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Report: MLS 2 teams hot topic at USL league meetings

A source of conflict in the United Soccer League features at the center of league meeting debates this week.

With the USL set to launch a division three league in 2019, there has been much debate about the fate of ‘MLS 2’ reserve teams in the now-division two partner league. That conversation has reached a head at this week’s league meetings, reports NewsOK. While the USL has previously stated the MLS 2 teams would not be forced to move to the new USL D3, the issue remains a hot button topic among owners, particularly of the league’s independent teams. USL commissioner Jake Edwards is seeking to mollify those displeased with the current state of affairs.

“You can’t compare the MLS2 clubs to the USL (independent) clubs who are focused on different things as it relates to the business, building the fan base, building stadiums and infrastructure, creating long-term sustainable clubs and putting a quality product on the field,” Edwards said.

“The MLS teams have built great stadiums, invested heavily in player development and built fan bases,” Edwards added. “They’ve done all of that. Their objective with their second team are not to do that all again.”

While the fate of the MLS 2 teams will not dictate the division two status of the USL, as the U.S. Soccer Federation has assured Edwards that those reserve teams will receive special consideration, at least several independent owners are pushing for those MLS-owned clubs to be sent to division three. A hybrid option is also available, as proven by Reno 1868 FC and the Rio Grande Valley Toros, who are owned and have their business operations ran by an independent group while their MLS partner clubs control player operations.

However, the MLS 2 clubs are pushing back and want to remain in division two, as the higher level of play suits MLS’ needs for player development. While the issue likely won’t be resolved this week, it is clearly coming to a major front sooner rather than later.


  1. If MLS would stop beating around the bush and takeover USL to make a true 2nd division like the rest of the world we wouldn’t have this problem. Reserve/developments teams should be 3rd or 4th tier if the proper structure is in place.

    • Maybe.

      For the most part I agree with you. Spain has a pretty good structure and they’ve been known to park a B team in the second division.

      My point is that lone size doesn’t always fit all”…

  2. not sure i totally understand. we’ve seen that ‘division 2’ and ‘division 3’ mean very little besides the number. what would it matter if mls reserve teams had to play in ‘3rd division’ if they’re still training with the mls first team and playing games; especially if they’re playing games against other mls reserve sides?

    • I think we’re going to start to see a difference within the next few years. Div 2 is going to have the FC Cincinnati’s and other clubs that are serious about making an impact. Div 3 is going to have a lot of the 5000 seat stadiums and teams w/o big funding.

      MLS reserve teams should eventually be in Div 3, but I get the argument about quality of play and wanting to stay in Div 2 for the time being.

    • When you are playing against the non-reserve teams, it requires a different mentality and intensity. These are guys fighting week to week for their paycheck, and so you want your reserve players to play with the same urgency as they would when they are ready to play at the top division.

      Otherwise, if reserve players are playing against another reserve team, the intensity is not there since these youngsters know they will be paid by the mother club regardless of the results.

      • I think I agree with the first paragraph in that there’s a benefit to playing grown men and not kids, but I’m not sure the second paragraph is true in that a bad/unmotivated player will flame out regardless of who they are playing against. I think it might be better to argue reserve sides playing reserve sides could make it harder to evaluate players for the teams though.

    • This one really isn’t about Tier 2 vs Tier 3. Some of the independent owners are just having reservations about playing half their games against MLS reserve teams that don’t attract any fans. It’s hard to promote games against Toronto FC II and LA Galaxy II. The seven worst attendances in USL are all MLS reserve squads. A lot of MLS reserve teams are putting pretty crappy products on the field too. There are a small number of quality MLS reserve sides, but 4 of the 5 worst teams in USL are MLS reserve squads. Montreal’s reserve team was so bad last year that Montreal disbanded the team and entered into an affiliate agreement with Ottawa.

      So yeah, it’s really debatable whether MLS is actually adding anything for the USL’s independently operated teams which are now numerous enough to operate a stable league on their own.


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