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Merges & Acquisitions: USOC, Reserve League & other thoughts

MLS announced upcoming changes to the Reserve league process, drawing MLS and USL-PRO closer together

They're lurking, Mike - they're lurking.
They're lurking, Mike - they're lurking.

First things first. The game this Wednesday night is probably the most important home game of the season. The Fire take on DC United in the semifinals of the US Open Cup. Everyone should make every attempt to be there.

This is actually going to be a very tough game as DC has made a few additions, both by acquiring players and also by getting players back from injury, over the past month. The changes have made them a more dangerous team. They handled Montreal this past weekend 3-1, with each goal scored by one of the young guns they've picked up in the last few weeks. More alarming, DC made the game look pretty easy against the onetime Eastern Conference leaders.

The Fire are also coming off a big win in Philly and look to have a full healthy roster for probably the first time this season. In my opinion both teams are going to be throwing the "kitchen sink" at each other in order to make it to the final in order to face Portland or RSL. Should be a fun game and an even better game to be at in person. I wouldn't be surprised if this is a tight game with a score line of 2-1 to the Fire.

Reserve League continues evolution

Earlier in the season I had written about how the MLS was taking steps into developing a reserve league that means something in conjunction with their new official USL Pro partnership. The league announced this week that by 2015 they will require every MLS club to either affiliate with a USL Pro team for player loans, or have a stand-alone reserve team playing in USL Pro. I have voiced in the past that the partnership was a good thing but still had its issues. This announcement will actually clear up some of those issues because it forces teams to actually give their reserves some competitive minutes albeit in a lower division.

In 2013 Fire reserves will play possibly 14 games in the reserve league over the span of the season which is 8 months long. I don't know if that gives the reserve players enough consistency of playing time to develop. If you look at the USL Pro schedule, which starts in March and finishes in August, teams play 1-2 games a week. If the Fire choose to field a stand alone team then this will be great for actually developing young talent like a Victor Pineda who after 4 years has yet to see any first team minutes in MLS play. Apparently the reserve league is not working in the development of his skills. I think this could give the Fire a chance to use more of their roster.

24 by 2020

So if you paid attention to the MLS All Star game on Wednesday night, the commissioner Don Garber had this to say about the growth of the league by 2020. He wants the MLS to have 24 teams by 2020. Personally, I don't think this is a good idea. For one, the current salary structure and roster regulations will have to be overhauled to support 24 teams. Expansion would clearly make the talent pool of the MLS very thin and would make it difficult for some teams to actually compete financially. In order for the Commish to achieve his goal of being a top league in the world by 2024 the MLS will have to find a way to draw top talent to the league. The way it's going now in Europe to draw top talent you have to spend cash and with a salary cap the way it is, there is no chance teams can afford to sign top talent.

Will this expansion mean 2 conferences of 12 teams? Probably. It would still mean an unbalanced schedule if the league continues to use the current scheduling process. They could go to a balanced schedule like the Football League Championship but that would mean MLS teams playing 46 league games over the course of 8 months(roughly 5-6 games a month). Add in cash grabs friendlies, playoffs, US Open Cup, and the CCL and that can be upwards of 60+ games in one year for some teams.

DPs are hard, m'kay

We all know by now that Clint Dempsey is now with the Seattle Sounders. I'm not going to dwell on that because honestly I am sick of hearing about it. One thing that did come of this was an editorial piece from Dan Lobring, Chicago Fire's Senior Director of Communications. The piece discusses the direction of the club and answers a few questions about what the team is looking for in a DP. At the same time it leaves some questions unanswered. Give it a read. {And look for a fantastic piece on the subject of the Hauptmann era and its Designated Players, from Hot Time founder Tweed Thornton. Coming tomorrow! - ed}

My question to the MLS is what about fixing the problems you have right now with current teams and why does the league hold double standards? Chivas USA, yeah there is a lot going on there that needs to be addressed. Poor attendance, poor management, and even law suits are making this club the laughing stock of the MLS. What about actually forcing teams to play in soccer specific stadia(SSS)? Teams like New England and Seattle play in American football stadiums but yet the league requires expansion teams to build SSS. To me before expansion can even be thought of other things around the league need to be addressed - or is the MLS only worried about getting those over $100million expansion fees?