CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy will serve as “guinea pigs” for the rest of MLS, head coach Bruce Arena said, by fielding a team this year in the USL PRO, and he fully expects the rest of the league to follow their lead.
The Galaxy on Wednesday officially announced their USL PRO side, Galaxy II, and Thursday unveiled the schedule, which begins March 22 against the Orange County-based LA Blues, a fourth-year team in the third-division league.
“I think it's great,” said Arena, who first revealed the plan last September, following LA's training session Thursday morning at the StubHub Center. “I think we've lacked the next step for our Academy players or players that are just outside the first team.
"We've had a bit of a black hole on our development, and this makes everything natural – a natural progression from young players to the U-18s to the USL team to the first team. For those that need all those steps, which is a majority of players, it's a real positive for us.”
The Galaxy will be able to loan first-team players to the USL side as often as they wish, and technical director Jovan Kirovski and Galaxy II head coach Curt Onalfo are seeking players to sign to USL contracts. These players, and Academy players who may train and play with the second team, would not be eligible to play in MLS unless they sign a MLS deal.
“You can loan players [to Galaxy II] all the time and bring them back, so it's a lot of freedom,” Arena said. “There are restrictions on those players that are USL players, we can discover them and sign them [to MLS contracts].”
The Galaxy have several young Homegrown players who are expected to see playing time primarily with the USL team, including expected signings Bradford Jamieson and Raul Mendiola, and those who have played most often in the Reserve League also figure to see extensive time. The first team and USL team will train separately.
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LA will not participate in MLS's Reserve League.
“I think this is important, and I think you're going to see that the rest of the league will follow in the near future doing the same thing,” he said. “It's a very impressive move by our ownership to make the commitment financially to do it. I think it's something that needs to be done and I think it will pay dividends down the road.
“We're going to be guinea pigs for everyone in the first year. It's not going to be easy to figure out how to do this and do it right, but it's a step forward.”