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Sounders likely to pursue wholly owned Reserve team in USL PRO

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Over the next 18 months every team in MLS will either own a USL PRO team or have an affiliate instead of operating in the Reserve League. Seattle's plan is again along the cutting edge of what's been done.

More games at Starfire in 2014?
More games at Starfire in 2014?

Not content to simply affiliate with a USL PRO team, Seattle Sounders FC are pondering full or partial ownership of a reserve team that would compete in the MLS-affiliated league.

This revelation comes on the heels of MLS telling reporters during the All-Star Game that every team would no longer be participating in the Reserve League by 2015 if things go as planned. The intent is to have teams either affiliate with USL PRO sides or own their own USL PRO team.

"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 Sounders intend to go the standalone route, subject to change, per GM/owner Adrian Hanauer.

"I'm still pushing to try to do this for next year, 2014, but we haven't decided definitively so it's conceivable that it could slip to 2015," Hanauer told Sounder at Heart after Tuesday's practice. "I would say that currently we are headed towards a wholly owned subsidiary, but it's conceivable that we could have a partner. I think there are some real positives that come with adding a partner so it is something that we'd consider. It would just have to be the exact right partner."

MLS is still working on figuring out how a wholly owned team would affect the First Team and Reserve Team roster and salary limitations. These short term "incongruities", Hanauer pointed out, are part of the process for both versions of the USL PRO-MLS parternship that will exist. Sporting Kansas City and their loans to Orlando City SC have short term advantages over teams without affiliations, for instance.

"We agreed that the end game was the most important," Hanauer explained about the process that will have short term advantages for various teams, but over time those short term advantages should lessen. In many ways it is similar to the Development Academy. Certain teams have advantages due to their geography, and there are only ways to limit those geographic advantages without eliminating the concept entirely.

Seattle will have different advantages through owning a Reserve Team that looks increasingly likely to be right in the Greater Puget Sound. It will also have a place that is a realistic option for young players to get matches. Signing HomeGrown Players will become much more common as they would have a clear developmental path with dozens of matches in a professional environment.

Asked if more Academy kids would sign as a result of the move, Hanauer's answer was clear, "definitely that is one of the reasons to do it."

As early as 2014 there could be another 30+ matches of Sounders soccer featuring the brightest young talents in the region.