The LA Galaxy officially announced today what has been rumored for months, the Galaxy will field a second team in 2014 called LA Galaxy II which will compete in USL-Pro. LA is the first MLS club to own and operate a lower division team as part of their development structure. Curt Onalfo has officially been named the head coach of LA Galaxy II, which will train and play all their home matches at StubHub Center.
The USL-Pro side will play 28 games (significantly more than the reserve side played) and will feature LA Galaxy first team players, players signed by Galaxy II, and LA Galaxy Academy players. This shows that there will be players signed to USL contracts as well as the LA reserve players, but it's interesting that Academy players can participate without losing their amateur status.
"The LA Galaxy are taking a monumental step for player development in North America," said Galaxy President Chris Klein. "The creation of LA Galaxy II, through USL PRO, provides the Galaxy with a fully realized player development program starting with the Under-12 Academy teams through the LA Galaxy first team. The investment of AEG and the Galaxy in LA Galaxy II allows us to continue to develop the best players in Southern California and lessen the gap between the Academy and the LA Galaxy."
How to advance players that have been signed from the Homegrown Program has been an issue since the team started signing Homegrown players. Tristan Bowen was traded away, Jose Villarreal is now on loan at Cruz Azul, and there's Jack McBean in his fourth year as a Galaxy player and still under the age of twenty.
Players like Gyasi Zardes who went through a college program before making it to the Galaxy are better suited to jumping straight into the first team. It's harder for the high school guys. USL Pro gives LA an intermediate space for them to develop alongside some of the college players who need more time.
"We are thrilled to welcome LA Galaxy II into USL PRO as our newest expansion club," USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. "Entering the second season of our partnership with Major League Soccer, the addition of LA Galaxy II into our competition is an exciting development for all the league's stakeholders and fortifies our continued efforts to remain the strongest league below and in support of MLS on and off the field."
The Galaxy did not partner with a USL Pro team in the first year of the partnership, although they did do a home and home friendly series with the LA Blues. How that club which plays their games in Orange County will be effected by an expansion club owned and operated by AEG is another thing to look out for.
It's a big day for LA's ability to develop players. Unlike the partnerships where MLS teams have sent players on loan to USL-Pro, having a Bruce Arena assistant coach in charge of LA Galaxy II means these players will get 28 competitive games playing the system they'll be expected to play on the senior squad.
Update: According to a press release from last year, USL Pro teams are allowed to carry five academy players. They have to be under 21 and have not competed collegiately or professionally. So it looks like LA Galaxy II will be able to have at most five academy players on their roster without jeopardizing their amateur status.