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MLS Working With USL-PRO On Reserve League Integration

At the USL annual general meeting, the United Soccer Leagues informed its member clubs of a proposed agreement with Major League Soccer that would provide for an integrated third division/MLS reserve league. Some interplay is expected to begin in 2013, with full integration of the plan coming in 2014.

The details as understood are:

1. If an MLS city has a USLPRO team nearby, MLS will provide 5 players and pay their salary.

2. If there’s no USLPRO team, the MLS reserve side will become a new, permanent team in USLPRO.

3. All USLPRO 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.

-Jason Davis
Jason Davis co-hosts The Best Soccer Show, an American soccer show on NASN and is a contributor to ESPNFC’s Soccer USA blog. He is on Twitter @davisjsn

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  1. mitch

    What will this mean for NASL and USL Pro!? Does this mean that USL Pro sides will split for NASL? Or will they all be eager to be the bastard child of an MLS side?

  2. T-lover

    Wow this would be Huge for youth development in this country. You are talking about a giant step forward in how we develop players.

    • rh

      It very well may be. My son is 15 and was invited to a USL Pro combine – imagine how accessing the untapped market of teenagers not in the DA program could be a win-win. It is a revenue stream for USL Pro to target younger players (parents will pay for combines or camps, 20-somethings trying to make it will not), and younger players will consider it more seriously due to the MLS connection.

    • Dan

      No, if anything this would preclude pro/rel from ever happening. This would set soccer in the US up, formally, as a system not unlike what MLB, the NBA, and the NHL all use. Which frankly is great since that system has worked very well for all three of those leagues for well over half a century in MLB’s case.

  3. Ed of Ct.

    USL Pro and PDL leagues have teams in almost every region of the USA unlike the NASL.. The split in the NASL-USL Pro came from a split among the egotistical owners unable to get along with one another.The Revolution-MLS has played US Open cup games in New Britain Ct. a few times. I hope they put their reserve players in Boston and Ct.-NB..( I hope) which has PDL men’s clubs there now.

  4. Zac

    I’m totally stoked about this. I think it will be great having some kind of farm system for MLS. I have to think that the couple independent NASL teams might start to consider switching to USL PRO now.

  5. Craig

    I think that this deal is good for the NASL as now, they can focus on establishing themselves as a buffer zone. Teams that think they are better than MLS reserves sides, have money, have good attendance, but still need to polish their resume for MLS expansion can go to the NASL.

    Pro/Rel isn’t coming anytime soon so optics is important. It looks better to play in a league with other first teams as opposed to a league with first division reserves.

  6. Tshore

    this is somthing I have been wondering about for years. USLpro knows its pecking order there is no reason this shouldn’t of happend sooner! awesome news.

  7. Gary C

    One thing it will show up is MLS’s obsession with keeping away from the South East and Florida in particular , who would Orlando partner with ? DC United who are around 1000 miles away as for sides with money and good attendance in USL why would they want to go to NASL ? Orlando and Rochester both get higher attendances than all NASL sides , Wilmington , Charleston get better attendances than most NASL sides , USL has a far better set up than NASL .Orlando IMO have a far better side than MLS sides at the end of every Season their players end up on loan to MLS sides we loan more players out than what we bring in on loan from MLS sides

  8. Tomas

    @GaryC – Orlando and Rochester do not get higher attendances than all NASL sides, San Antonio Scorpions beat them in 2012 by quite a bit. Lower 5 teams in USL Pro don’t beat any NASL team in attendance, and are sub 1000 average per game. USL Pro as Division 3 soccer will make a good move to be the minor league of MLS and further differentiate the top two league’s in North American soccer, MLS and D2 NASL.

    • Gary C

      @ Tomas – You are correct about San Antonio having a higher average but if you look at their last few games their attendances had dropped to around 50% of what they were getting in the first half of the season infact they had 1,500 less for their play off game than what Orlando did , their average during regular Season was 2,500 more than Orlando I wouldnt say that is quite a bit more especially when you take into account only 1 of San Antonio’s home games was not at the weekend where as 6 of Orlando’s Home games ( 50 % )were not at the weekend , do the people in the Carolinas see NASL as being bigger than USL ? I dont think so their attendances are almost equal with USL Battery beating the NASL Railhawks ever so slightly by 64 , my point is there really is no difference between the 2 Leagues the only obvious thing is that the MLS is the USA’s top League a League which is by invite only , Montreal gained acceptance to MLS before the reformation of NASL we all talk about who will be next into MLS will it be Atlanta of NASL or Orlando of USL Pro or the Cosmos of NASL or a totally new NY2 who arent in any league , until there is Pro/Rel connected to the MLS there really isnt a Div 2 or a Div 3 and when they do eventually accept Pro/Rel do you really think that NASL and USL Pro will be Division 2 and 3 ? I dont i think it will be MLS 1 ,2 and maybe eventually 3 or something along the lines of MLS Prem with Regional Divisions below it .

      • Ed of Ct.

        I very much doubt you will EVER see a promotion-relegation system in soccer similar to what occurs in Latin America and Europe etc. in football-soccer in the USA.. I firmly believe it would be a cold day in Hades when the wealthy owners of struggling MLS clubs like Chivas-USA and New Engl. Revolution would ever agree to any semblance of this..You would also need a second and third Div. with a equal number of teams to the number of MLS clubs. Even combined the NASL and USL Pro does not approach the size of the current MLS roster of teams.Not to mention that the owners of the NASL and USL pro cannot agree on anything let alone cooperation to make a viable 2nd and third Div. work. This is why the two fueding leagues owners split apart in the first place.

