We’ve said most of what there needs to be said about the year-long quasi-formal relationship between the Charleston Battery and the Vancouver Whitecaps, but now that the deal is officially done, here’s Battery President Andrew Bell with the first look at what it means.
CHS: What went into making this informal relationship formal?
AB: We were working on the deal for a long time, and it just got to the point where we were both ready to announce it. There’s some paperwork that had to be done… and it was really just a formality that it was finished today.
CHS: Were there certain things that you needed from them that you didn’t have last year, but have now?
AB: Not really. It’s funny because we’ve known Vancouver for such a long time, and we’ve talked over the years about doing something with them. We had conversations about this before it was possible, before Major League Soccer and USL PRO had come to an agreement.
I think philosophically both were comfortable that we were thinking along the same lines. We definitely wanted to make sure we were affiliated with the right MLS club, and Vancouver is right up there with the best.
One of the things that’s attractive is they have an excellent academy system, they have a residency program. Part of their philosophy as a club is to bring young players through. And obviously, we can offer them a chance to kinda continue along that way.
CHS: Other than that, what else to you think you offer them?
AB: We feel that we’re one of the top clubs in USL PRO. We’ve been doing this for a long time. We’ve got an excellent head coach. We’ve got a strong technical staff. And we also have a proven track record of taking players and getting them into Major League Soccer. So it’s something we’ve been trying to do for a few years now. Hopefully having a formal affiliation with an MLS club will help to continue that.
CHS: Did this agreement come with an agreement about what players might be coming this way?
AB: Specific players? No. We have a good idea of who we’re going to be looking at here in the next few weeks with Vancouver. Mike and I were both down at the MLS combine with Vancouver looking at the players for the draft, and I believe Mike is going to go out to Phoenix for some of the Vancouver preseason, so we can look at some more of the players at that point. At the same point, we’re still going to have a bunch of players that are contracted to the Charleston Battery. So we’re working on both fronts at the moment.
CHS: Because from Coach Anhaeuser’s perspective, his shopping list is contingent on what he might be getting from Vancouver.
AB: Absolutely. And Vancouver, to their credit, and having been in the situation we’re in, having played in USL, are very aware of that as well. We made a point of going through our current contracted players with them so they have a good idea of what we have, and hopefully between us we can figure out some of the gaps and make a very, very strong squad.
CHS: One of the thing that’s not clear to me in all these affiliations is whether the USL PRO veterans are part of the MLS club’s considerations. Does this mean that the MLS club in an affiliation like this would have first-dibs on a player like Colin Falvey if he moves up?
AB: It’s a great question. I think that that’s still a part of the affiliation process that’s in process. We still want to encourage and help as many of our players as possible to make it to the netxt level, Colin included. But the other part of it is, for this to work properly, you have to have some veteran and experienced players on the USL PRO squad, to help the younger players that are coming from Major League Soccer, and our young players, to develop as professionals. So we’re always going to have to keep an eye on the balance there.
CHS: Is there a possibility that there could be some in-season loans that went the other way, even if they were short ones to fill a gap?
AB: There’s definitely always that possibility and we’d help Vancouver whatever way we could. But we are competing in a league and we’re trying to win that competition, so anything we did we’d to be thinking about that side of it as well.
CHS: There were different approaches to how MLS clubs handled affiliation loans last year. DC United and Richmond shared players back and forth every week. Sporting KC sent down top prospects (Dom Dwyer) and established players (C.J. Sapong). Vancouver sent teenagers and PDL players. Is Vancouver likely to continue that pattern, or will they reshape that?
AB: I think with the formal affiliation we’re likely to get four players from the MLS roster. But because Vancouver is kind of a unique club, because they do have the PDL team still, and they have their academy and residency programs, so it’s possible that we might get a couple of players from that side of it as well, just like last year.
But overall I think the philosophy will be, at least we would hope, that the players come for the full season. Obviously, if there’s a need from the parent club, then they’re going to need the player back. but we want to try to develop players and try to give them as much playing time and game experience as we can to help them.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.