USL Archive


Why the MLS-USL affiliation makes the free-agency issue even more urgent

usl_logo_detailWhen the now-expired Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed between Major League Soccer and its Players’ Union in 2010, the league didn’t have an established farm- or minor- or developmental league system.

Sure, MLS teams could loan out players or sometimes make deals to have them spend time in NASL. But, in 2010, other than reserve-team games, there was no entrenched system that could see a team send an under-contract MLS player to an affiliated lower-league team.

But, in 2015, MLS has an agreement in place with USL; the final dominoes to fall were the Canadian teams, now that the Canadian Soccer Association has granted sanctions to USL franchises in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver — albeit with tough quotas on how many Canadians those teams must put on the field.

It really doesn’t matter if you call the USL a developmental league, a league that deserves to be recognized as second division across North America, a farm league or a minor league. The fact is, all MLS teams carry the power to assign at least some of their players to their USL affiliates, much like Canadian forward Kyle Porter spent most of the 2014 season in Richmond and after being sent there by D.C. United.

Down the road, it would be hard to imagine an MLS without two-way contracts, like we see in the National Hockey League. A two-way contract is a deal which calls for a player to make one salary figure if he plays at the major-league level, and another salary if he’s at the minor-league level.

And it’s at the USL level where the issue of free agency — the divide that separates the union and MLS brass — might be most important. If players can be “parked” in the lower division for the lives of their contracts, including team options, then it’s hard to call USL anything else but a farm system. But, if players who are with MLS teams but don’t get the chance at first-team MLS football are offered the chance to move on, then we can argue that truly, USL is a system that puts the development of the player, first.

How so?
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It’s official: Calgary Foothills will play in PDL in 2015

The club, which will hold tryouts in early January, will play in the PDL’s Northwest Division. The division features teams from along the Pacific Coast in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia — so the Calgary team will face some significant road trips, as will their rivals when they have to head east across the Rockies.

The PDL has confirmed that Calgary Foothills will join the league for the 2015 season.

The club, which will hold tryouts in early January, will play in the PDL’s Northwest Division. The division features teams from along the Pacific Coast in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia — so the Calgary team will face some significant road trips, as will their rivals when they have to head east across the Rockies — and into the Mountain time zone.

The Vancouver Whitecaps won’t field a team in PDL this year, as it will focus on the new USL-PRO team that will play out of the University of British Columbia. But we can hope that a rivalry develops between Foothills and the Victoria Highlanders.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our club and the soccer community of Calgary to see high-profile soccer return to this great sporting city,” Calgary Foothills FC Technical Director and Head Coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said in a release issued by the PDL. “Since being a part of USL in the early 2000s, it has always been a personal goal of mine to return to USL with another team from Calgary.
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Fury pulls the plug on its W-League program

In late July of 2012, after scoring late in regulation time to tie the championship game, the Ottawa Fury women’s side won the W-League title in the shootout.

Two years later, and the Fury’s W-League team is no more.

In a briefly worded statement, the Fury announced that it will no longer be fielding a team in the W-League.

“The Fury has been an elite W-League team for more than a decade and we are very proud of the incredible on-field success of our players and our teams,” said Fury FC President (and USL hall of famer) John Pugh in the release. “We thank the fans for their support and hope they enjoy watching the many players with Fury connections that will play in this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.”

The team said that cutting the women’s team was a “business decision”

Since 2000, the Fury have won the second-most games in the W-League and are perennially a contender to go the league’s final four. Coach Dominic Oliveri has done a wonderful job in creating what was arguably the best women’s soccer program in North America outside of NWSL.

The Fury has been home to many women’s national-team players, such as Marie-Eve Nault, Kelly Parker, Christina Julien, Diana Matheson and Rhian Wilkinson.

In 2014, notable Canadians Kadeisha Buchanan, Bryanna McCarthy, Christabel Oduro and Shelina Zadorsky spent time with the Fury.



PLASTIC PITCH 3 is available now! “The Walking Reds” on the cover!

PPFALL2014COVERThe third issue of PLASTIC PITCH, our national soccer magazine, is out as of right now.

How to get PLASTIC PITCH? If you’re a subscriber, just update the Plastic Pitch app in your Android or IOS device. If not, you can get the App and magazine through iTunes, Apple Newsstand, Google Play and Amazon.

Halloween is coming up, so we decided on a Halloween cover. “The Walking Reds” cover combines soccer and zombies. Why? Because soccer and zombies were meant to be together. And it looks cool.

What will you find inside?
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Canadian quotas are price USL must pay for not having Canada at the table when MLS deal was hatched

Victor Montagliani

Victor Montagliani

Back in 2013, Major League Soccer announced its partnership plan with (officially regarded as) third division USL-PRO.

But there was a problem. It was an American agreement made with the oversight of American authorities. For MLS, which is a North American league, shutting Canada out of the process was a major problem.

So, now, both MLS and USL-Pro have to reap what they have sown. As the Montreal Impact (Montreal FC), Vancouver Whitecaps (New Westminster) and Toronto FC (maybe a team north of the city) move ahead with plans for affiliate USL-Pro teams for 2015, we have learned they will be subject to pretty tough quotas.

