MLS Loan System Is A Step In The Right Direction

Earlier this month the MLS announced that it had approved a new intra league loan system.  Up until the announcement, the rules in the MLS guidelines were very clear.   Under the 2012 MLS Roster Rules Section III, Article B: Transfer and Loans,

An MLS player may be transferred or loaned at any time to a team outside the League (subject to that team’s Federation’s transfer window), subject to the consent of the player.

The registration windows – the dates between which MLS may request the transfer certificate of a player under contract in another country – are as follows:

  • January 21 – April 15 (Primary Window)
  • June 27 – July 27 (Secondary Window)

The new rules are designed specifically for young players in the league.  They state that the players being loaned cannot be older than 24 years old and loan deals can only be set up during the primary transfer window of that season, which was between February and May for the 2013 season.   In addition to those stipulations, all loan deals are to be for the duration of the season and the players only return to their parent clubs upon the completion of the MLS Cup.  The MLS has left negotiation of loans completely to the clubs and they have not put any restrictions on the number of players that a team may loan or take on loan.

MLS vice president of player relations and competition Lino DiCuollo states that “The loan rule is meant to get young guys moving more within the league, especially if they’re not playing for their team.” This goal seems very calculated and interesting given the reluctance in the past to introduce a loan system.  The appearance, given the restriction on age  and duration of the loan period indicate some studying of other loan systems, specifically the Premier League’s.

The Premier League’s loan system was initially developed for the same reason’s the MLS has established theirs: To offer development options to players not getting enough playing time.  The difference being that the restrictions that the MLS has put into place were not put into place for the EPL and it has turned into a way for clubs to offload unwanted players for a season at a potential suitor.  Manchester City was the biggest abuser of the system when they had millions of pounds in top tier talent sitting in their clubhouse not even on the roster because they had too many players signed.

The loan system in England has also been successful though in the other desired area; youth development.  Jack Wilshere is a prime example of a successful loan perod when he went on loan to Bolton for  season from Arsenal.  In his time at Bolton he gained roughly 1000 minutes of total game time and upon returning to Arsenal the next season he slotted right into the Starting XI.  If loans are set up properly with a team that both needs a player in that position and a coach who is willing to put faith in the young player, then it can work wonders for confidence and development.

The MLS announced this development in a column on their official website on April 19th.  The loan system is said to have been quietly in place for the 2013 season. Given the transfer window restriction, this announcement seem very poorly timed if this is the first clubs are hearing about it.  The more likely scenario is that clubs were informed of the development in time to act should they wish to.  As it turns out no team has utilized the intra-MLS loan system yet.  A personal theory on why no one has utilized the rule is that with the stipulation about whole season loans, certain clubs may be a little reluctant, especially given salary cap restrictions, to send a promising young player off with smaller roster sizes.  As for why the MLS made the announcement so late, the move was probably to reduce the amount of press surrounding young players and potential loan moves especially with this being the first ever introduction of intra league loan rules.  The US already has an issue with hype, and players who appear to have potential in the National Team.

The new loan system, albeit unused at the moment, is a very positive step forward for the MLS and youth development in the US.  This step and the step to start incorporating MLS reserve squads in USL competition are moves that take the game forward.  With MLS academies producing more homegrown talent for clubs and the ability of clubs to loan to USL and NASL tems due to the USL-MLS reserve squad partnership, clubs ow have a wide range of possibilities with regard to their young talents.

The new intra league rules are new and have a little bit more impact on the MLS than the USL partnership and as a result teams might be timid on their loans to other MLS clubs.  An aspect that will soon be noticed will be the potential to loan to teams in the other conference without fear that their player will face them.  With time the MLS loan system will grow and the USL partnership is already showing signs of a big loan interaction.  Of the 19 clubs participating in the MLS, 8 are currently utilizing the loan system with lower division USL and NASL clubs made available by the push to merge MLS reserve squads into USL competition.  The ten clubs and their respective loan players include:

Eastern Conference

DC United

  • D/M Taylor Kemp (Richmond Kickers)
  • F Michael Seaton (Richmond Kickers)
  • M Conor Shanosky (Richmond Kickers)
  • F Casey Townsend (Richmond Kickers)

New England Revolution

  • D Bilal Duckett (Rochester Rhinos)
  • F Matt Horth (Rochester Rhinos)
  • M Gabe Latigue (Rochester Rhinos)
  • D Tyler Polak (Rochester Rhinos)

Sporting Kansas City

  • GK Jon Kempin (Orlando City SC)
  • M Christian Duke (Orlando City SC)
  • D Yann Songo’o (Orlando City SC)
  • F Dom Dwyer (Orlando City SC)

Philadelphia Union

  • M Jimmy McLaughlin (Harrisburg City Islanders)
  • M Greg Jordan (Harrisburg City Islanders)
  • F Cristhian Hernandez (Harrisburg City Islanders)
  • M Don Anding (Harrisburg City Islanders)

Chicago Fire

  • Kellen Gulley (Atlanta Silverbacks)

Houston Dynamo

  • Alex Dixon (Tampa Bay Rowdies)
  • Brian Ownby (Richmond Kickers)

Western Conference

Vancouver Whitecaps

  • Carlyle Mitchell (FC Edmonton)

Chivas USA

  • GK Patrick McLain (LA Blues)
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