Finally a Major League Soccer team took the first step to wholly owning a club in a lower league where they would have some kind of control over the rights of the players on the USL PRO side. This is a huge shift for American soccer and one that has a completely unknowable impact.
A first-of-its-kind program in MLS, LA Galaxy II will provide playing time and development opportunities for players within the LA Galaxy player development structure. The USL PRO side offers a 28-game season and will feature LA Galaxy first team players, players signed by Galaxy II and LA Galaxy Academy players. As part of the relationship between LA Galaxy and LA Galaxy II, any number of first team LA Galaxy players are available for loan to the USL PRO side. In addition, Galaxy II may utilize Galaxy Academy players for training and on game days with Academy products retaining their amateur status.
The idea is simple - more competitive reps for youngsters in the LA Galaxy organization. In fact word is that the average age of the Galaxy II players will be 23 - twenty-three! The plan though is even more aggressive. They can trial internationals and eventually field a squad aside from those completely from withthe Galaxy organization.
Five years from now, I'd expect our whole team to be from our youth academy. This is the perfect place for our players to develop.
But there are perils. Those perils, and the completely unknowable rules with how the second roster relates to MLS may just be part of why Seattle Sounders FC does not yet have their own II or B in USL PRO. Alexi Lalas pointed out two of the issues that will face the Galaxy this year, and likely Seattle in 2015.
Could LA Galaxy (MLS) transfer a player to LA Galaxy II (USL) and in doing so create allocation money?— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) January 29, 2014
I'm told @MLS teams are able to put a discovery claim in on LA Galaxy II players that are not home-grown.— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) January 29, 2014
Hanauer & Co have not decided on a location yet for their minor league team. Most indications are that it will be at Starfire and all indications are that it will be within a reasonable drive of the Tukwila training facility. LA will be playing at the StubHub Center.
Let's say Seattle joined LA this season. Let's just say that Catic needed a longer trial and went to Sounders B. Let's just say that Sounders FC needed a Discovery Claim on the limit of other players. Let's just say that Portland liked what they saw in Catic's match against the Sacramento Republic and signed Catic to MLS.
That's a win for the player, but it kind of would suck.
One way to defend against such an action would be to field a complete squad of USL PRO players from within Seattle's own Academy. That would be awesome. It would also be really difficult convincing 20 or so kids to abandon college and sign for less than MLS wages. Some of course would, but not all.
Yes, the current Academy players can maintain eligibility and play for the amplified Reserve side (just as they do now, four played more than 100 minutes with last year's Reserves). But you can not build a roster that learns how to win at a pro level on the backs of 18-year old kids.
These are just some examples of the issues with the way the USL PRO - MLS partnership can work. The Galaxy are blazing the trail. They can be the cutting edge.
In 2015 Seattle, and probably Dallas (others?), will be the early adopters. That may be a bit risk adverse, but it also makes sense.