The groundbreaking partnership is designed to find more playing time for young, up-and-coming players signed to MLS contracts.Major League Soccer and USL Pro have announced a groundbreaking, multi-year partnership that will see MLS reserve teams integrated into the USL Pro schedule, and the establishment of several exclusive team affiliations.
“This partnership represents the first step in a long-term alliance between MLS and USL Pro to connect domestic professional soccer through a system that benefits player development, competition and the overall business of our sport,” said MLS executive vice president of player relations and competition Todd Durbin.
Club affiliations between MLS and USL Pro sides will be optional for each MLS team. If agreed upon, MLS teams will be able to loan at least four players to their USL affiliate.
The Rochester Rhinos and New England Revolution have already announced an affiliation, along with Orlando City and Sporting Kansas City. D.C. United and Richmond, and the Philadelphia Union and Harrisburg are expected to follow.
Under the agreement, each of the USL Pro teams will play a pair of "interleague" games against MLS reserve teams. USL Pro teams have been paired with a single MLS team to play a home-and-home series, save for Antigua, which will play both games at the site of the MLS team. The interleague games will count in both the official USL Pro and MLS Reserve League standings.
The agreement between the two leagues is seen as a way to fill the development gap that's been in existence for many young players signed with MLS teams. If a young player wasn't ready for the first team, there were few options to receive adequate playing time, as the Reserve League was only 10-12 matches.