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Ghost Results

Major League Soccer sent some of their reserve teams into the 3rd tier of the US Soccer Pyramid this year. This is the first time in US Soccer history we have seen different levels play in meaningful games outside the US Open Cup. The precise intentions of this unique agreement are unclear. What isn't unclear are the results. Here's how the MLS reserves did.

Jonny Steele
Jonny Steele
L W Johnson

The USL Pro 2013 season wrapped up recently with Orlando City winning the league Championship while in regular season action the Richmond Kickers were able to go almost all season without a loss (finally fell on the last day of the season).

USL was a little different this year as MLS Reserve teams took part in regular season matches that actually counted on the overall league table.

Being the first year, things are still a work in progress but it worked out well. What ended up happening was 12 of the 14 participating MLS teams played a home and away match with a USL team. The other two (FC Dallas and San Jose Earthquakes) just beat up on an out of sorts and historically poor Antiqua Barracuda FC (no home matches for Barracuda this year).

Here is the list of MLS teams playing home and away in USL this past season: Portland Timbers, Toronto FC, Montreal Impact, Houston Dynamo, Columbus Crew, Colorado Rapids, Chicago Fire, New York Red Bulls, Los Angeles Galaxy , Real Salt Lake, Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders.

What's interesting is that if you take the 14 teams as a group you have them playing a total of 26 games, or equal to the length of the USL Pro season.

Meaning: One can take the combined results of the MLS Reserve teams and put them on the table as if they were one (MLS not 'officially' listed on final USL table even though their results were). This should give us an idea of the the quality of both the USL and MLS.

TEAM Pts GP W L T GF GA GD GFpGM GApGM GDpGM
1 Richmond Kickers 55 26 15 1 10 51 24 27 1.96 0.92 1.04
2 Orlando City 54 26 16 4 6 54 26 28 2.08 1.00 1.08
3 Charleston Battery 45 26 13 7 6 48 29 19 1.85 1.12 0.73
4 Harrisburg City Islanders 44 26 14 10 2 55 39 16 2.12 1.50 0.62
5 Charlotte Eagles 41 26 10 5 11 44 39 5 1.69 1.50 0.19
6 Los Angeles Blues 40 26 11 8 7 52 37 15 2.00 1.42 0.58
7 Pittsburgh Riverhounds 38 26 10 8 8 36 33 3 1.38 1.27 0.12
9 Wilmington Hammerheads 37 26 11 11 4 35 39 -4 1.35 1.50 -0.15
8 Dayton Dutch Lions 37 26 10 9 7 43 46 -3 1.65 1.77 -0.12
11 VSI Tampa Bay FC 32 26 9 12 5 41 39 2 1.58 1.50 0.08
12 Rochester Rhinos 28 26 6 10 10 25 39 -14 0.96 1.50 -0.54
10 MLS RESERVES 27 26 6 11 9 39 40 -1 1.50 1.54 -0.04
13 Phoenix FC Wolves 22 26 5 14 7 28 41 -13 1.08 1.58 -0.50
14 Antigua Barracuda FC 0 26 0 26 0 11 91 -80 0.42 3.50 -3.08

Down there in tenth place are the combined results of the MLS Reserve sides participating in this inaugural year of the partnership.

THERE ARE A FEW TAKEAWAYS FROM THIS

First and foremost is that there is comparable talent between USL and MLS Reserves. That's the obvious (and mildly surprising) takeaway.

2nd off is that these MLS Reserve teams are not true reserve teams like you might see in other leagues. These are senior roster (usually 15-30 depth chart) players that are way down the bench. It's not uncommon to see cap / budget hit MLS player or four (1-20) playing in reserve league action.

For example, with the Columbus Crew this year, fans in town saw 1st team players like Matias Sanchez ($190k), Bernardo Anor, Tony Tchani ($130k), Tyson Wahl ($76k), Justin Meram and Chad Barson make regular appearances in reserve.

United Soccer League's "Pro" division is listed as third tier on the US Soccer pyramid. What the results above suggest is that the line between the 1st and 3rd division might not be that wide and that, outside the top 50 (or so) MLS players, the pyramid is not a pyramid at all... more a square.

