Did Major League Soccer ruins the reserve division for fans and photographers?

So over the years MLS has had or not had a reserve division, where younger players can compete in matches to gain experience. A couple of years ago the league killed the reserves as an attempt to save money, which was funny because the only thing it saved was a bit of travel costs (something the league clearly has issues managing at all levels). Well as part of the New CBA the reserve division was reborn, and while it now only features 10 matches for each team, and has an even more bizarre conference alignment than the regular league it had provided fans a fun chance to watch some of the young players in matches. No more it seems as the league announced their new rules and schedule for the reserve league earlier today.

You can check out the schedule, and general overview here. But it seems after some teams actually sold tickets to their reserve matches, some opened them up to the public for free, while others kept them very hush, hush that MLS decided it was time for them to again, set a standard set of expectations:

The League ultimately finalizes and distributes the official MLS Reserve League Schedule. Unless the Home Team elects to do so otherwise, MLS Reserve League Season Games are not promoted, produce no gate receipts, and are played behind "closed doors."

mlssoccer.com

So as if scheduling the majority of the matches in the middle of the day, and midweek weren't enough to keep most fans from being able to attend, 69 of the 95 matches are schedule to take place before 5pm. The league is making it difficult (not impossible) for teams to actually allow fans to attend these matches, should a team want to not have these matches behind closed doors there is a list of requirements they must submit to MLS, you can see those and more thoughts after the jump

" It is the responsibility of the Home Team to notify the League if it plans to open a game to the public and ensure that all security, insurance and other relevant issues pursuant to the MLS Game Operations Manual are satisfactorily addressed. Any Game where tickets are sold requires the submission of an MLS Game Settlement to the League. The League shall receive such notice of any non-closed door games (see Section 1.1.1) from the Home Team at least TWENTY-ONE (21) days prior to the game.

mlssoccer.com

Now some of that makes perfectly logical sense, I can understand it, but for sure the days of fans showing up on Sunday mornings with lawn chairs at a local high school or other pitch to watch the younger players from the teams that played Saturday night, are gone. For me that is a sad thing, as it was a real chance for fans of all ages to get to watch the younger players, who often are the ones teams use in many of their public relations efforts and work with local schools and youth soccer leagues. I guess you have to mark it up to the progress of the league, I just don't know if I ever expected 20 pages of rules and regulations on the reserve division.

For me, the issues get even bigger. Reserve matches are a great chance to get pictures of some of the younger players in match situations, but MLS has even put some much tighter controls on that:

11.5 PHOTOGRAPHER LIMITATIONS. Any photographer shooting a MLS Reserve League Game will be subject to the following guidelines: the use of any photograph, film, tape or drawing of the Game, Player interviews, or other activities will be limited to news coverage of the Game or event by the organization to which the credential is issued. Any other usage must be authorized in writing by MLS.

mlssoccer.com

so should I actually be able to sneak away from work to catch a reserve match (4 of RSL's 5 home matches are on Tuesdays) and if I take pictures, I could only use them when writing about that actual event, and anything else would require permission in writing. Really? So I couldn't take a picture of one of our Academy players and use it to write an article about the academy without special permission? Seems silly, but that is exactly what MLS is saying.

I caught a lot of flack from some people over the last couple months as I have questioned some of the decisions of MLS, that I see as being un-fan friendly. Things like the new schedule which means fans no longer get to see every team in the league at their teams home stadium, and instead have fake "rivalries" forced upon them by whoever writes the schedule. Or when I call on MLS to live up to their promises of being more transparent on things like allocation money, and the disciplinary committee.

It just seems to me that of all the problems MLS has to deal with, something as simple as just letting the local teams decide how they want to run their reserve matches, would be a no brainer. Or are they upset that when Portland was able to sell tickets to their reserve matches and damn near fill their stadium? I am sure their front office is already filing paperwork with the league office to get their matches opened up for the public, just more hoops to jump through.

For RSL where often fans just showed up with a lawn chair or blanket to watch a reserve match, it seems like those days might just be gone.

OFF MY SOAPBOX

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