FC Dallas to field USL PRO team? Club staying quiet, but pieces may be falling into place
FRISCO, Texas – Hunt Sports Group vice president Dan Hunt has spoken in the past of his admiration for FC Barcelona’s venerated youth system, and if recent reports are true, FC Dallas may soon be emulating one aspect of the La Liga giants' player development model with a “B” team playing as a full member of a lower-division league.
A recent report from the USL PRO blog RecklessChallenge.net speculates that FC Dallas could be one of at least two MLS clubs fielding a second team starting next season in the U.S. Soccer pyramid’s third tier.
FC Dallas officials declined to comment on the report when contacted by MLSsoccer.com, but the 20-odd game season played by USL PRO teams would certainly be in line with FCD’s vision for player development as recently articulated by Hunt.
“We are going to make sure that the young players on our roster … that are not getting a lot of playing opportunities, on a go-forward basis, they will get games,” Hunt said in a conference call with media on Nov. 14.
“I don’t want to divulge any of the details, but … if you talk about a focus of this organization on a go forward basis besides winning and winning championships for the first team, we’re going to get these kids ... meaningful games so that we can continue to develop players.”
USL president Tim Holt also declined to confirm the report when contacted by MLSsoccer.com, but did say he expects the number of club affiliations to double in 2014 from the current four (Sporting Kansas City/Orlando City, D.C. United/Richmond Kickers, Philadelphia Union/Harrisburg City Islanders, New England Revolution/Rochester Rhinos) and that additionally, there are indeed discussions underway for select MLS clubs to field reserve teams directly in the league.
The LA Galaxy are one such club that expressed interest in doing so next year, as Bruce Arena acknowledged as much in September.
“When we announced [the partnership] back in January of this year, one of the things we had indicated was the opportunity would exist beyond the 2013 season for MLS teams to put a second team into USL PRO proper and have it operate as a member of USL PRO,” Holt said.
“I don’t want to rule anything in or out at this point for 2014 as we’re still working on it and nothing’s been finalized," he continued. "But certainly as we look a year ahead in terms of this, we think that there are likely to be several [MLS teams fielding reserve sides in USL PRO], which is extremely positive both for the clubs that would be involved and certainly for our league.”
MLS executive vice president of player relations & competition Todd Durbin announced to reporters at this past summer's All-Star Game in Kansas City that the league expects every MLS club to either field its own reserve teams in USL PRO or affiliating with one by 2015.
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The USL PRO league membership and competition format for 2014 will be finalized mid-December at the league’s board of governors meeting in Clearwater, Fla., so Holt expects to be able to make an official announcement within the next 30 days. Any MLS reserve-team entry into the USL PRO for next season will move the minor league that much closer to its ambitious long-term expansion goals for a massive three-conference competition.
Should FC Dallas be one of those teams, they have multiple local options to stage USL PRO league games with Toyota Stadium, the adjacent Toyota Soccer Center and the recently awarded contract to manage Soccer Park at Elm Fork in Northwest Dallas.