Tonight I was watching Metro Sports Zone on Metro Sports, watching a feature that was being done on Kyle Miller and Matt Kuhn and their attempts to become the 5th and 6th local players on Sporting KC's current roster. It struck a thought in my head that I'd been thinking about yesterday after an announcement from the Seattle Sounders. Yesterday, the Seattle Sounders announced that they'd reached a partnership with the Tacoma Tide that sees the Tide become the Sounders FC U-23.
The Sounders become the 5th MLS team to get a team in the PDL, joining Chicago, Portland, Vancouver, and DC. Orlando City of the USL-Pro division also has a U-23 team in the PDL. The idea of a PDL team I think is a really good idea for MLS sides. Especially with the academies becoming more and more important. Players that played in the academy but aren't quite ready to make the jump up to the first team could play on the PDL team while in college to improve their play and potentially be a later academy signing similar to Kevin Ellis, who was signed after 2 years at Barton Community College. A place for those guys to play is certainly a good thing, especially if the players know there is a linked connection between the PDL team and the MLS squad.
Some people will say that the idea of having a PDL team hasn't worked out too well for the Fire though. There were 11 players from the Chicago Fire Premier that were selected in the MLS SuperDraft in Kansas City, and the Fire didn't get the rights to those players. The main reason for that was because academy signing requirements require the player to have to have been in the academy before they enter college. Most of the Fire Premier players only joined the team AFTER they entered college, hence why they couldn't be signed by the Fire. But I think we're going to see more and more players that attend college for a year or two and continue to play with their MLS academy teammates in the summer with the teams U23 teams in the PDL.
Kansas City does have a local PDL team themselves, the Kansas City Brass. The Brass have been around since 1997, one year less than Sporting KC has been. The Brass and the Wizards have a good working relationship, the team has drafted a lot of players that have spent time with the Brass while they were in college. In fact, the past two coaches for the Brass, Jefferson and Lincoln Roblee have both assisted Peter Vermes and the Sporting KC staff at times, including during the open tryouts the past few years. The two teams also play quite often during the summer as a way for some of the reserves a chance to play.
So it's not like the two teams are at odds with each other, they have a very good working relationship. But there is something to be said about making it an official relationship between the two teams, to give a good continued path from the Juniors to the first team with a stop in between for those that may not be quite ready to step from the Juniors directly to the first team. I've seen lots of local KC players go to places like Des Moines for the summer to play with the Menace instead of staying in KC. The goal should be to keep all the best KC players, especially those tied in with the Juniors academy in town where they can be watched and coached by the Sporting KC staff.