I’ve talked a bit about USL PRO teams and the PDL, but not everyone knows what these two leagues are and how they fit into the bigger picture of US Soccer (and maybe into player development). If I’m going to keep talking about this stuff (and believe me, I am), maybe I should take a little time to explain things.
The US Soccer system, sometimes called a pyramid, is divided into tiers. This is further complicated by the (sometimes feuding) organizations that control these leagues.
At the top is Major League Soccer (MLS), the US first division of soccer. Beneath that is the North American Soccer League (NASL), made up of some of the teams that made up USL1 (a now-defunct league). The third tier is USL PRO, which is made up of the remainder of the teams from the old USL 1 and the surviving teams from the USL2. Under that is the USL Premier Development League(PDL), along with the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and parts of the Pacific Coast Soccer League (PCSL). Beneath this there are a variety of club and amateur leagues.
All of these are a part of the US Open Cup tournament. This has historically been the way lower division clubs come the the attention of MLS fans For example the Amateur Cal FC who beat Portland before losing to Seattle in 2012, or the annual friendly between the (PDL) BYU Cougars and Real Salt Lake.
MLS clubs have also loaned out players to USL PRO and NASL teams to give them playing time and extra development. This is becoming more formal with an agreement that started this year entangling the USL PRO with MLS Reserves. The stated intent is that by 2015 every MLS club will either affiliate with an existing USL PRO side, or start one of their own.
The big question now is what is RSL’s plans going forward in regards with this agreement? It is something that we will be following up here on the blog.