Pyramids_movesmallerdiff_medium

This is only the first year of the partnership and some might argue that MLS Reserve teams were more focused on working out players and new tactics. Fair enough. But if you take into account what happens in the third round of the US Open Cup and what locals here in central Ohio have seen in the rivalry between the Dayton Dutch Lions and the Columbus Crew you'll see that these are meaningful, hard fought, matches.

It is not a bad thing that the talent gap might not be that great between the top three divisions. In fact, it should be seen as opportunity.

If the talent level isn't much different between the different levels of the US Soccer pyramid then one could conclude that there are good players to be had at all levels and that search nets need not be as wide as some clubs (Toronto, Chivas, assorted bad MLS teams reaching and over paying for talent) might think.

GHOST RESULTS

While not listed on the final table, the results that occured between USL teams and MLS franchises counted on the final USL Pro table. The results we saw this year in the USL suggest that the answers needed to make a playoff level team just might be right under our noses. Toiling away at a competitive level. Just waiting for that chance.

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Here are the 26 results betwixt USL and MLS, as I have them:

DATE GAME TIME AWAY TEAM AWAY G HOME G HOME TEAM STADIUM
4/7/2013 106 5:00 PM VSI Tampa Bay FC 1 2 Portland Timbers Reserves JELD-WEN Field
4/20/2013 250 9:00 PM Harrisburg City Islanders 2 1 Colorado Rapids Reserves Dick's Sporting Goods Park
4/22/2013 121 9:00 PM Phoenix FC Wolves 0 0 Real Salt Lake Reserves Rio Tinto Stadium
5/7/2013 140 10:00 PM Los Angeles Blues 3 4 Los Angeles Galaxy Reserves Home Depot Center
5/12/2013 147 7:00 PM Orlando City 2 0 Seattle Sounders FC Reserves Cheney Stadium
5/19/2013 154 11:00 AM Charleston Battery 1 0 Houston Dynamo Reserves BBVA Compass Stadium
6/1/2013 167 7:30 PM Portland Timbers Reserves 4 4 VSI Tampa Bay FC Plant City Stadium
6/7/2013 176 7:35 PM Montreal Impact Reserves 1 1 Rochester Rhinos Sahlen's Stadium
6/7/2013 173 7:00 PM Toronto FC Reserves 1 1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds Highmark Stadium
6/8/2013 177 7:00 PM Colorado Rapids Reserves 3 1 Harrisburg City Islanders Skyline Sports Complex
6/8/2013 180 7:30 PM Columbus Crew Reserves 4 4 Dayton Dutch Lions Beavercreek High School
6/8/2013 179 7:30 PM Houston Dynamo Reserves 1 4 Charleston Battery Blackbaud Stadium
6/14/2013 183 7:45 PM Chicago Fire Reserves 1 2 Charlotte Eagles Queens Sports Complex
6/15/2013 104 10:30 PM Los Angeles Galaxy Reserves 1 1 Los Angeles Blues Home Depot Center
6/15/2013 188 7:30 PM New York Red Bulls Reserves 0 1 Wilmington Hammerheads Legion Stadium
6/15/2013 187 10:30 PM Real Salt Lake Reserves 0 0 Phoenix FC Wolves Sun Devil Soccer Stadium
6/22/2013 196 7:00 PM Vancouver Whitecaps FC Reserves 1 1 Richmond Kickers City Stadium
6/29/2013 206 8:30 PM Charlotte Eagles 2 1 Chicago Fire Reserves Toyota Park
6/30/2013 207 4:30 PM Wilmington Hammerheads 2 1 New York Red Bulls Reserves Red Bull Arena
7/10/2013 226 7:30 PM Dayton Dutch Lions 1 3 Columbus Crew Reserves Crew Stadium
7/15/2013 228 10:00 PM Antigua Barracuda FC 0 6 San Jose Earthquakes Reserves Kezar Stadium
7/21/2013 238 2:00 PM Rochester Rhinos 0 0 Montreal Impact Reserves Saputo Stadium
7/23/2013 239 8:00 PM Antigua Barracuda FC 1 3 FC Dallas Reserves FC Dallas Stadium
7/23/2013 240 7:00 PM Richmond Kickers 2 1 Vancouver Whitecaps FC Reserves UBC Thunderbird Stadium
7/27/2013 251 4:30 PM Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1 0 Toronto FC Reserves BMO Field
8/11/2013 271 7:30 PM Seattle Sounders FC Reserves 0 2 Orlando City Florida Citrus Bowl

Thanks for reading.