        • Gary C

          I think Pro/Rel will come one day to the USA it may not be like the European or Latim American system but I think it will come and I think it will be a case of MLS being forced into it . The top Divisions in all countrys around the world need the lower Divisions ,MLS may prefer to have a set up like NFL , MLB etc but FIFA do not like Top Divisions with more than 20 teams so MLS IMO will reluctantly adopt the Pro/Rel system . In order for both NASL and USL PRO to improve the door cannot remain closed to them if it does you could eventually see a Rival League to MLS get set up , the owners of Cosmos have already said they do not like the MLS set up and there are plenty of Citys with MLS ambitions who might like the idea of a rival League , Detroit , Atlanta , Miami , Orlando , Las Vegas , Sacramento , San Antonio , Cosmos , St Louis , Tampa , Baltimore the list goes on. I am originally from England so not that familiar with American Sports History but didnt NFL come about because you had 2 rival American Football Leagues if MLS is not careful it could find itself in the same scenario in a few years time .One thing for sure Big Time Soccer in the USA is here to stay unlike the early to mid 70′s when it tried to buy success bringing in players like Pele , Beckenbauer , Best , Marsh .It worked for a couple of years then faded , this time America has done it right it has invested in the Youth of the Country that along with the growing Latino Community has ensured that slowly but surely the sport is growing .

      • Tomas

        @Gary C – Whether you belive it or not there really is a Division 2 & Division 3,and the USSF standards that D2 has to adhere to re Stadium size and capital of the majority owner as well as other things is why many teams in the USL Pro decided to be in D3 as they can’t meet the requirements. There is Orlando which could move up to D2 NASL if they chose because they could meet the D2 requirements but they would probably be the only one. I do see in the future possibly that a rival league to MLS could become a possibility as they cap the number of teams at 20-24 and other citys with aspirations who realize they wont make MLS see an opportunity in a rival league. I could see that league being the NASL a few years down the road as they have a franchise system more independant of the MLS and higher aspirations than being a minor/reserve league to MLS like USL Pro may be. Time will tell, the NASL is a young league and lower level soccer in North America is not always that stable. Hopefully the NASL and USL Pro prosper in the future and stabilize the D2 and D3 levels.

        • Gary C

          @ Tomas . The way NASL is going it wont last , it has folded before and the way it is going it wont last again , caving into Cosmos and letting them skip half a Season followed by Puerto Rico skipping half a Season , what a joke that 2 teams who only played half a Season could end up playing each other in the Title Game oh I forgot NASL would rather call its Title game by a non sounding Soccer name ” the Soccer Bowl ” .Orlando would never enter NASL it will wait its time to go straight to MSL or as you agree is a possibility a rival League. You are correct in some aspects of USL there is a lot of minor League ambitions in it with some clubs not getting 1,000 in areas where they could get way more with the right marketing . We might disagree on some things but one thing we both agree on is that we want to see Soccer get far bigger in the USA and also a USA where the top League was not a closed shop a League where every Club has a chance to get into it if they are good enough . Maybe one day we will see the USA do away with the play off system to decide its overall Champion I am sure San Jose would like that so would we ( Orlando )and San Antonio.That way the US Open Cup would become a lot bigger just like the F.A Cup in England . Merry Xmas Tomas and all others on this site .

          • Tomas

            @Gary C-NASL is and will go thru growing pains, I don’t like the half season by PRI or New York Cosmos but having the Cosmos in NASL again is a good accomplishment for the league.With Ottawa and Virginia coming in for 2014 and Indy most likely as well that will give them 12 teams(if PRI survive and come back which I’m not sure they will). Happy New Year and I hope for a strong year for both NASL and USL Pro in 2013!

  9. MLS and USLPro Integration « ponchat

    [...] This is exciting news in the US soccer scene!  The United Soccer Leagues informed its member clubs of a proposed agreement with Major League Soccer that would provide for an integrated third division/MLS reserve league. Some interplay is expected to begin in 2013, with full integration of the plan coming in 2014. [...]

  10. Bryan

    It is true that San Antonio had a higher average attendance than Orlando however that it due to the fact that a majority of their tickets were comp’ed in order to fill their seats as part of a theme park incentive. Orlando by far still drew the highest number of paying fans between the NASL & USL-PRO

    • Tomas

      @Bryan-Not true,San Antonio had more paying fans than Orlando and higher avg per game period. Have heard from some that Orlando actually inflated their attendance figures this year along with Rochester.

  11. T. A. Simeria

    This will definitely help the bottom line of the USLPro teams along with the quality of the game on the pitch. However, this is also another way for MLS to ensure that the pro/rel does not become viable anytime soon.

    I am happy that the NASL is not involved in this type of relationship. The NASL has great potential. It will be difficult to bring it to fruition but it will come. Once the NASL has a solid 15 or 20 teams in place, pro/rel will be a more viable discussion.

  12. solles

    makes sense, flesh out USL teams with “reserve” players, basically making them professional sides in the process which they aren’t all at the moment I don’t believe, up the talent level in the USL, give MLS sides places to send developing or returning players, win win win etc.

    now to do something about the absolute mishmash of crap that is the development system.

  13. rh

    You need to also realize that if there are two or three players from USL Pro who do go to MLS and do make an impact, then the collaboration would be worth it. Or a single USL Pro player who ends up in a European top division, beaucoup de bucks.


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