As reported by Duane Rollins in Canadian Soccer News (link here), any USL-PRO team affiliated with a Canadian MLS team will have to follow some strict roster rules. Half of the players on the squad must be Canadian-eligible, and six of the 11 starters must be Canadian-eligible.

By “eligible” we mean that, if Canadian national-team coach Benito Floro made the call, that player would be available to go.

The move will likely prevent teams from stashing foreign talent on their USL-PRO rosters, or treat their affiliates like true minor-league clubs. That’s fine. The Whitecaps have sent established non-Canadian pros to NASL’s FC Edmonton on loan in the past, and the two teams still have a strong relationship. Toronto FC sent Ryan Richter to the Ottawa Fury. No reason that the Fury can’t continue to build relationships with TFC and the Impact.
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CSA approves Calgary bid to join PDL; now, on to the next step

logofullThe Canadian Soccer Association has voted to sanction Calgary Foothills, if it becomes a member of the PDL in 2015.

The decision paves the way for Calgary Foothills to officially make an expansion bid to the United Soccer Leagues, which administers the PDL. The PDL is an elite league focused on prepping U-23 players for pro careers.

As it stands, the Victoria Highlanders, WSA Winnipeg and Vancouver Whitecaps U-23 are the only Western Canadian members of PDL at the moment.

Tommy Wheeldon Jr., the technical director of the Foothills club, told The 11 that the next step is getting all the paperwork to USL, and that should be done by the end of this week.
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FC Edmonton turns down a couple of loan offers from the Whitecaps

Whitecaps-FC-big-e1329410722765-116x150The Vancouver Whitecaps have an affiliation deal with the USL-PRO’s Charleston Battery in place, but that hasn’t dimmed their close relationship with NASL’s FC Edmonton.

On Monday, FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller confirmed that his club has already turned down two potential loan offers from the Whitecaps for the 2014 season. The reasons? FC Edmonton is already very deep in one of the positions played by one of the players who was offered. And, the other simply didn’t fit with the club.

“Bob (Whitecaps’ president Bob Lenarduzzi) and his staff know that their players need to be on the first team or on the fringes of the first team for us to consider them at the moment,” said Miller. “That’s how strongly I feel about the quality of our squad.”

Last season, the Whitecaps loaned defender Carlyle Mitchell to the Eddies; he was a standout performer in NASL, but was recalled to Vancouver just before the end of the spring season. A Whitecaps’ injury crisis forced his recall, and then he played so well, he wasn’t sent back.

Mitchell is still a major booster of the Eddies; his recommendation was key in central defender Kareem Moses coming to the team in 2014 — along with a personal endorsement made to Miller by current Trinidad and Tobago national-team coach (and former Canadian national-team coach) Stephen Hart.
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Calgary Foothills’ bid to join PDL to go in front of CSA in March

logofullThe Calgary Foothills Soccer Club’s bid for a PDL franchise will go to the Canadian Soccer Association to be voted on in March.

The club has financial backers and has informed the USL that it wants to begin play in the PDL in 2015. But, before USL can green-light a new franchise, it needs to see that the bid has been endorsed by both Alberta Soccer and the CSA. The Foothills executive expects the CSA to endorse its bid in March.

Foothills Technical Director Tommy Wheeldon Jr. says that he expects the bid to pass, as the club will offer more spots for U-23 Canadians to get minutes. He’s also aware that former FC Edmonton director of soccer has been trying to court investors, looking to get an NASL expansion franchise into Calgary. But, Wheeldon believes that the USL offers a better path.

“Right now, I believe that USL-PRO is the better path, it opens up a lot of avenues because of their affiliation with MLS.”
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Paterson leaves Charleston to become Ottawa Fury’s first signing: “I see teams in NASL challenging MLS”

Nicki Paterson

Nicki Paterson

Scottish midfielder Nicki Paterson is leaving the USL behind to become the first piece of the Ottawa Fury puzzle.

In a video conference that connected Paterson (in Glasgow) with journalists in Canada, the player was confirmed as the first-ever signing in the Fury’s NASL history. In 2014, the team becomes the second Canadian entry into NASL.

Paterson, 28, came through the Motherwell youth system but played NCAA soccer (UNLV) and has spent most of his professional career in the USL. He’d been with the Charleston Battery since 2011.

And he was quite clear on why he wanted to make the move to Ottawa.

“I see that league (NASL) outgrowing USL,” said Patterson. “I see teams in NASL challenging MLS.”
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Coach Dos Santos names Canadian roster for Francophone Games

Caleb Clarke

Caleb Clarke

The Canadian Soccer Association’s eyes are already on the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.

On Friday, coach Phillip Dos Santos (who’s also the technical director of the Ottawa Fury) names the roster for the upcoming Francophone Games in Nice, France. The U-21 squad named could very well be the core of the future U-23 team that will try and qualify for the 2016 Summer Games.

The Canadian team will kick off the group stage of the tournament against Cameroon Sept. 3, followed by matches against France on Sept. 6, Rwanda on Sept. 8 and Congo on Sept. 10.

The team has a very heavy Vancouver Whitecaps feel: Both Ben Fisk and Bryce Alderson, who the ‘Caps loaned out the USL Charleston Battery, are on the team. Also on the squad is striker Caleb Clarke, who the Whitecaps loaned out to German side, Augsburg. Whitecaps Residency attacker Yassin Essa is on the U-21 team.
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