Over the past several seasons, the trend of fielding a second-tier reserve squad has taken off among MLS clubs. Teams like the New York Red Bulls, LA Galaxy and Portland Timbers, to name a few, have all established successful USL teams to provide roster flexibility at the senior level.
While every affiliation functions differently, the system allows players at the back end of MLS rosters—SuperDraft picks, rehabbing veterans and former pros vying for a fresh start—to fight for a senior roster spot while staying under the control of the parent MLS club. The arrangement also allows academy prospects to see playing time as on-loan amateurs.
Players like Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls) and Daniel Steres (LA Galaxy) serve as partnership success stories, having developed into regular MLS starters after playing several seasons in USL.
Of course, the Revolution don’t benefit from such an affiliation. Though the club has a formal partnership with the Rochester Rhinos, movement between the two clubs has declined since the alliance formed in 2013. Even when players have made the jump to Rochester, playing time has been sporadic, as the Revs lack control over lineups and tactics.
In the past few years, draft picks Jordan McCrary, Alec Sundly and Tyler Polak, among others, all fizzed out after short stints in Rochester. And Revolution Academy standouts like Mitchell Taintor (now with Toronto FC II) and Peguy Ngatcha (drafted by the Colorado Rapids in 2017 but not signed) graduated without a direct path to the first team.
With a club-controlled partnership, could the Revolution have kept these academy graduates in New England? And could the club have provided more playing time for draft picks like McCrary, Sundly and Polak?
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Morning Muster will publish regularly throughout the season, giving supporters an opportunity to sound off on key questions facing the club.