Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez talked about the club’s affiliation with USL club Saint Louis FC earlier this week, and Thursday brought official renewal of the partnership between the two clubs.
The Fire will be able to loan players to Saint Louis FC and have the option to recall them throughout the season. Last season, the Fire loaned Patrick Doody, Kingsley Bryce and goalkeeper Alec Kann to St. Louis. Doody made 21 appearances for the club, Bryce played in 10 games and Kann, who was claimed by Sporting Kansas City during the re-entry draft in December, made 19 appearances in goal. Mike Magee also made one appearance for the USL club while returning from injury.
The United Soccer League will be a 29-team league in 2016 with six expansion teams set to debut. Saint Louis FC was an expansion club last season and posted an 8-11-9 record.
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A growing number of USL clubs are wholly owned by MLS clubs, which allows the MLS team to send more players under their control to the USL. The Los Angeles Galaxy started the trend in 2014 with LA Galaxy II and were joined by seven more in 2015 with three more set to debut this season. The Fire are one of nine MLS clubs that do not own a USL club.
Rodriguez spoke highly of the relationship with Saint Louis FC in a conference call on Tuesday, noting that two of the club’s coaches will join the Fire for preseason training in Tampa in early February and that Saint Louis FC coach Dale Schilly was at the MLS Combine to help provide input on players.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions with Saint Louis FC because we suspect that there are going to be players that we provide to them and they did such a great job last year with Alec Kann, Kingsley Bryce and Patrick Doody,” Rodriguez said. “We know they’ll do a great job again for us this year so it’s important that we did communicate and talk about what needs they may have in their roster so that did play a part in who we drafted and how we drafted. Saint Louis has been very, very good about stressing to us that our needs fall No. 1 and that they’ll work with us. At the same time we’re sensitive to wanting to make sure that we deliver value to the relationship as well.”