MLS and USLPRO announced a multi-year partnership on Thursday to integrate the MLS Reserve League into the USL PRO’s schedule. The deal will feature “interleague play” between Reserve League teams and the 13 teams of U.S. Soccer's third tier.
MLS clubs – like the LA Galaxy – are not mandated to have a USL PRO affiliate, but those that do must commit a minimum of four players on a long-term loan to their affiliate and will not be able to participate in the MLS Reserve League. If clubs affiliate with a USL Pro team then they will have to give a minimum of four players.
When the reserve league schedule is announced the Galaxy Reserves are expected to face Los Angeles Blues, who play at Titan Stadium in Cal-State Fullerton.
“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,” MLS Executive Vice President of Player Relations & Competition Todd Durbin said in a statement. “Over the past several years, USL PRO has made great strides in restructuring their league in a manner that serves to complement the objectives of MLS. This is a win-win for all involved, and it demonstrates our strong commitment to growing North American professional soccer at all levels.”
The 13 USL PRO teams will play in two interleague games against MLS Reserves sides. All of the matches will be a home-at-home series except for Antigua Barracuda FC of the Caribbean nation Antigua & Barbuda who play their matches at the MLS affiliate. All interleague matches will count in the official standings of the Reserve League and USL PRO.
Information on the schedule has not yet been determined.
“USL PRO has for the past several years been the most sophisticated and competitive professional soccer league under MLS,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “This new partnership with MLS will elevate and strengthen the level of competition for domestic professional soccer while simultaneously creating a more sustainable financial model for team owners. As a result, we expect this partnership will forge a seamless system for the development of players and coaches, and promote the expansion of professional soccer into new North American markets.”