The 2016 USL regular season kicks off on Friday, and the two local sides in the league, the Orange County Blues and LA Galaxy II, begin their respective campaigns on Saturday evening.
The local rivals are each coming off their best-ever seasons, with the Blues finishing the regular season atop the Western Conference and Galaxy II reaching the USL Championship, just falling in extra time to the Rochester Rhinos for the league title.
As in previous seasons, the primary task for each club heading into the season is slightly different. Whereas LA is an explicit reserve team for the MLS’ LA Galaxy, they have done better than any MLS2 team so far in balancing player development and results, but the ultimate goal is to develop a group of first-team prospects and give first-team players meaningful game minutes. If it leads to a championship in USL, that’s just icing on the cake for the organization.
Meanwhile, the Blues remain an independent USL team, meaning they have no MLS affiliate club, and their roster is built differently. Head coach and general manager Oliver Wyss also has a goal of developing young talent, which is a prerequisite in USL, but the onus for the club is to earn results, as there is no parent club to answer to. The Blues are one of the more experienced teams in the league, even if there are plenty of new players to the team and league for the new season.
That campaign for each local club takes off on Saturday evening, with both teams hosting their season openers. OC will host Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 at Anteater Stadium in Irvine, with kickoff at 7 pm PT, while LA welcomes Arizona United SC at the StubHub Center Track and Field Stadium in Carson, with kickoff at 7:30 pm PT.
If you’re interested in going to either game, tickets are still available (OC Blues tickets, LAGII tickets), and if you can’t make it out, you can watch both games on YouTube (Blues-Whitecaps 2 stream, Galaxy II-AZ United stream).
These teams could very well be among the best in USL again in 2016, and in addition to supporting local soccer, you can get a glimpse of some stars of the future in action now. Don’t miss it.