After alliances between between four MLS and USL Pro teams last season ended up hailed by all as successes, there are now 11 such partnerships. Will we see a true MLS farm system emerge in the future?
MLB’s farm system, originated by Branch Rickey and the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1930s, was a unique structure to developing talent at several different levels, as players entered and competed at an appropriate talent level. Today farm teams are an integral part of the baseball development experience.
But it’s not been one totally embraced by other major leagues. Sure, the NFL made an attempt with NFL Europe, but in reality college football is the NFL’s development system. The NBA is attempting to create a farm system with the D-League, which seems to be emerging as a legitimate development model. And the NHL has a two-tier development program with the AHL and the ECHL.
Last season Orlando City of USL Pro and Sporting KC had an alliance that saw Dom Dwyer star for both teams; he was a key part of drives by both teams to win championships. That alliance certainly drew the attention of other MLS teams, many seeking to development talent. As we stated, there are 11 alliances this season, including a move by LA Galaxy to form their own USL team, LA Galaxy II. From Red Nation:
The Vancouver Whitecaps will have an alliance with the Charleston Battery, while Toronto FC will have a relationship with the Wilmington Hammerheads. Montreal Impact have chosen not to take part, so one might assume there could be a potential future relationship between them and new NASL side the Ottawa Fury.
Ever since the Vancouver Whitecaps joined MLS they have taken advantage of loaning players to both NASL and USL Pro clubs. Vancouver has had a relationship with FC Edmonton in the NASL through loaning out players including Carlyle Mitchell and Corey Hertzog in 2013. Vancouver also had a relationship with Charleston loaning three players to them last season (Bryce Alderson, Ben Fisk, and Emmanuel Adjetsey), so it wasn’t a surprise that they made this relationship official.