Tonight, Reckless Challenge, a site that covers USL PRO extensively, published an article stating that a staffer at an unnamed USL PRO side mistakenly posted a picture on social media showing what the USL PRO will look like for the 2014 season. The picture has since been removed by the team. You can read the original article here
What we saw was that both the FC Dallas and LA Galaxy's reserve sides will be competing in the USL PRO for 2014. Thats not exactly huge news considering that at LA has all but announced that it would field a side in USL PRO. The FC Dallas news is a bit more of a surprise, but not exactly earth shattering either. This is simply the latest update in the execution of the agreement between MLS and USL. In typical MLS style the actual deadline for compliance is unknown.
There are several interesting twists connected to the story. It looks like Dallas and the Galaxy will replace teams who seem to have folded. At least one team will be no surprise to any USL PRO fan: Antigua Barracudas, the island team had not played a home match all season and there were too many stories that the players were being paid by the league, required to provide their own transportation to matches, and much worse for anyone to realistically think they would return.
Perhaps the most interesting revelation is that with MLS's entrance into Florida, it appears that USL PRO will be exiting. When Orlando City are named the 21st MLS franchise next week, it will begin the end of third division soccer in Florida. Apparently VSI Tampa Bay, a club who once announced their MLS aspirations as well, have folded after just a single season. Perhaps the imminent arrival of David Beckahm and MLS to Miami and the strong presence of the NASL in Tampa Bay and Ft Lauderdale squeezed them out of what is becoming an increasingly crowded market.
This leaves 9 teams without an affiliation. Eight, if you believe the affiliation between Portland Timbers and Sacremento CA based Republic FC is set to be announced very soon (and we do). The agreement between MLS and USL PRO requires MLS teams to do one of the following to fulfill the agreement. All MLS teams must either:
a) field a full time USL PRO team
b) affiliate with a current USL PRO team
Currently, there are only four MLS teams affiliated with USL PRO teams:
Sporting Kansas City and Orlando City
DC United and Richmond Kickers
New England Revolution and Rochester Rhinos
Philadelphia Union and Harrisburg City Islanders.
Under the current set up, that leaves 8 USL PRO teams unaffiliated but 13 MLS team without an affiliate, meaning that potentially 5 additional MLS teams will be funding and fielding full time USL PRO teams. To further confuse the math, Orlando City SC is going to be announced as the 21st MLS team, potentially taking the tally to 7 USL PRO teams and 14 MLS teams without affiliations for the 2015 season which is the year most often spoken of as the soft deadline for MLS teams to be involved in USL PRO.
Exactly how this will play out over the off season will be interesting to watch league wide. We expect a rush of affiliation announcements during the build up to the SuperDraft