Rendering of Montreal Impact training center
Courtesy of Montreal Impact communications

Montreal Impact to field USL PRO team to ease transition to MLS for young players

MONTREAL – LA Galaxy II have some company.

The Montreal Impact became the second MLS club to create its own USL PRO team, club president Joey Saputo announced on Thursday. The new team, called FC Montréal, is set to start playing in the 2015 season against LA’s sister team and other affiliates such as Richmond Kickers (D.C. United) and Rochester Rhinos (New England Revolution).

This USL PRO team, which has no head coach yet, is part of a broader orientation to better nurture Québécois talent. FC Montréal, Saputo said, will be mostly made up of young, local players from the Impact’s U18 and U23 teams.

“Our U16 and U18 teams have had exceptional seasons,” Saputo told reporters. “In its first year, our pre-academy is making great progress. We’ll carry on along those lines, and we must provide a better framework for our youngsters so their transition to MLS is easier and more natural.

“We want our club to be the leader of Québec soccer throughout the world.”

FC Montréal won’t have a permanent home in 2015. Their home schedule will be split between Stade Saputo and the nearby training field. The long-term plan is to play at Centre Claude-Robillard, the Impact first team’s current training facility. The games will be open to the public free of charge.

In conjunction with all of this, the first team is also pursuing a proposed new training facility (rendering above).

“This is a major change in the structure of soccer in Québec, since we will now have two professional teams that our young players can aspire to,” Saputo said. “Also, since MLS will no longer have a Reserve League next year, FC Montréal will give us more flexibility when it comes to the development and the movement of players.”

Saputo believes that keeping all of the club’s players in Montreal is the best way to provide them with the ideal environment to develop. FC Montréal will be, he said, an avenue for players that are “kind of in between the amateur … and professional ranks.”

The Impact currently have two young players out on loan: Blake Smith is at NASL side Indy Eleven, while Santiago Gonzalez has returned to his home country of Uruguay, at Danubio. A third, Zakaria Messoudi, spent the first half of the season at another NASL team, Ottawa Fury.

“We don’t want to send five players to an affiliated team, we want the players to be here,” Saputo said. “We want the players to play within our structure. We want our coaches to have a better eye on the players. And the best way for us to do it was an investment, and the investment was the USL PRO team.”