The USL and MLS have had a formal partnership for nearly a decade at this point, and we’ve seen various iterations of it with LAFC.
They had a formal partnership with Orange County SC, and sent a few players on loan there across a couple seasons, before that partnership ended and the club has sent players on loan to several USL teams since then — Phoenix Rising FC, FC Tucson, San Diego Loyal and Las Vegas Lights FC.
About that last team...a report emerged Thursday that LAFC is in the process of making a partnership agreement with Las Vegas Lights to be their USL affiliate, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter.
BREAKING: #LVLights is in advanced talks to be #LAFC’s affiliate in 2021, sources tell The Athletic.— Jeff Rueter (@jeffrueter) February 4, 2021
LAFC would cover sporting and technical side (housed in LA, travel to Vegas for games) while Lights run business operation. Has not been submitted to #USL office for approval.
As Rueter reports, LAFC would handle the sporting operations and Lights FC would run the business side. I believe Las Vegas had some fans in attendance at games last year so they will likely get some fans in again this season, assuming the season actually happens, etc., although they are less likely to be able to get in huge crowds even if fans will be allowed.
From the Vegas side, this all makes sense in looking at context clues. Last season, Frank Yallop stepped in to coach the team after Eric Wynalda was fired just before the USL Championship restart, but Yallop has already taken another job with a pro team launching at Monterey Bay in 2022. No other coach has been announced to replace Yallop.
On top of that, while other USL Championship teams have been hustling to sign players this offseason, Lights FC have been conspicuously quiet, announcing just one (1) move, to pick up Blake Frischknecht’s contract option. It appears their communications staff no longer works for the club, judging from their social media and reactions on there to this report, and in this context, a real fear was that the club would fold, in light of the likes of Reno 1868 FC and North Carolina FC shutting down already this offseason in similar fashion. So this arrangement may, potentially, be saving Lights FC, even if it’s in a different guise.
Meanwhile, LAFC have been signing a slew of young players over the past year, and while there could be injuries and international absences again cratering any depth they have like in 2020, the idea of sending a cadre of youngsters who aren’t in contention for playing time with the first team for regular playing time at a lower professional level makes a lot of sense. And if LAFC is running the sporting side of things, they’ll have considerable control in terms of who they’re playing, how they’re playing and so forth. And that may provide more structure in terms of developing the younger guys, instead of having a few ad hoc loans each season.
So we’ll see what happens on this one but Rueter’s a golden source when it comes to the USL. The USL Championship is currently slated to kick off around May 1, so there’s some time to build all of this out in the run-up to both leagues starting up for 2021. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.