxy creating their third-division team in the USL Pro this year, for the sole purpose of letting their younger players get some meaningful playing time and develop for the club. With the LA Galaxy II not even finished with their inaugural season in the USL Pro, multiple teams in MLS want to make a club for their youth to grow.
The Whitecaps are one of the teams that are eager to create their own team, and they are very close of having a team playing in the USL by next year. Their main hurdle is to complete the rebuilding process for the Queen Park Stadium in New Westminster, B.C. by Sept. 15.
“We are thrilled to announce our efforts with the City of New Westminster to bring a new professional soccer team to its vibrant sports and family oriented community,” Whitecaps President Bob Lenarduzzi said in a statement. “A USL PRO franchise in our own backyard is an important step in our efforts to support the development of players, especially young Canadians, at every level by bridging the pathway to our Major Soccer League team, as well as the national team.”
This movement is one that will help MLS grow into a stronger league and it will benefit the USL Pro as well. The USL will benefit because they will constantly be getting a new batch of players that will be hungry to be called up from their MLS club. Which will make the competition level in the third-tier of the United States dramatically rise; even potentially passing the North American Soccer League, which is the current second-division of the U.S.
For MLS teams, the positives is that their youth will finally get a chance to play in games that have more meaning, which is something that most clubs cannot offer at consistent basis right now. It is a known fact for something to survive and flourish, their need to be future generations to not only take the place of the older ones but to be even stronger, and the USL Pro clubs gives the MLS just that.
Since, at the moment it is no secret that MLS struggles to grow their young players, the lack of playing time hurts the progress of both the players and the future of the league. Most talented young players leave MLS because they know that the chances of breaking through are very small, and the ones that stay usually progress but at a slow pace.
The most recent case of a player leaving MLS is 18-year-old forward Amando Moreno, he left the New York Red Bulls recently to join Liga MX side, Club Tijuana. The main reason for the U.S. under-20 international leaving, was because it was unknown when he would realistically break through the Red Bulls senior squad. So taking a chance on another club does not seem like a crazy choice to an 18-year-old kid who is hungry to play anywhere.
“That would’ve been an enormous (help),” New York Red Bulls Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh told SoccerbyIves.com, if having a USL Pro club would have helped them keeping the U.S. youth international. “We would’ve immediately signed him [Amando Moreno] and no argument about it.”
However, the area that having USL clubs will help the most is with the national teams. Instead of having players coming only through the MLS academies and getting lost in there till their mid-twenties, and usually by that age attempting to break through the national team is a long shot and should remain one. If the U.S. and Canada continue the same system, that will only give them the option of looking at players that are barely beginning to gain the experience of consistent playing time in their mid twenties, which is something that they should of been getting in their late teens instead.
There is no doubt that this new strategy for MLS can produce gold for their clubs and the national team, just look at the German National team. This is a system that created its own division just for their youth to play and develop, and it is safe to say that their national team is among one of the bests in the world, if not the best.
Now that does not mean by the 2018 World Cup, the United States or Canada will produce their own global stars and win it all in Russia. No this is going to be a process that will take time, however, it will be worth the wait and the money that MLS clubs will be putting into these teams.