A New Team in Town

Montreal Impact Academy Club FC Montreal Looks Ahead to Inaugural Season

Montreal soccer fans should be pleased to know that the city’s new professional team will make its debut in the USL this March. The new team, FC Montreal, will serve as the Montreal Impact’s academy squad. Photo Hussein Abdallah

This spring, Montreal will gain another professional soccer team. FC Montreal will play in the United Soccer League, the league the Montreal Impact used to compete in during the early 2000s. The Link spoke to Phillippe Eullaffroy, the Montreal Impact Academy director and head coach of FC Montreal, about the creation of the new club.

The team, which exists under the Montreal Impact umbrella, will provide an opportunity to younger players of the Impact academy to play professional soccer.

“It’s the top of the Impact Academy pyramid but it’s not the top of the club pyramid since obviously we have the MLS team,” said Eullafroy. “If we take the pyramid the way it was before, the under-23 team becomes the USL team.”

It becomes the top level an academy player can play in, but the players will get to play professional soccer. This was not always the case for the under-23 team.

Eullaffroy said that they were playing in the PDL [Premier Development League], which is a good step behind USL in terms of level and duration. The PDL was put in place for American college
players looking for playing time during the break. For FC Montreal, this was a transition league before entering USL.

“With a new training center, this was the thing that we needed to put in place to develop good players.”

The team will consist in great part of under 23s but the context of the USL and the new professional aspect will slightly change the top of the academy pyramid.

“It’s a team that is made up of 99 per cent of academy players with an average age of 20 years old that will play in a professional league,” mentioned Eullaffroy.

FC Montreal’s head coach, Philippe Eullaffroy. Photo Tristan D’Amours

“This team has three objectives: to give playing time to first team players who don’t have enough minutes in MLS, to give playing time to first team players that are coming back from injury and need to get back into the rhythm of professional soccer, and finally, to develop academy players to bring them as close to the MLS level as possible.”

The Montreal Impact have signed a number of players from their academy to homegrown player contracts and it has been difficult for them to find some playing time. At the end of last season, the club let go of two of their homegrown signings, midfielder Zakaria Messoudi as well as defender and first-ever academy signing Karl W. Ouimette.

The two players were let go on the basis that they tumbled down the pecking order. With a team like FC Montreal, those young players would have had the opportunity to cut their teeth in a professional league with a level lower than that of MLS. That way, their transition into MLS and the first team would have most probably been easier.

Unlike what is seen in hockey, FC Montreal will not function the way the Hamilton Bulldogs would work in regards to the Montreal Canadiens.

“[The Impact] can pick up any players at all times but that player will need to have an MLS contract so the front office will need to sign him. The first team can’t pick someone up for one or two games and send him back down,” explained Eullaffroy.

“Although the other side is completely possible where a first team player needs to play one game in the USL for fitness reasons, he would be allowed to do so.”

There are many good reasons for the Montreal Impact fan to come and watch FC Montreal in action. Aside from the fact that the players will form the next nucleus of the team and that the level will be competitive as most players in other teams also want to be promoted to their MLS squads, the FC Montreal home games will be free of charge all season long.

“The fans will be able to get twice as more access to high-level soccer than before,” said Eullafroy. “Of course, MLS will always be on top and the main focus of the club, but soccer fans will have the opportunity to watch good soccer almost every single week. That’s a big plus for the province.”