Yesterday came the announcement that MLS would partner with the USL-Pro and offer increased opportunities for reserve players to get playing time, either on loan to the USL clubs or through an expanded reserve league, and today, more details have come forth. Over at Philly.com, Jonathan Tannenwald does a good job breaking down the options available to MLS clubs over time:
MLS teams can form an affiliation with an existing USL PRO team.
MLS teams can enter their reserve teams as standalone USL PRO clubs.
It will remain possible for MLS teams to just put their reserve teams in a MLS reserve league.
This year, with the possibilities and rules still being worked out, the arrangement will be a little ad hoc, and the biggest news is that 13 of the 19 clubs in MLS will play a home-and-away series between their reserve teams and a USL-Pro team, in addition to the regular MLS Reserve League schedule, which was around 10 games in length in 2012. Four teams, D.C. United, Philadelphia Union, New England Revolution and Sporting Kansas City are affiliating with USL-Pro clubs this year and will not participate in the reserve series with USL teams.
Where does that leave Chivas USA?
They are the only team in the league that has passed on either playing USL teams in reserve matches and partnering with USL-Pro clubs this year. The only one.
On the surface, this seems like an absolutely terrible idea. Why not give young players more opportunities to develop, get game action, either by sending them on loan or by playing a couple more games over the course of the season?
The devil's advocate position could include the following: it is only year one of this partnership, and Chivas may just want to see how it unfolds before jumping in later on. With the home-and-away series, in reality, Chivas USA's reserves are only missing out on two games all year - not a significant amount.
But still. We know that Chivas USA is trying to stock the team with people (management, coaches, players) from Mexico, but it should be remembered that the club is still part of MLS and American soccer. Sure, two games isn't a lot, but why forego this opportunity? What's the worst that could happen - a player getting seriously hurt? That's the nature of sports.
I'm sure we'll never know the motivations behind this decision, but on a perception level, it appears that Chivas isn't particularly concerned with giving players who don't see the field much a run out. It looks like Chivas USA is not only changing its philosophy, but it is actively disengaging from the league overall. Again, in the long run, we could see this develop in several directions, but opting out looks bad for the moment.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!