FC Dallas' Place in New MLS/USL Partnership

Jeff Vinnick

How FCD fits into a potentially revolutionary change for MLS reserves

Details were just announced for the long-rumored partnership between MLS and American 3rd division, USL PRO. Key statements in the official MLS announcement of the partnership:

The two leagues have reached an agreement to integrate MLS Reserve League teams into the USL Pro schedule, a multi-year deal that will feature "interleague" play between MLSRL teams and the 13 USL Pro sides.

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As it stands, each of the USL Pro teams will play a pair interleague games against MLS Reserve teams. USL Pro teams have been paired with a single MLS team to play a home-and-home series

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Club affiliations between MLS and USL Pro sides will be tailored to the needs of each specific team, and will include at least four MLS players going out on a long-term loan to their USL affiliate.

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Each of the 19 MLS clubs will field either a Reserve Team or establish an affiliation with a USL PRO club.

MLS teams with formal USL Pro affiliates will not play in the 2013 MLS Reserve League. No clubs are required to enter into an affiliation, and specific affiliations will be announced in the coming days.

This could be a watershed moments for MLS prospects in general, and the FC Dallas Academy in particular. Odd competitive structure and small number of matches has long been an impediment to progressing young players in this country. If MLS and USL get this right that weakness becomes a strength. In my mind today's announcement is more important than any of the drafts that MLS has every offseason.

It will be interesting to see whether FC Dallas opts for an affiliation or a reserve side in 2013. I would wager they'll go the reserve route, since there are likely more than 4 players on this roster who need extra reserve opportunities. Then again, maybe they'd prefer to get lots of extra opportunities for 4 prospects than drag everyone through a shorter reserve season.

We should get more details in the coming days, since the USL PRO schedule is expected to be announced soon.

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