MLS announced details surrounding the much-mooted new reserve league on Monday. Dubbed the MLS Next Pro, the new league will launch next year, featuring 20 MLS reserve teams and one independent team, Rochester NY FC, formerly known as the Rochester Rhinos, off a multi-year hiatus.
For our purposes, LA Galaxy will not field a team in the league next year, but the release on MLS Next Pro does say that the Galaxy will field a team in the new circuit starting in 2023. Presumably, that means LA Galaxy II will move from the USL Championship, where they’ve been since 2014, although nothing has definitively indicated that’s the case just yet.
This is MLS’s latest attempt at a viable reserve league. With a rather informal system in place in the late 2000’s, in 2013 the reserve teams quasi-entered what was then the USL Pro for a year, to play USL clubs. By 2014, the old reserve team system was dead in MLS and teams that wanted a reserve team had to either affiliate with a USL team or create their own MLS2 team in the USL.
Over time, the USL became more and more professionalized, which was good overall for the sport, and created two separate men’s pro leagues, the USL Championship and USL League One, both of which featured MLS2 teams. But it appears the combination of costs surrounding an increasingly stable system in place in USL and the lack of draw that nearly all MLS2 teams have (the Galaxy appeared not to even sell tickets for Los Dos games in 2021, for example), meant that the independent teams and MLS2 teams seemed to be going on different paths. So, MLS has decided to start up a new reserve league. They’ve also said that more unaffiliated pro clubs will be joining up in the future, so we’ll see who takes the plunge, if they will be expansion teams or USL/pro-am clubs moving over in the years to come.
We’ll see if this version sticks and achieves the objectives desired. I like ambition and grand plans to grow the game, and I hope MLS Next Pro isn’t a big step backwards to stop streaming games or treat this like a professional league. If they are serious, then hopefully it helps player development and after entering LA Galaxy make some waves along the way.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.