As the 2014 domestic season begins to come into focus in the USA, a growing number of Major League Soccer clubs have picked up USL PRO affiliates over the offseason.
On Thursday new USL outfit Sacramento Republic announced a joint affiliation deal with MLS sides San Jose and Portland, while the Charleston Battery also announced a link up with MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps.
Those announcements now takes the number of MLS clubs linked with teams from the third-tier of the U.S. soccer pyramid to 10, with nine left unaffiliated to a lower-league team. Those nine sides only have three USL PRO teams left to choose from as Phoenix FC, Charlotte Eagles and LA Blues are all without an MLS partner.
Of course MLS sides do have the option of starting up their own USL franchise, or linking up with a current one.
As you can see most have decided to do the latter and in my opinion it’s a tremendous way to help the development of young North American players. The Reserve League set up between the MLS and USL PRO clubs last season provided a hugely competitive level for young MLS academy players and helped improve the level of many USL players. Long may all of that continue.
All of this points to a bright future for soccer in the USA, as young MLS players are given the chance of a guaranteed loan deal with USL sides and in return the smaller clubs get increased funding, improvement in the level of play and get to build a better relationship between MLS and the USL which will benefit everyone. Especially the little guys.
So with these new affiliate deals rubber-stamped, it’s time to update the list of MLS clubs and see which sides they’re now bonded together with.
MLS and USL PRO affiliates
Chicago Fire – No affiliate
Chivas USA – No affiliate
Colorado Rapids – No affiliate
Columbus Crew – Dayton Dutch Lions
D.C. United – Richmond Kickers
FC Dallas – No affiliate
Houston Dynamo – Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Los Angeles Galaxay – No affiliate
Montreal Impact – No affiliate
New York Red Bulls – No affiliate
New England Revolution – Rochester Rhinos
Philadelphia Union – Harrisburg City Islanders
Portland Timbers – Sacramento Republic
Real Salt Lake – No affiliate
San Jose Earthquakes – Sacramento Republic
Seattle Sounders – No affiliate
Sporting Kansas City – Oklahoma City Energy FC & Orlando City (will end when Orlando join MLS in 2015)
Toronto FC – Wilmington Hammerheads
Vancouver Whitecaps – Charleston Battery