The Crew is aiming to field a reserve team, Crew II, in Columbus in 2021, and it could play some games at Mapfre Stadium and the new downtown stadium, Crew president Tim Bezbatchenko confirmed to The Dispatch.
According to multiple sources, Crew co-owner Dr. Pete Edwards told a group of students at Ohio State this week that the Crew will have a reserve team and it’s likely to be in the 2021 season.
Since the introduction of new ownership and new front office at the beginning of 2019, the Crew has stated several times that it wants a reserve team for a more direct pipeline from its Academy players and draft picks to the first team, as well as a way for injured players to gain game fitness before returning to the first team.
It’s unknown in which league the new reserve team would play. Major League Soccer has a year-to-year contract with the United Soccer League, and the reserve teams of MLS clubs play in either the USL Championship or League One division.
The Crew is currently one of five teams without a direct USL affiliate. Thirteen MLS clubs field their own USL teams.
The club is hoping to unveil its new training facility adjacent to Mapfre Stadium in conjunction with the opening of the new stadium. The Crew is constructing development plans for the new training facility with space for a reserve team.
Bezbatchenko said nothing is finalized yet for when Crew II would begin competition or where the club would play, though the preference is Columbus. The Crew could also wait until 2022 to field its reserve team.
"It’s an expense that we have to make sure we do in a prudent way over the course of the next few months," Bezbatchenko said.
The future plans of Mapfre Stadium include eventually eliminating the upper bowl seating.
Last year alone, the Crew sent players on loan to three different USL clubs for them to gain experience. A reserve team would allow the club keep those players within the organization and training with the first team if possible. The Crew could also sign draft picks to its reserve team.
At the Crew’s 2020 MLS SuperDraft event, coach Caleb Porter hinted at plans developing on having a reserve team.
"We need to continue to be creative in how we get guys minutes without our USL team and without a reserve team, looking for different loan deals at the right time to get guys out to get minutes and determine if they're going to help us," Porter said. "It's going to be important, and then obviously hopefully we'll have a USL team here soon."