For months, MLS coaches and general managers have spoken hopefully of a reserve-league revival, and an announcement Monday that the league and adidas have signed a new partnership deal to replace their current arrangement contained a direct reference to player development.
Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America writes of why things will be different this time around for the reserve league.
“The goal will be to make a very direct link between our academies, our reserve league, our youth programs with a lot of the other youth programs going on in this country,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “Adidas can play a very important role in creating that bridge and solidifying all those ties.”
The new eight-year deal runs through 2018. The previous 10-year partnership, launched in 2005, provided adidas exclusive rights as the league uniform supplier and other marketing rights at a cost of between $150 million and $160 million. Terms of the new deal were not disclosed. It takes effect next year.
Costs and organizational and logistical obstacles prompted MLS to shut down its reserve league in 2008 after four years of operation marred by haphazard implementation and questionable effectiveness. Though players such as RSL defender Nat Borchers and U.S. national team forward Herculez Gomez came through the reserve system, the previous incarnation of backup players coached by the first-team staff didn’t take hold.
“While you could argue that having a reserve league is better than nothing, the way it was set up really limited what you could do,” says Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid, who was in charge of Columbus in the last three years of reserve-league play. “There wasn’t enough time to work with those players and not enough games.
“You need 16 or 18 players, and a coaching staff primarily for that team, and a support staff. We didn’t have that. Then you had to keep track of a guy’s minutes so you didn’t go over the limit.”