This weekend, FCC hits the road again, this time to our northern neighbors. Here’s a little bit about our opponents and the questions that arise in regards to their name, our league’s organization, and the American soccer pyramid.
First things first, this weekend’s matchup:
This Sunday at 4 PM, FC Cincinnati will play Toronto FC II. I’ll be stuck at work, but several Die Innenstadt members will be at the traditional gathering spot of Rhinehaus to catch the action.
Where they come from:
This team is the reserve side of MLS club Toronto FC. The MLS team was established in 2005, the league’s first Canadian franchise. After a one year stint in 2014 utilizing the Wilmington Hammerheads as their affiliate, Toronto FC established the “2 team” who began playing in 2015. The second squad serves as a bridge between TFC’s developmental academy and the main team.
What do you call a team with a generic “2” name?:
As best I can tell, the “2 team” doesn’t have any nicknames. Personally I think “T2” would be fitting. Playing off the nickname for the wonderful Terminator 2: Judgement Day, you could call this team “the terminators,” “the T-1000s,” “the sequels,” or “the Robert Patrick’s.” T2 doesn’t seem to have any specific supporters groups dedicated just to them*, but if any of you Canucks get the idea, you’re welcome for the nickname suggestions. It sounds a lot better than Toronto Football Club Number Two.
*The team does appear to draw a collection of supporters comprised of members from the main club's various groups.
How do they look coming into the weekend?:
“The Terminators” started the season drawing against the New York reserve squad, then beat their Canadian rivals of Montreal 2-1, before reaching another draw against Pittsburgh in their home debut. They sit at 5 points, one below Cincinnati as they prepare to host the Orange and Blue following our loss at home to Louisville.
Away game venue:
“The T-1000s” actually play just outside of Toronto, to the north in the suburb of Vaughn. Think of it like Mason to Cincinnati, coincidentally enough it actually features an amusement park within the same chain as Kings Island. The suburban 2 squad plays in a 3500 seat stadium, part of a much larger soccer and training complex.
What’s the deal with all the “2” teams?:
“The sequels” are like several USL sides in that they serve as a reserve squad for one of the major league teams. They join Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, Seattle Sounders FC 2, Portland Timbers 2, LA Galaxy 2, and New York Red Bulls 2 in the “secondary team” category. Orlando City B does as well, but changes up their name a little bit. Meanwhile, the Real Monarchs, Swope Park Rangers, Montreal FC, and Bethlehem Steel are affiliates owned by MLS entities, but lack the “2” or “B” nomenclature. They’re marketed more as their own independent identities. Rochester, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Charlotte, Wilmington, St. Louis, Charleston, Rio Grande Valley, Oklahoma City, and Sacramento feature MLS affiliation, but are under their own ownership. Rounding out the league, Orange County, Colorado Springs, Arizona, San Antonio, Tulsa, Louisville, Harrisburg, and our very own FC Cincinnati all operate as independent clubs.
The reserve squad teams are more directly linked with their parent organization, while the affiliated teams provide development as well, they tend to have more control over their roster and can focus more on league competition as opposed to development. Minor league soccer is a completely different animal than say minor league baseball. In baseball, you have leagues comprised of teams at various levels that are directly affiliated with major league development deals. If a team wants to be completely independent, they’re forced to participate in a league with no direct affiliation to the MLB organization (i.e. the local Florence Freedom). This doesn’t prevent players from eventually landing big league deals or rising the ranks, but the independent clubs operate completely outside of the MLB and MiLB structures.
In American soccer, you have a landscape like what we have here in the USL: direct reserve squads, affiliated teams, and independent clubs. There are arguments that go both ways. Some claim the “2” teams can “water down” the league and that they’re not as interested in being competitive, rather they’re more focused on development. However, I’d love to meet the team that doesn’t want to win! Even if the long term focus isn’t on securing a league championship, these “2” teams have proven time and time again that they’re playing to win games. They may lack the identities associated with teams like us and Louisville, but they can make formidable opponents. For example, look at the Red Bulls 2 squad. They’re one point behind Louisville in the standings and opened the season with a strong offensive salvo and LA Galaxy 2 were in last year's championship.
The “Robert Patrick’s” of Toronto that we play this weekend will be an interesting matchup for our local squad. They’re not packing in crowds of 20,000 or even taking headlines from the parent club, but they are ranked 4th in this week's power rankings. FC Cincinnati is looking to rebound from the defeat at the hands of Louisville.
So how does USL fall into the US Soccer Pyramid?:
Our first matchup against a reserve side may beg this question for some. With how our league is organized, are we directly under MLS or not a true feeder league given some clubs’ lack of an affiliation? When FCC was first announced, I heard plenty of people speak about how the USL was “one step below MLS” when a quick read of the league’s Wikipedia page says otherwise.
So here’s how it is according to the United States Soccer Federation, our nation’s governing body:
Division 1: Major League Soccer, the nation’s top flight league since 1996 and one FC Cincinnati hopes to join in the future.
Division 2: North American Soccer League, sanctioned as Division 2 and connected to the prominent league of the 1970s in name only. NASL aspires for Division 1 status. I’ll skip the arguments for and against that, but NASL typically doesn’t typically get too cozy with MLS.
Division 3: United Soccer League, our current league and one which is quickly growing. As you’ve seen in this article, USL enjoys a close relationship with MLS and often serves as a player development ground after the league began absorbing the remains of the MLS reserve league. Rumors persist that USL will apply for Division 2 status soon.
So what does it all mean?:
The playing of “2” clubs, often gets overlooked. I’ve heard and seen several fans, commentators, writers, and analysts alike refer to reserve sides like Toronto 2 simply as “Toronto." I think it’s important that people understand how these clubs actually exist and where they line up along with their parent organizations. It’s also important to have an understanding of soccer in the United States and our own league. In a future post, I plan to cover FC Cincinnati’s ambitions to join the ranks of Major League Soccer (and maybe even get into the arguments over promotion and relegation if I have enough beers). For now, hopefully you’ve gotten a clearer outlook on the often confusing nature of US soccer organization. We’re playing “Toronto” this weekend, but not the Toronto MLS squad.
The bottom line: don’t overlook a club because of its generic name. FC Cincinnati is looking to come back after a tough loss, to regroup in a season that’s still in its infancy. It'll be "judgement day" for reasons other than a convenient joke:
- How does our team shape up against an MLS development side?
- How will they bounce back after the loss at home to Louisville?
- How will they perform back on the road?
- Will they deploy any new strategy?
Hopefully they can do it this weekend against “The sons of Linda Hamilton.”