There are hints of major changes coming for MLS' reserve league and could come as early as this season.
MLS is not known for developing young talent and the talent it does develop usually get heavy first team minutes from the get go. Those players who don't get first team minutes after they are drafted or acquired are only given 10 games to help in their development. MLS has left the scheduling of the reserve games up to the clubs and in some cases those games were all clustered either at the beginning of the season or at the end. Sporting Kansas City had 6 of their reserve games before May 15th which left only 4 over the last two thirds of the season.
If MLS wants to be a top 10 league in the future the status quo concerning the reserves needs to change and that change might be on the horizon. The North American Soccer Network recently posted an article which had these details:
At the USL annual general meeting, the United Soccer Leagues informed its member clubs of a proposed agreement with Major League Soccer that would provide for an integrated third division/MLS reserve league. Some interplay is expected to begin in 2013, with full integration of the plan coming in 2014.
The details as understood are:
1. If an MLS city has a USLPRO team nearby, MLS will provide 5 players and pay their salary.
2. If there's no USLPRO team, the MLS reserve side will become a new, permanent team in USLPRO.
3. All USLPRO teams will have an MLS affiliate.
This backs up an initial report from the Thrown In on MLS' website but changes the partner. Either way this is great news for MLS and the health of the league, as well as a shot in the arm for USL, which could become more financially stable and sell more tickets to see the stars of tomorrow.
What does this mean for the Timbers?
The Portland Timbers now have a direct tree where they will be able to develop their players. A player will start with the Academies then graduate to College, then the U-23s in the offseason, then to the Reserve league and then to the first team. All the while playing using the same formation as the first team, the same system as the first team and all of this will be under the watchful eye of Caleb Porter.
Players like Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Ryan Kawulok will get meaningful minutes in game situations where they can make mistakes and learn from them. Development can move forward rather than being stunted with little playing time. The other positive is that someone might have a Chris Taylor sighting and figure out how he has survived the last two years.
Tell us what you think of this development.