Now into it's second season, the MLS and USL PRO partnership is going well with 11 MLS sides currently affiliated with lower league teams, allowing younger players or those at the ends of MLS benches the ability to gain more playing time in meaningful matches at the USL level.
From the Fire end, we've seen the other side of the USL PRO partnership this past week, as the club's Reserve side played two matches against the Rochester Rhinos and Charlotte Eagles with the games counting in both the MLS Reserve Standings as well as the USL PRO table. With MLS mandating that all clubs either need to have an affiliation or begin a separate team in the USL PRO division by 2015, the Fire and seven other MLS sides will surely have this in the forefront this year.
A look at the current MLS/USL PRO affiliations:
|USL PRO Club||MLS Club|
|Arizona United SC||-|
|Charleston Battery||Vancouver Whitecaps|
|Dayton Dutch Lions||Columbus Crew|
|Harrisburg City Islanders||Philadelphia Union|
|LA Galaxy II||LA Galaxy|
|Oklahoma City Energy||Sporting KC|
|Orange County Blues||-|
|Orlando City SC||Sporting KC**|
|Pittsburgh Riverhounds||Houston Dynamo|
|Richmond Kickers||D.C. United|
|Rochester Rhinos||New England Revolution|
|Sacramento Republic||Portland Timbers & San Jose Earthquakes|
|Wilmington Hammerheads||Toronto FC|
**Sporting KC will have main affiliation with Oklahoma City beginning next season when Orlando City joins MLS
Last month Fire Technical Director Brian Bliss spoke to reporters about the headway the club has made on finding a USL PRO affiliate and specifically mentioned that the club held talks with the owners of Arizona United SC as well as a group in Milwaukee looking to launch a new USL PRO club in the near future and other possible cities in the Midwest.
The Colorado Switchbacks and Tulsa Roughnecks, two other clubs that could fit that "Midwest" mold, are already set to begin play in USL PRO next season while the USL Premier Development League's Michigan Bucks are also making noise about a move up to the professional level.
But what other Midwest cities could make sense for a Chicago Fire affiliation? Where does a soccer hotbed like St. Louis fall in all of this? What about Grand Rapids, Cleveland, Cincinnati or even Des Moines, Iowa?
Where would you most like to see a Fire USL PRO affiliation heading into the 2015 season? Tell us below: