It's a big day for news for Sporting Kansas City, but there is a smaller story that could have a long-reaching impact on the standards of professional soccer played at LiveSTRONG Sporting Park and across North America.
Jason Davis from North American Soccer Network is reporting that Major League Soccer is looking to merge the MLS Reserve League system with USL PRO. USL PRO is a sanctioned soccer league that functions as the third-tier in the US soccer pyramid below Major League Soccer and North American Soccer League. Last year Sporting KC faced USL PRO sides Orlando City and Dayton Dutch Lions en route to the US Open Cup victory.
While there are few details, the article states:
1. If an MLS city has a USL PRO team nearby, MLS will provide 5 players and pay their salary.
2. If there’s no USL PRO team, the MLS reserve side will become a new, permanent team in USL PRO.
3. All USL PRO teams will have an MLS affiliate.
It’s unclear at this point how far along the proposal is, though separate sources have confirmed that discussions are ongoing.
The existing reserve system has been a point of concern for many of the technical staff in the league, particularly when compared to the robust reserve systems in countries like Germany and Spain. As an example: MLS teams were restricted to just 10 Reserve matches last year. The Sporting KC technical staff opted to schedule six reserve matches before May 15, meaning reserves had only four opportunities to play a Reserve Match in the last five-and-a-half months of the season.
Merging the Reserve League with a lower-tier league like USL PRO offers an existing structure for MLS reserves to play more games while providing USL PRO the marketing boost of regularly scheduled games featuring tomorrow's stars.
A weekly league for reserves with titles on the line offers players meaningful playing time while improving their skills. Managers are offered more opportunities to assess their player's development in the process.
It's an exciting prospect, and hopefully this is another indication that the league is attempting to become one of the world's top leagues.