According to various reports, Major League Soccer is looking to merge with the United Soccer League’s development system, which would eventually affect the Victoria Highlanders.
“The big piece of news is the potential partnership between the MLS and USL Pro division, where the latter will become the proving ground or reserve league, as they put it, for the MLS sides,” Mark deFrias, general manager for all Highlanders programs, confirmed upon his return from USL meetings in Clearwater, Florida.
“The way it would work is, if a USL Pro team is located in the geographical area of an MLS club, the MLS club can provide up to five players to pay their salaries. If there is no USL Pro team within that area, then the MLS reserve team would become a USL Pro franchise,” explained deFrias.
“Essentially what this becomes is a reserve team for MLS with the thought that in 2013 there will be inter-league play between USL Pro teams and MLS reserve teams and in 2014 the entire amalgamation would have occurred.”
Currently, the Highlanders play out of the USL Premier Development League.
“And we’re quite satisfied with that, but every opportunity to see how the club can potentially grow will be reviewed,” said deFrias. “If there is an opportunity that exists and it makes sense for the organization, as a whole, to take part in it, then we’ll look into it.
“That being said, we have not had any conversation with the league and with the [Vancouver] Whitecaps, who would be our MLS affiliate if we were to have a club,” he added.
At this moment, deFrias was not sure how the structure would work or just how it would impact the Highlanders.
“I think that every dialogue possible to improve soccer and help continue to develop athletes is important. It’s an important area for us to be part of the conversation, so if there is an opportunity, then we’ll definitely be sitting at the table to at least see if it makes sense for us here in Victoria,” he said.
Reports suggest all USL Pro teams are ultimately expected to have an MLS affiliate.
Scheduling was also discussed at the USL meetings and all teams are now awaiting approval of dates for the 2013 season.
“It should be released in the next few weeks,” said deFrias. “We’re looking forward to the upcoming year. We think we have a great schedule that will help our teams be able to compete in the new year.”