FanPost

Something with USL Pro Could Happen in January UPDATED

I've been interested in the Red Bulls possibly having a USL Pro team for the past year.

The Red Bulls have a fantastic academy, and have had successes at the U-23 level, winning the National Premier Development League in 2014. It has been clear that the Red Bulls put a lot of time and energy in this team, as is noted by the strong crop of academy players the team produces

While the reserve team success has eluded them, it has become increasingly clear that the trend was gravitating away from the MLS Reserve league, and putting teams in USL Pro, the third division of American soccer.

In 2014 the LA Galaxy made history by fielding a reserve team in USL Pro instead of the MLS reserve squad. Throughout the year USL Pro, when announcing its rigorous expansion (partially at the expense of the second division North American Soccer League), noted Montreal, Portland, Salt Lake, Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver would be fielding USL Pro reserve sides this year.

This comes after a 2013 agreement where MLS was further aligning with USL Pro. The goal of this agreement was to have all MLS teams either field a reserve squad or have an affiliate in USL Pro. SBI, said in an article which I will bring up later, that MLS is abolishing its reserve league and forcing all teams to have a USL Pro affiliate or a reserve squad IN USL Pro. This makes sense to why seven teams now have USL Pro second teams. In addition to that 10 teams have named USL Pro affiliates according to wikipedia.

The three teams without a USL Pro second team or a USL Pro affiliate are the New York Red Bulls, NYCFC, and the Chicago Fire. There are currently five teams in USL Pro without an MLS affiliate: the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, St Louis FC, Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Orange County Blues, and Tulsa Roughnecks.

I sent out a media request to USL to see if I could get a comment, an a spokesperson emailed me this back:

Hi Aaron. I’m not able to provide any comment regarding this other than saying that an announcement of the 2015 USL PRO alignment is expected by mid-January.

Let's revisit the timeline for a potential USL Pro team for the New York Red Bulls:

March 2014: (former) New York Red Bulls beat writer Franco Panizo writes for SBI that the Red Bulls would lead by the example set by LA and launch a reserve side in USL Pro. Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh is behind the move. Red Bulls fans celebrate since having a good reserve side is the mark of a healthy club.

July 2014: Homegrown player Connor Lade is loaned to the New York Cosmos of the NASL, not a USL Pro side.

September 2014: Andy Roxburgh tells BigAppleSoccer that the USL Pro club isn't happening. In six months the Red Bulls go from leading by example to falling behind. Roxburgh notes they are trying to "organize our relationship with someone else," hinting at a different partnership. Head coach Mike Petke goes on record the next day saying he'd "love" a USL Pro team, but he doesn't pay the bills.

December 2014: More great reporting from Franco Panizo for SBI says the Red Bulls are once again exploring the notion of a USL Pro team. Panizo's sources don't say the Red Bulls are definitely starting a team, but note they were considering a USL Pro affiliate because it is unclear where a potential USL Pro team would play.

So after all of this, two things are clear: 1. the New York Red Bulls are still considering and thinking about a USL Pro team of their own, and 2. all MLS teams will most likely have affiliation USL Pro in some capacity starting in 2015.

USL Pro has said that the Houston Dynamo (affiliate Charleston Battery) and FC Dallas (affiliate Arizona United) have intentions to start their own USL Pro reserve team in 2016. None of the unattached clubs in USL Pro are in a very close proximity to the New York Red Bulls, with Pittsburgh being the closest.

Either the Red Bulls will finally get their act together and have a reserve squad in USL Pro in 2015, or they will have an affiliate in 2015 and hopefully launch a team soon after. It makes zero sense for a team with the financial capability of the Red Bulls to not have their own reserve squad in American Soccer's third division. USL Pro in its short five year run has shown to be a financially viable league, one where seven MLS Clubs have created their own teams.

Regardless of the Red Bulls' hold up, some big announcements are coming later this month to bring the two leagues closer than they have been.

Edit Jan. 8: Empire of Soccer Confirms that the Red Bulls will have their own reserve team in USL Pro, not an affiliate club.

The opinions stated herein are wholly those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of OnceAMetro.com or SBNation.com.