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MLS teams to start reserve squads to aid development

The Associated Press
Thursday July 11, 2002

League shows commitment to younger players, will try to mirror European style 


SANTA MONICA – Spurred by the United States’ success in the World Cup, Major League Soccer plans to increase its commitment to developing young players. 

Commissioner Don Garber said Wednesday the league plans to have all 10 teams field reserve squads of players in their teens and 20s, with the eventual goal of the reserve squad players earning spots with MLS teams. 

“This will require a fairly significant investment on our part over the next number of years,” Garber said. “The World Cup proved to us that we’ve got a pretty good model in place, the concept of developing these players from within the league is working, so now we’re going to expand on that process.” 

The MLS eventually will modify its draft to allow players on the reserve teams to join the parent MLS teams. Reserve teams will enable some young players to have professional careers that perhaps otherwise would not, Garber said. 

Garber believes having homegrown players also will help boost attendance for the teams. 

“By having these development teams, we’ll be able to find those kids who are not necessarily playing with some organized club team under the auspices of U.S. Soccer and assist them in playing in our league and for the national team,” Garber said. 

The Chicago Fire, D.C. United, Los Angeles Galaxy and New York/New Jersey MetroStars currently field reserve squads, playing in either the Premier Development League or in amateur leagues. The use of reserve teams is a standard practice elsewhere in the world. 

Another stated MLS goal is to expand to 20 teams, in part to help increase television ratings. But the league contracted two teams this year, and no timetable has been set for adding new teams. 

“Our challenge is that we have to have a better business plan to attract investors to come in and believe this is something that will be financially beneficial — and also something they can hold their head high by going into their country club or cocktail party and say I own a soccer team,” Garber said on Wednesday. 

The U.S. World Cup success will help attract investors, Garber claimed. 

“After last month, there’s a lot more people who feel good about this game than before last month,” Garber said. 

MLS operates under a single-entity concept, with team operators owning a financial stake in the league, not just their individual teams. Investment in MLS is dominated by the Anschutz Entertainment Group, which operates five MLS teams and shares operation of a sixth.