When the super reliable Jason Davis dropped this somewhat stunner on the NASN web site regarding a potential union of Major League Soccer’s Reserves and USL PRO, well, it got us digging. The idea makes sense for both league. MLS has progressed wonderfully ahead of any North American peers and the USL PRO is miles ahead of its competitors. All you have to do for proof is look right down the 90 to see Jesse Myers and the Rochester Rhinos.
Sources tell us the relationship is well-past probable and that teams are already sorting out arrangements. I’ve also been directed by a well-informed WNYer to Rhinos COO Pat Ercoli’s conversation with the “Soccer Is A Kick In The Grass” radio show on Wednesday (the conversation occurs in the latter third of the one-hour show, but you can also hear from Gavin McInerney of the Lancers early in the program).
The Rochester boss was somewhat limited as to what he could say, but we’ll give some facts as well as some educated reading between the lines. Some transcribed highlights:
— Ercoli says, “My understanding is there is some talks and they are very positive talks. We were told that there’s something that will be in place for next season (2013) and obviously it’ll be expanded on for the future. At this point, that’s what we know.”
— There will be an even, balanced schedule. Ercoli says, “It’s parity and there’s a single table… in regards to scheduling. Because of some of the workings that are going on that we aren’t totally unaware of, they chose to hold off on announcing the schedule. There’s some exciting stuff coming down the line within several weeks here that will encompass our schedule.”
— “Hopefully in two weeks time we’ll be able to give you more information and more exciting information.”
The NSCAA convention is Jan. 16-20 in Indianapolis and things seem sure to be sorted by then, considering that’s four weeks from Ercoli’s two. The fact that the schedule isn’t set leads us to believe that reserve sides are calculating whether they are ready to have a team compete with USL Pro teams at the get-go. Certainly, MLS clubs don’t want to rush a side into the league only to get lampooned thanks to lopsided scores.
Our guess is that while we know each USL side will have an MLS affiliation, some MLS teams are better suited logistically and financially to place their own reserve team in the league straightaway. Considering some clubs are completely retooling their front office, perhaps it would be more beneficial for them to link up with a strong USL side rather than force the logistics of a reserve side.
As for the affiliations, we’re told they won’t all necessarily make geographic sense. After all, it’s a decent flight from Sticky Wicket Stadium in Antigua to most MLS markets. Plus, established USL clubs with strong histories will be looking for the one that makes the most sense for them, not just peering North, West, East and South and seeing what’s closest. So don’t just overlay MLS & USL PRO maps and start circling neighbors.
USL has teams joining this season (Phoenix) and in 2014 (Sacramento), bringing the league total to 14. The even schedule once the MLS reserve sides are — theoretically — perfectly integrated in 2014 will be brilliant for the league. Fans aren’t going to say, “The Rhinos have the TFC reserves tonight.” They’ll simply and rightly say, “Rochester plays TFC tonight, wanna go down to Sahlen Stadium?”