KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Major League Soccer is taking an even bigger step toward the Spanish and German model of player development, with reserve teams in the lower rungs of the U.S. Soccer pyramid as soon as 2015.
So said MLS executive vice president of player relations & competition Todd Durbin in a sit-down with reporters shortly before Wednesday’s All-Star Game at Sporting Park.
The league is looking to move even further away from the Reserve League model and is encouraging more teams to affiliate with USL PRO clubs. Next season, as many as 10 MLS teams will have partnerships with club in the American third division, according to Durbin.
Currently, only four teams are partnered with USL PRO clubs and have loaned them players this season: Sporting KC (Orlando City), Philadelphia (Harrisburg), D.C. United (Richmond) and New England (Rochester).
Beyond that, Durbin said, MLS teams will start fielding standalone teams of reserve players and Homegrowns to compete in the USL PRO – as is the model in much of Europe.
Both Real Madrid and Barcelona, for instance, field reserve teams in Spain’s second division, while most of Germany’s top-flight clubs have reserve squads in the third and fourth divisions of the German pyramid.
“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 standalone team, hopefully by the end of 2015,” Durbin said.
The biggest benefit is to give first-team hopefuls the opportunity for significant minutes in actual competition against seasoned professionals in “games [that] really matter – they’re trying to win championships.”
"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,” he added.