On Sunday, May 14, Red Bull Arena hosts a double-header: New York Red Bulls vs LA Galaxy at 6:00 pm, followed by New York Red Bulls II vs LA Galaxy II at 9:00 pm. A ticket to the MLS match is good for the clash of the II teams - so stick around and watch some USL after the main event at RBA, if you can.
USL allows its clubs some flexibility with scheduling. In 2017, the league has 30 teams divided into two Conferences of 15 teams each. Each team will play a 32-game schedule: playing every other team in its Conference at home and away accounts for 28 matches, and the other four are allocated for "regional foes".
That allows for teams that are close to each other but stuck on opposite sides of the Conference divide to get games in. St. Louis FC was in the Western Conference last season, but played games against the Eastern Conference's Louisville and Cincinnati. Now St. Louis is back in the Eastern Conference this year, it has a couple of games scheduled against Western Conference outfit Tulsa Roughnecks: this is what USL means by regional foes.
NYRB II plays in the Eastern Conference and LA Galaxy II is in the Western Conference. Clearly, these teams are not regional foes. So why are they playing each other at all?
Primarily, because they asked to be allowed to do so, specifically on the same day as their first teams, creating a double-header. In explaining the rationale for this game, a spokesperson for USL noted that facilitating such match-ups was not unprecedented: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 played Toronto FC 2 in its inaugural home-opener in 2015 for much the same reason RBNY and LA's II teams are playing each other this year. San Antonio FC will play Tampa Bay Rowdies later this season because the match-up was requested.
USL takes requests - and that's no bad thing.
In the case of NYRB II and LA Galaxy II, don't hold your breath for a big crowd. The game kicks off at 9:00 pm on a Sunday - a lot of people who landed at Red Bull Arena to watch a MLS game that kicked off at 6:00 pm will not have signed up for leaving the stadium around midnight.
But those who do stay to watch the game will be rewarded by seeing the reserve teams of two clubs regarded as pace-setters in the MLS player development race. Both the Galaxy and RBNY have well-regarded Academy's, from which they sign players to Homegrown contracts in MLS. And the USL reserve teams provide a bridge between the Academy and college games and life as a professional soccer player.
It makes a lot of sense that RBNY and LA might be interested in seeing how their USL squads match-up. A double-header at RBA is a nice way to potentially offer the game to a larger crowd than usually attends either team's matches. And USL does itself no harm - perhaps even some good - by allowing the four extra games on the league schedule to be used not just to promote regional rivalries, but also those rivalries played out in other contexts.