MLS, USL announce Reserve League, USL PRO integration


A winter of rumor produced its end product on Wednesday when Major League Soccer and United Soccer Leagues established what MLS is calling “a groundbreaking, multi-year partnership,” one that will address the problem of Reserve League relevance that’s plagued the program since it was reintroduced in 2011.

Starting with the 2013 season, each Major League Soccer team can form partnership with an affiliate USL PRO club. That affiliation will see at least four players placed in the third division on a “long-term loan.” While MLS clubs are not required to enter into a partnership, those that do will forgo participation in the 2013 Reserve League.

United Soccer Leagues operate USL PRO, the 13-team league the functions as the third-tier of the U.S. Soccer pyramid. USL also operates the Premier Development League,W-League,Super-20 League and Super Y-League.

The Sporting News’ Brian Straus reports four teams are expected to form affiliations this season, agreements which “will be customized to meet the needs of the respective teams.” Twelve other Reserve League teams will play home-and-home series with a USL PRO partner, while two more reserve league teams will play USL PRO’s Antigua franchise once each.

All interleague games will count in each competitions’ standings.

One Major League Soccer team will not participate in the deal and will only field a team in the Reserve League. Specific affiliations and pairings are expected to be announced later this week.

“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 Wednesday in a statement released by the league.  “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.”

For Major League Soccer, the agreement should enhance competition for players participating in the Reserve League. Whereas before players would play a lightly-regarded 10-game schedule, now prospects can play in a more competitive environment, be that through a full third division schedule or with the enhanced competition of the home-and-homes (which can only be seen as a starting point for what will happen in the future).

For USL PRO (and the United Soccer Leagues), they get a credibility-boosting affiliation as well as a pipeline to player talent that would have previously languished in the reserve league. They also get a valuable business relationship with the Major League Soccer, one that should lead to a better on-field product.

Expect to see more from us on this deal in the coming days. For now, the news is the revamp of the MLS Reserve League, a change that forms a first of its kind link between the top and third divisions.

Memphis jersey biggest seller in Premier League

during the Barclays Premier League match between XXX and XXX on September 26, 2015 in Manchester, United Kingdom.
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Memphis Depay‘s name has been printed on more Premier League jerseys than anybody else.

[ PHOTOS: Must-see Klopp merch ]

According to Kitbag.com, the Manchester United winger is the biggest climber on their top 10 list and fans have flocked to have “Memphis” printed on the back of their United jerseys.

The Dutch winger, 21, has had an up-and-down start to life at Old Trafford but that is not detracting fans from having Memphis, the name he prefers, emblazoned on the back of their shirts. Folks from an unnamed city in Tennessee, have you been buying lots of jerseys on the internet? No doubt the number of United fans in that region has sky-rocketed in the last few months. No doubt.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT ]  

Anyway, below is the list of the top 10 players name printed by Kitbag.

Top 10 selling jerseys worldwide

1. Lionel Messi – Barcelona
2. Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid
3. Memphis Depay – Manchester United
4. Bastian Schweinsteiger – Manchester United
5. Eden Hazard – Chelsea
6. Wayne Rooney – Manchester United
7. Neymar – Barcelona
8. Sergio Aguero – Manchester City
9. Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal
10. Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool

New Arsenal contracts on the way for Alexis, Ozil

Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil
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Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are both in line to be handed new contracts by Arsenal.

The attacking duo, who have been in fine form in recent weeks after slow starts to the season, both have current deals which run until 2018 but the Gunners are said to be keen on locking the attacking midfielders down to contract extensions.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT ] 

According to the Daily Mail, Sanchez is set to become Arsenal’s top earner with a new deal on the table in excess of $220,000.

Sanchez is currently being paid $197,000 per week but is not the highest paid player at the Emirates, with Ozil taking that mantle and earning a cool $215,000 a week. Speaking of Ozil, talks over a new deal for him are also being prepared by Arsene Wenger and club officials with the German playmaker finally showing consistency this season, which is his third campaign in the Premier League following his $63 million move from Real Madrid in 2013.

[ MORE: Sanchez, Ozil dazzle in Arsenal’s win vs. United ]

Sanchez, 26, missed most of Arsenal’s preseason after winning the 2015 Copa America with Chile on home soil this summer, but he is now back in his groove and the former Barcelona forward has scored five goals in his last two PL games and seven times in his last four outings for club and country.

Ozil scored his first goal of the season against Manchester United in Arsenal’s recent 3-0 win, as Ozil and Sanchez ripped United’s defense apart in a stunning 19-minute spell at the beginning of the match.

[ MORE: Klopp merchandise you need to see ]

With Theo Walcott locked down to a new long-term contract in the summer, Wenger now looks to have found his go-to front three as Walcott, Sanchez and Ozil possess a superb combination of pace, power and trickery. It’s no surprise to hear reports about new deals being prepared for Sanchez and Ozil, as the duo have that extra bit of class which has seen the Gunners win back-to-back FA Cups and comfortably finish in the top four of the PL.

Now, can they kick on and contend for the title this season? If Sanchez and Ozil stay fit and in-form, there’s no reason why not.