Garber hints at relationship between MLS reserves, USL PRO

The MLS commissioner would not confirm the reports of a collaboration between the top-flight and third-tier leagues but hinted at an imminent relationship between the two.
INDIANAPOLIS -- A landmark connection between Major League Soccer and USL PRO that would give out-of-action MLS reserve players a greater opportunity to accrue playing time could very well be in the offing in the coming days.

Inside Minnesota Soccer reported Tuesday that an agreement had been reached to incorporate MLS reserves into the third-tier USL PRO league. MLS commissioner Don Garber would not confirm those reports while speaking with media members at the MLS SuperDraft Thursday, but he hinted at a relationship between the two leagues and alluded to a forthcoming announcement.

"I can't confirm anything today, but what I will say is that our league is very supportive of building the soccer pyramid and having a closer relationship with the lower divisions," Garber said. "We continue to invest in our reserve teams and our academy programs. You're going to see more and more investment and commitment to building the pyramid, and we'll be able to talk about that further probably in the next couple weeks."

Players who are not first-choice options in MLS, especially younger players who have to fight their way onto league rosters, have few opportunities to play, aside from seeing the field in non-league competitions or loans to a lower division and a series of 10 Reserve League games that are spread out over the course of the season. Incorporating MLS reserves into the lower-division league would help serve as a remedy and accelerate the career development of those players.

"It continues to be discussed," Garber said. "I think if we could wave a magic wand, we'd have more young players getting signed and ensuring that they would get to play and get that first-team experience and have the opportunity to develop their careers faster. I think that's good for our sport. The reserve league and potential relationship with the lower division will allow those players to have more opportunities, but I think you'll start seeing lots more development there."