Last week, Orlando City B announced that the club had declined options on 10 of the team's 15 USL-signed players. While the amount of players not returning may be surprising to some, it shows the blueprint of what the club plans to do with the team moving forward and possibly shows where the Lions stand when it comes to several of their academy players.
OCB is made up of three different types of players: USL-signed players, MLS-signed players, and Homegrown products. The MLS-signed players and Homegrown players, who are also MLS-signed, can freely move between the two teams. But any USL-signed players must be playing under MLS contracts in order to move between the two teams. That's where last week's roster moves come into play.
The only players that were on USL contracts that were kept by the club are forward Michael Cox, midfielder Pierre Da Silva, defender Zach Ellis-Hayden, goalkeeper Jake Fenlason, and midfielder Lewis Neal. This leaves lots of open spaces on the team's roster for the 2017 USL season.
There's no question that there are some academy products that are ready to play for OCB next season. In addition to Da Silva, David Loera, Raul Aguilera, Landon Haig, David Norris, Isaque Couto, and Jack McCloskey all saw their names on the team sheet for at least one OCB game last season. But now these players must make the decision of turning professional or attending college.
While attending college isn't a bad thing, doing so will not allow them to properly develop as they would should they turn professional. With the club looking to develop these players into first team regulars in the coming years, the Lions would obviously like to sign these players to Homegrown contracts and have them join OCB.
The club has not made any indication that it will be signing several players to Homegrown contracts but these roster moves sure make it seem like that's the next step. By replacing these USL-signed players with Homegrown products, the club would have control over more of the players on the team, increasing the value of OCB to the club. Ultimately, the goal is to have control of almost all of the players on that team.
OCB is a fun team to have as a part of the Orlando City club structure but its impact is marginal until the majority of players seeing minutes with the team are completely controlled by the club. Last week's roster moves were the first indication that the club may be on the verge of signing several Homegrown players to professional contracts. This would be a tremendous step for the club going forward as OCB would then truly be a part of the pipeline to develop players for the first team. It's still unknown whether or not these moves mean that Homegrown contracts will follow, but they could be a turning point for the club. We'll see whether that's the case in the coming weeks.