Back in February, New Jersey-based NWSL side Sky Blue FC announced an academy partnership with New York Surf Soccer Club, an affiliate of San Diego Surf.
On Tuesday, the partnership progressed, as Sky Blue announced plans to establish an amateur reserve team for the NWSL team, to play in the United Women’s Soccer league starting this year.
“We are very excited to add this level to the developmental pyramid of our club,” said Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC head coach in a release on the news. “The addition of an amateur reserve team presents an incredible opportunity for players who aspire to compete at the professional level. The alignment and shared philosophy between Sky Blue FC and NY Surf also allows a consistent learning curriculum for all of the players who are developed within this system.”
The reserve team fits the pattern for some of the other teams in the NWSL. Boston Breakers, Washington Spirit and Chicago Red Stars all fielded amateur reserve teams last year, giving amateur call-ups and prospects who would not fit on NWSL’s small rosters a chance to play and retain match fitness and gain experience in a competitive environment.
Notably, the NY Surf UWS team will kick off their season slate on May 14 against the Western New York Flash, the team that moved to North Carolina in the offseason to rebrand as the North Carolina Courage at the NWSL level. Reigning NWSL champs, the Flash re-established a team in the offseason, to play at the amateur UWS level.
Perhaps coming down the line will be a formalized relationship with one of the women’s lower divisions, akin to the MLS-USL partnership on the men’s side, or perhaps the conditions will keep the ad hoc approach by teams intact. But the reserve team establishment for Sky Blue FC demonstrates deeper roots in the women’s game and building club infrastructure, one step at a time.