Hamilton on Adding Depth
During yesterday’s “State of the League” conference call with Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, a number of plans for the future of MLS were announced. One such statement was the news that team rosters will expand to 30 players in 2011, and, along with the expansion in the size of the squad, the Reserve League will make a return.
Chivas USA Vice President of Soccer Operations Stephen Hamilton sees these moves as unequivocally positive, both for individual teams in MLS, and also for the league as a whole.
“I think it’s great,” Hamilton said on Tuesday. “A lot of the teams are in a number of different competitions throughout the year, so I think it allows us to compete both domestically and internationally.”
The expanded roster sizes will allow teams more flexibility as the maneuver though the MLS regular season, the U.S. Open Cup, the MLS Cup Playoffs, and other competitions like SuperLiga and the CONCACAF Champions League.
“It allows you to have the necessary depth to get through a grueling campaign,” said Hamilton. “Next year we’ll have the Open Cup and the regular season, and hopefully the playoffs to get through, and having those extra slots allows us to do some things.”
As MLS teams’ rosters expand from 24 players to 30, the opportunity for young players will expand. The six extra spots on each team are exclusively for players under the age of 24, and the opportunities for Homegrown Players (like Bryan de la Fuente, above) who have come through MLS clubs’ youth systems, will also go up.
“In terms of developing quality young players that can make it to this level, it gives them a bridge from the youth development team to the first team, and we look forward to identifying and hopefully signing players as we move forward to fill some of those spots,” continued Hamilton.
“We feel good about the quality of players we have in our youth program, and it is a big jump from one to the other but now having the Reserve League will give them an opportunity to develop and compete against men, against guys that are professionals, day in and day out. We’re looking forward to it."
The Reserve League will consist of 10 games per team, as well as playoffs for the teams that do best in the short regular season.
“Having the Reserve League gives us a great opportunity to develop those extra players, those younger players,” added Hamilton. “There are a lot of benefits in the Reserve League even for established players, in terms of returning from injury and everything else, so I think it’ll help our coaching staff make evaluations going forward in regards to players that perform well in the Reserve League and having the confidence and the trust to play them in first team games."