While it may be a viable route for some MLS squads, owning a USL club is not in the Chicago Fire‘s best interests, according to general manager Nelson Rodriguez.
Some MLS clubs have found an inherit value in controlling a USL team. Aside from providing a development space for players that fall just short of the MLS, USL squads can add to the organization by providing a more uniform development process.
There are cases, however, where the USL is not always in the best interests of an MLS team. As was covered in a recent story on FC Dallas, the costs of developing and then maintaining a roster in the USL have to be weighed against any advantages gain by such a move.
Rodriguez seems to have thought about that consideration, and concluded that the Fire are better off with their affiliation with St. Louis FC. The Fire have loaned several key players–including Collin Fernandez–to St. Louis this year, and the possibility of the Fire having more control over a USL squad came up recently when Fernandez did not appear in a game. However, Fernandez said the Fire’s relationship with St. Louis is fine and that purchasing an USL team is an unlikely route. More from CSN Chicago:
“I’m still not on board,” Rodriguez said to reporters at Toyota Park on Thursday as part of an hour-long Q&A session. “The USL is a good environment. I still don’t believe it’s a better environment than our first team. Games and minutes do matter, especially for our first team players.”
As Rodriguez conceded when he bemoaned that Fernandez didn’t appear in that one match, St. Louis isn’t directly obligated to play the Fire’s players and the Fire have no control over tactical styles or how their are used. Owning their own USL team would correct that and most of MLS has gone this way.
“I don’t know if having our own USL team would have changed the trajectory of any of those guys,” Rodriguez said. “I think that one moment of disagreement that we have with St. Louis doesn’t discount all of the good work that St. Louis has done for us and with us. I’m still not convinced that there’s enough guys to merit having our own USL team.”
The Fire and St. Louis FC first agreed to their affiliation in 2015.