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Limited Edition: MLS Releases '14 Reserve League Schedule

The MLS reserve league will play for the last time in 2014 as most teams shift development minutes into USL Pro affiliates; Fire among those still relying on the old system

Players like Yazid Atouba will need to sharpen their games in practice, as the Reserve League schedule is sporadic at best.
Players like Yazid Atouba will need to sharpen their games in practice, as the Reserve League schedule is sporadic at best.

Yesterday the MLS announced its reserve league fixtures. Why is this important you ask? Well, since the Fire opted not to have a USL Pro affiliate or a standalone team in USL Pro, the reserve league is the only way players outside the first team will get playing time. Here is the Fire's schedule for the 2014 reserve league:

Date Opponent Kickoff time Location
March 24 New York Red Bulls 11 a.m. Toyota Park practice field
April 21 Rochester Rhinos 12 noon Toyota Park
April 25 Charlotte Eagles 7 p.m. UNC-Charlotte
May 11 New York Red Bulls 10 a.m. Red Bulls training facility
May 18 Richmond Kickers 5:30 p.m. Toyota Park
June 21 Wilmington Hammerheads 7:30 p.m. Legion Stadium
August 17 Montreal Impact 10:30 a.m. Stade Saputo
August 31 FC Dallas 11 a.m. Toyota Park practice field
September 15 FC Dallas 11 a.m. Toyota Stadium practice
October 6 Montreal Impact 11 a.m. Toyota Park practice field

So that's 10 games for the reserve team. Throw in some friendlies versus Spurs, possibly UIC or other colleges and maybe at the most the reserve team will play maybe 14 games. In my opinion, this is why the mandatory affiliation of MLS with USL Pro in 2015 is necessary. The MLS players loaned out to USL Pro teams will get the chance to play in 28 games. Yes, that's right, they will get the chance to play in a league that will play starting in March and all the way through September, week-in and week-out. This kind of experience could have helped players like Yazid Atouba, Orr Barouch, Victor Pineda, and Marco Franco refine their play in meaningful games. It could have prepared them for the rigors of an MLS campaign instead of seeing actual game play once maybe twice a month.

If you look at the schedule for the Fire, they have a reserve game on March 24th and then the next one isn't until April 21st. And then a big gap during the World Cup, June 21st to August 17th - a whole 2 months without a reserve game. Yes, I know they play Spurs during that time, but that game is meaningless when it comes to a player's development. In terms of investment in youth development, it seems the the Fire made a bad choice going the reserve-league route in 2014. Here's hoping a lack of games won't put a damper on the young players' progression as they look to fight for a spot in the first team.