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USL teams will allow rosters to carry MLS academy players

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The USL-Pro division has announced it will allow its teams to each add five roster spots for academy players.

This move, announced Wednesday, is a step forward for the league after announcing a new partnership with MLS last month. The deal will see MLS teams either directly affiliate with USL teams or have their reserve teams play USL teams that will count in the standings for the Div. 3 sides. Toronto FC’s reserves will play Pittsburgh this season, the Montreal Impact’s extras will face Rochester and the Vancouver Whitecaps reserves will take on Richmond. Each of the Canadians MLS teams will have one home and one away date to a USL side.

MLS academy players can be sent to the USL and take an academy spot there. According to USL, “Players must meet several requirements in order to qualify for an academy player slot: they must be younger than 21 at the start of the current season; they can’t have competed collegiately; they must never have signed as a professional. Additionally, the player must either be from a club’s region, an affiliate youth team or from an MLS affiliate.”

So, these can’t be treated as minor-league spots, to send pro players who aren’t being used in an MLS side’s starting XI.

What isn’t clear though — and has yet to be made clear by MLS and USL — is how this agreement will be implemented in Canada. The Canadian Soccer Association has already made it clear that it will not sanction Div. 3 teams in Canada that play in an American league — and that’s the level at which USL-Pro operates. The three MLS teams will be allowed to affiliate and/or create Canadian-based USL teams, but they won’t be recognized by the CSA as freestanding clubs and wouldn’t be eligible for national competitions.

And, the recently released Easton Report recommends that the four existing pro clubs in Canada — the three MLS sides and FC Edmonton of NASL — place their reserves in a new national Div. 3 set-up, if such a league can get off the ground.

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