Photo by Brad Smith/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
An affiliate partnership with a USL Pro team has been all the craze for MLS clubs in recent months, but the LA Galaxy have decided to avoid that trend and start one of their own.
The Galaxy announced on Wednesday the launch of LA Galaxy II, a professional team that will compete in third division USL Pro. The move is historic in that it marks the first time an MLS club will own and operate a lower division professional team within the club’s player development structure, much like other teams throughout the world have.
Curt Onalfo, an assistant coach with the first team since 2011, has been named the head coach of LA Galaxy II and will be tasked with leading the club while also developing players for the LA Galaxy’s first team in MLS.
Like their parent club, LA Galaxy II will train and play all of its home matches at StubHub Center.
“The LA Galaxy are taking a monumental step for player development in North America,” said Galaxy president Chris Klein. “The creation of LA Galaxy II, through USL PRO, provides the Galaxy with a fully realized player development program starting with the Under-12 Academy teams through the LA Galaxy first team. The investment of AEG and the Galaxy in LA Galaxy II allows us to continue to develop the best players in Southern California and lessen the gap between the academy and the LA Galaxy.”
LA Galaxy II will provide ample playing time and development opportunities for players within the LA Galaxy system, as the USL Pro season consists of 28 regular-season games and playoffs. LA Galaxy II are expected to feature players they sign, LA Galaxy first team players and LA Galaxy academy players.
“We are thrilled to welcome LA Galaxy II into USL PRO as our newest expansion club,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “Entering the second season of our partnership with Major League Soccer, the addition of LA Galaxy II into our competition is an exciting development for all the league’s stakeholders and fortifies our continued efforts to remain the strongest league below and in support of MLS on and off the field.
“It is particularly fitting that the LA Galaxy, one of Major League Soccer’s true groundbreakers and pioneers across so many different fronts during the past two decades, are now the first to fully embrace the value and potential of placing a team in USL PRO.”
The process of building LA Galaxy II’s team will begin immediately. LA Galaxy technical director Jovan Kirovski, director of soccer operations David Kammarman and Onalfo will identify the players that make up the roster, which can include any number of first team LA Galaxy players via loans.
Additionally, Galaxy II may call in Galaxy academy products for training and games and those players will still retain their amateur status.
“LA Galaxy II gives our young players, both in the academy and on the first team, additional playing time and opportunities to grow as players,” said Kirovski. “We see this as a pioneering effort in player development in North America and something that will advance our club on the field and in the community.”
What do you think of this initiative by the Galaxy? Hoping more MLS teams follow suit in the not too distant future? Fully expect LA Galaxy II to compete for a USL Pro championship this season?
Share your thoughts below.