Like most of you, I was excited when I first heard the news. It sounded like MLS had stepped up its game and actually got a legitimate reserve league. But, upon closer inspection, this is no more than window dressing, and isn't an improvement at all. Here is why:
For the 4 teams that formed an affiliation with a USL-Pro team:
- They will only get to field a handful of reserve players. Those players will likely have restricted movement between clubs. Those players won’t be able to learn in the same system as their full squad. Nothing groundbreaking and nothing that couldn’t be done in the previous system. Last year, we sent Luna on loan to SA Scorpions and Hernandez on loan to Communicaciones. The Philadelphia Union were already loaning plenty of players to Harrisburg. What’s the advantage here? What has changed?
- You can also check out this thread for a list of other potential problems (for both the MLS and USL teams) for which no solutions have been announced.
For the 15 MLS teams without an affiliate, there is essentially no change:
- 12 MLS teams will only get 2 additional games against a USL team. But, because 4 MLS reserve teams have been cut in favor of a USL-Pro affiliate, the MLS reserve league schedule will likely lose ~2 games. So, no gain.
- 2 MLS teams will be paired with Antigua and thus will only get 1 additional game.
- 1 MLS reserve team won’t even get a single game against a USL team.
Unless MLS was holding back on announcing the meat of the changes, I just don’t see what all the fuss is about. I’ll get excited when reserve teams are playing 20+ games, with training that is consistent across reserve and full teams, and when there aren't potentially gigantic conflicts of interest between the full and "reserve" teams.
I'm not saying that this system can't ever work. I have hopes that the system eventually becomes something more robust. I'm simply saying that this announcement does not represent any tangible step forward, and I'm withholding my praise until real progress is announced.