Sandy • As the Real Salt Lake reserves took on Phoenix FC under the lights at Rio Tinto Stadium on Monday night, RSL leaders watched closely, evaluating the future potential — and not just the players’.
"I think most, if not all, MLS teams will have some kind of stand alone reserve team within two years," RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey said. "That’s my prediction. That’s my gut. As a result, we have to look at our options and what that is going to look like for us."
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For RSL, that could even mean creating a minor league team in Utah.
"There are kind of two options: partner with an existing USL team or start our own," Lagerwey said. "Both are firmly on the table."
Looking to improve player development, Major League Soccer has grown its reserve system in recent years, expanding the slate of games from 10 last year to 14 this season. But perhaps no development has been more significant than a partnership announced this year between MLS and the United Soccer Leagues.
The agreement — the reason for Monday night’s matchup with Phoenix, which ended in a scoreless tie — will give MLS squads a chance to partner with USL Pro teams, sending their players to the third-tier league on loan and allowing them to be recalled at any time.
The partnership will give MLS a "step between the academy and the first team," Lagerwey said.
Already a handful of MLS teams have formed partnerships. RSL, meanwhile, continues to weigh its choices before moving forward.
If RSL were to create its own stand-alone reserve team, Salt Lake "is in the mix" in terms of potential markets, the GM said. RSL will be looking to balance financial sense with control over player development as it looks to make its decision, something Lagerwey said was still some 18 months away from happening.
"That’s the intention behind the game tonight — take it seriously and treat it as if it’s a possible future league match and see how it goes," Lagerwey said. "We’ll take the information and the revenue we generate and see if it’s viable."
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