This Article Was Part Of The April 1st Collection on The Nutmeg News
The entry of Major League Soccer "B" sides into the United Soccer League (USL) has created a new paradigm for the league and for soccer supporters throughout North America that will only become more pronounced as the seasons continue.
While the creation of affiliate teams is necessary to increase the development of players (specifically for Major League Soccer), the issue with adding "B" sides to a competitive league has lead to bizarre circumstances for a soccer fan.
While a fan of the Sacramento Republic may be longing for a season championship, his expectations for the league and his team are not the same as someone from Kansas City, who is now looking less towards whether Swope Park Rangers wins and more towards the development of Jimmy Medranda and whether Daniel Salloi is the real deal.
This ideal of development and the function it can have on a team is a tricky one, because as the results mean less to the Major League Soccer sides that enter affiliate teams in the USL competition, they do expose the idea of the competitive nature of the league. Now, this isn't to say that the affiliate sides from Major League Soccer do not want to win, however the function of an affiliate side isn't to win. The function of an affiliate side is to develop players for the senior team while indoctrinating them into the style, culture, and work expected from a senior team player.
While these general principals are not antithetical to the un-affiliated USL side, it does show the divide between teams set up to be a functioning local professional unaffiliated team and one that is in the service of growing players for an MLS side. This isn't to say that the USL is a sham league, moreso that the USL is complex in a way that a league hasn't been before in the United States and Canada.
The USL has, seemingly, now staked its claim on being a tier step towards a career in professional soccer and creator of talent. Slowly but surely (even before the MLS affiliate creation) the USL attempted to reshape itself into a league that creates careers.
This creation of career is no longer just the sole domain of the player, but now managers as well are attempting to utilize the USL as a springboard. Marc Dos Santos, just a few months removed from taking the Ottawa Fury to the NASL championship game against the New York Cosmos, resigned his position with the Fury to take a development job at Swope Park Rangers. This move, at one point, would likely be considered a backwards career choice and it may still be in many circles. However it is seen, it now seems that Dos Santos is utilizing the tie of Swope Park Rangers to Sporting Kansas City as a way to increase his standing within North American soccer circles in order to offer his name up to Major League Soccer in the future.
With the formula having shifted in the USL from players on their last legs, or those on the outskirts of the soccer wasteland, or those on their last chance at a career to promising rookies, developmental squads or academy kids that fell out of favor with their international team, this has given league games a different perspective. Now turning into a USL game on youtube means a viewer may get a chance to watch a future player for their senior squad play his first games.
The reformation of the USL is still ongoing, but the results are interesting and well worth tracking going forward.