Last July, news broke that Orlando City was planning on launching its own USL team in 2016 that would serve as a de facto reserve squad. The team, made up mainly of young players and senior team players lacking playing time, began its USL season in late March is now are well underway.
While most Orlando City fans likely have a solid understanding of the purpose of Orlando City B, they may not quite understand how players move between teams. With Major League Soccer being a single entity, there are certain aspects, such as the league owning player contracts and the collective bargaining agreement, that make even the simplest move between teams difficult to understand.
The first thing to understand is that while OCB may have the same colors, name, (basic) crest, and be run as the same club as Orlando City, they're not officially the same club. As MLS sees it, Orlando City and OCB are two completely separate entities that just happen to have the same owner. With that in mind, here are the rules that dictate which OCB players Orlando City has control over and how players move between the teams.
Who Does Orlando City Have Control Over?
There are three types of players that Orlando City has control over that play with OCB -- Homegrown Players, players on an MLS contract, and USL priority players. A Homegrown Player is a player that has been with an MLS team's academy for a period of one year and has satisfied all training and retention requirements. Even if one of these players signs a USL contract, they are still Homegrown Players when they move to MLS. The only player this applies to now is midfielder Pierre da Silva, who is on a USL contract with OCB but will be a Homegrown Player once he signs with the MLS side.
Any player on an MLS contract, as you would expect, continues to be controlled by the club. These players are officially loaned to OCB. They can be either loaned for a short period of time, such as a game, or for the whole season. However, the length of their loans doesn't necessarily mean that's how long they'll be at OCB. We'll go over that a little later.
The final players the club has control over are USL priority players. Each MLS team can have up to three USL priority players with their USL affiliate. These are players that the club has control over should they move to MLS without having them take up a discovery spot. For the club to have the rights over any additional players, they would take up a spot on the club's discovery list.
As previously mentioned, Orlando City can't just call up any player from OCB, as the Lions don't have the rights to most of the team's players. However, the league has put some new agreements in place for 2016 where some players that don't satisfy the above criteria could be called up under special circumstances.
MLS has instituted USL short-term agreements in which players can be called up on four-day contracts for specific matches. But there are restrictions to the short-term agreements. The player brought in must be 25 years old or younger and the games can only be for the CONCACAF Champions League, Lamar HuntCup, or exhibition matches. One of these situations occurred for Orlando City last year when the team had a friendly against West Bromwich Albion sandwiched between two league matches. The Lions wanted to call in some academy players to give the injury-ridden team some help but were unable to. This year, they could call in some OCB players if that situation occurs again.
Each player from OCB can be called up for four short-term agreements per season. That means that they can spend a total of 16 days on the MLS roster. While these agreements are limited to cup games and exhibitions, the MLS club is allowed to sign short-term agreements for league games only if in "extreme hardship."
Extreme Hardship Call-Ups
This year, MLS has introduced a new situation called "extreme hardship" in which teams can call up players they would typically not be allowed to call up. If Orlando City is going into a game with fewer than 15 players available or no more than one goalkeeper available, the club will be allowed to claim an extreme hardship and call up a player from OCB. In these situations, the rules of the USL short-term agreements apply, so the player would have to be 25 years old or younger. While they're with the team, they will also be eligible to play in cup games or exhibition games.
Orlando City may loan any player it wants to OCB, with roster relief given but not budget relief. That means that loaning a player from the MLS squad will open up a spot on the roster but that his salary will still count against the team's salary budget. However, one player may be loaned to OCB with roster relief and budget relief (meaning his salary will not count against the MLS team's salary budget), assuming he fits certain criteria. The player must be under the age of 25 and his total compensation must be less than or equal to the MLS Senior Minimum Salary of $62,500. This means the player must be on the team's supplemental roster (spots 21-24) or the reserve roster (spots 25-28). In order for the player to receive full roster and budget relief, the loan must be season-long.
If you've been following the loans from Orlando City to OCB, you may have noticed that some have been for one game and others season-long. But that doesn't mean those loans will actually last that long. If a player is loaned for the season to OCB, they can't be recalled by the MLS team unless the team has a right of recall in the agreement. If the right of recall is in the agreement, there are no restrictions to how many times a player can be loaned or recalled during the season. Every Orlando City loan this year has had the right of recall instituted except for teenage goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar. But the only time Stajduhar would be called up is in the case of extreme hardship. Essentially this means that any player, with the exception of Stajduhar, loaned from Orlando City to OCB can be loaned and recalled at any time and as much as they want.
As usual, MLS has taken a seemingly easy process and managed to make it extremely complicated. Hopefully this guide will give you a better idea of who Orlando City is able to call up from OCB and which players they have control over in the future.