Over the past few weeks there have been rumors and reports that the reserve league is going to go through a major overhaul. A report has surfaced from Victoria B.C. about this possibility. If this report turns out to be true it can mean only good things in the development of the league and US Soccer in general.
Since 2005 the MLS has tried to implement a Reserve League in order to get the fringe players on the roster meaningful playing time. It's a great idea but since 2005 no reserve team played more than 12 games in the Reserve League. In fact the Reserve League was suspended in 2009 and 2010. This is not enough playing time in order for these players to develop into first team players. With Don Garber and the league recently placing an emphasis on the development of young players, such as home grown players, a proper place for these players to develop is needed. So if these reports are true this would help every team in the league to be able to focus on development.
Here is the simplified, rumored way it works:
1. The MLS side will provide up to 5 players for the local USLPRO team.
2. If there is no USLPRO team near the MLS side then the reserve team will become the USLPRO team.
3. All USLPRO teams will be affiliated with an MLS team.
So if you go by what these 3 things mean it does make sense and it does not at the same time. Points 1 and 3 make sense that the MLS will be providing players to and be affiliated with a USLPRO team. The 2nd point doesn't make much sense because I don't think that the teams in MLS that would have to create an USLPRO team would want to take on the extra cost of running a minor league team. On the other hand if a MLS side can take a PDL team and promote them, like in the case of the Victoria Highlanders, it could work because you could keep the original owners and not have the MLS teams taking too much financial responsibility.
If this does go into affect it can only mean great things for the development of the league and even the national team pool as well. Instead of only playing 10 games throughout the season like the reserves played in 2012, they possibly could be playing up to 24 or more games. This consistent playing time could help players such as a Victor Pineda gain valuable field time in a competitive format. There have been a few MLS teams that have actually loaned players to USL/NASL sides in the past but those are few and far between. How much more development would we see from draft picks, such as Hunter Jumper or Tony Walls, if they were playing week in and week out in a lower division instead of sitting on the bench and only playing in 10 reserve matches plus the few friendlies throughout the year?
This is key to developing the young talent. There is a reason why Jurgen Klinsmann is looking to the European leagues for the bulk of his young USMNT players. They have well organized reserve leagues that play more than 10 games a season and in some cases they have "B" squads that play in the lower divisions of those countries. This gives the teams in Europe the time to develop their young talent into regular starters for their 1st teams. Like any reserve league these players in the USL would be eligible for call ups to the first team just like loan players being called back. This would and should not take away from youth academies but it should promote "Homegrown" signings as it will give them a chance to play in the USL and not try develop over years of being at 1st team practices. Let's use Victor Pineda again as an example. He signed as the first HGP(Homegrown Player) of the Fire back in 2010 and has yet to make an appearance on the field for the 1st team during a league game. Is it possible that he could have benefited playing in the USLPRO division instead of playing with the Fire's U-18s and reserve team? I say yes. It would have been a better chance for him to gain more experience by playing regularly in the USLPRO division against competition that would better prepare him for MLS competition.
If it is true that the MLS is considering moving their reserve sides to the USL this can be nothing but good news for the development of the league in my eyes. Giving our younger players and even fringe roster players a place to develop where they would play more than 10 games would be an important step in order for this league to grow and to be able to produce more and more talent that would otherwise go wasted.