CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena's plan to improve player development at the club includes a team in USL PRO.
Arena said Wednesday that the Galaxy plan to field their own team in the third division next season and that doing so is “going to be the way MLS clubs move in the future.”
“We have a number of players this year [who] could have benefited,” Arena said following LA's training session at the StubHub Center. “The [Jose] Villarreals, the [Jack] McBeans, the [Oscar] Sortos, to the [Bryan] Gauls, the [Kenney] Walkers, [Rafael] Garcia, [Greg] Cochrane, [Chandler] Hoffman, one of our goalkeepers, when they're not getting consistent minutes with us.
“If we have our own USL team, we have the advantage of them going there on a fulltime basis or moving back and forth.”
Arena said none of the logistics have been figured out, but MLS is encouraging clubs to field reserve teams in the third-division USL PRO, the top league affiliated with the Tampa-based United Soccer Leagues.
MLS executive vice president of player relations and competition Todd Durbin, speaking to media at July's AT&T MLS All-Star Game, said the league was hopeful such teams would be playing as early as 2015.
“Right now, the strategic path is to try and rotate away from our Reserve League such that all of our teams are either participating in the USL PRO through an affiliation or through a stand-alone team, hopefully by the end of 2015,” Durbin said in Kansas City. “We think that's going to be a really, really crucial step in our long-term goal of being the best player-developer in the world.”
“The Reserve League still isn't the right mechanism,” he said. “It's very difficult to do in the schedules and everything else. So a separate team in, I think, a separate league and more players is the way to go.”
Four MLS clubs have official affiliate partnerships with USL PRO teams, and Durbin said as many as 10 teams could have such agreements next year. Southern California has an existing USL PRO team, the Los Angeles Blues, but it has no affiliation with the Galaxy or Chivas USA.
Scott French covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com.