Canadian Clubs Should Use Reserves in USL

Playing a full reserve team in the USL will give valuable minutes to fringe players and talents
by Henrik Lonne   |   Thursday, February 14, 2013

Made in Canada - coverage of the Canadian MLS, NASL & USL Clubs, CSL, PCSL, Canadian Championship & Canada National Teams

In the inaugural season of MLS Reserves/USL PRO interleague play, most teams, including Toronto FC, the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact, will play a reserve team rather collaborating with a USL PRO team.

As it stands, not much will be different for the MLS Reserves in the beginning, with only two extra games against a USL PRO opponent. But as the cooperation evolves, hopefully the reserve sides will play against USL PRO teams. This should also become more realistic as some MLS sides decide to partner with a USL team rather than fielding a reserve team, which would reduce the number of MLS Reserve League games.

Partnering with a USL team has its benefits, especially in the short term. It puts your players in a first-team environment, and they will get more games against non-reserve teams. But for the players that gets sent to the USL to develop the best, it also requires a lot of resources to be spent by the MLS team to ensure that the player is seen the same way by both teams in terms of skills and development.

As always, Canada has unique challenges and circumstances, and this is very much the case when it comes to player development. Canadian teams should field reserve teams rather than finding a partner in the USL in order to give their academy players the best chance of developing.

If they cooperate with a USL team, it will merely be the minimum of 4 loan players from each team that will benefit, unlike the full reserve team that will benefit if a team does not find a USL partner.

Canadian soccer desperately needs more opportunities for more players to develop. It will be better overall to have 3 reserve sides filled with a majority of Canadians playing other reserve teams and USL clubs, rather than the Canadian clubs just sending a few players to their USL partner.

It should be stressed, however, that while full reserve teams should be fielded, it should still be encouraged to look into sending young talents on full season loans to the USL. But this should be done on a case-by-case basis. The MLS-USL partnership should make this easier.

With uncertainties about the future of the CSL after the match-fixing allegations, and while we wait to see if a new D2 or D3 is established in Canada, the MLS teams continues to play an even more important role in developing Canadian players in the near future. Hopefully the MLS-USL partnership will help them to play this role masterfully.

Henrik LONNE

Copenhagen Business School
Club Domestic:
AGF Aarhus
Club Foreign:
Toronto FC
Born and raised in Denmark, the US performance in the 2002 World Cup dragged Henrik into the world of North American soccer. Subsequent trips to Canada made him a Toronto FC fan from abroad. The passion he now has for MLS outshines most European leagues.