By Pat Eyler
Apparently I’m not the only person thinking that MLS development expanding into the PDL is a good thing. With the San Jose Earthquakes recent entry, there are four MLS teams that also field PDL teams: the aforementioned ‘Quakes, the Chicago Fire, the Portland Timbers, and the Vancouver Whitecaps. Three more MLS clubs have formal partnership agreements with PDL teams: New England Revolution (Real Boston Rams), Philadelphia Union (Reading United AC), and Seattle Sounders FC (Sounders FC U-23).
RSL Academy Coach Freddy Juarez recognized that some players need development beyond what the academy can provide as a U-18 program, “Some players will never make the jump. Some are ready at 16, 17, or 18. Some will go on to college and keep developing there.”
In his latest article Leander Schaerlaekens focuses on changes that he thinks college soccer needs to make. But in laying the foundation, he says something interesting:
The US Soccer Development Academy will soon expand to 100 clubs -- including MLS academies -- in the under-14, under-16 and under-18 divisions which operate according to a tightly regulated set of prescribed best practices. But those clubs offer no bridge to the pro game, the way MLS academies can via the homegrown contract.
Later, he adds:
A better synergy with the professional game could offer a solution. Many MLS academy products are simply not ready for a professional contract and opt to go to college instead. But once he gets there, he can still practice with the club but he can no longer play in his MLS club’s reserve team games. During his college’s summer break he can only play for the under-18s, if he’s still eligible, or the amateur under-23 Premier Development League (PDL) team.
I don’t think Schaerlaekens is calling for a league wide fielding of PDL U-23 teams, but maybe this wouldn’t be a bad thing. It looks like several of RSL’s Western Conference peers are testing the waters, and from some comments from Coach Kreis perhaps they’re already thinking of it.