I don't see how this is progress. With all the whining about fixture congestion and injuries this year, the league's reaction is to CUT the roster size?? It's nice that we can now pay two additional players a living wage (~$33K) instead of a peasant's fee (~$17K), but why did that have to come at the expense of six developmental roster slots?
The MLS Draft is coming up soon, and each team gets 6 draft picks. You are basically telling those 6 players who you draft that there are only a maximum of 4 slots available for them. And not only will they have to compete with the rest of their draft class, but also last year's holdovers. With those odds, it sounds much more appealing to skip the MLS Draft and look for opportunities in the USL or in second tier divisions in Europe.
Just take a look at DC United's Developmental roster at the conclusion of the year: Jeff Carroll, Pat Carroll, Ryan Cordeiro, Greg Janicki, Quavas Kirk, Ibrahim Koroma, Ryan Miller, Craig Thompson, James Thorpe, and Mike Zaher. Several of these players made pretty significant contributions this year. Sure, it's nice to imagine that maybe the team could bump Janicki or Thompson or Cordeiro up to the senior roster, but it might also be just as likely that the team will only keep 4 of these 10 guys, and they'll have to compete with our 2009 draft picks also. With the new roster restrictions, it would be highly unlikely for the team to sign an undrafted guy like Pat Carroll, or trade for a low level draft pick like Thompson who wasn't getting playing time with his current team. Well Carroll made 4 appearances this year and Thompson made 6. Without having that roster depth, we would have really been screwed at certain points during the season, and we would have probably had to play other guys out of position just to fill the starting lineup.
It's no surprise that the league disbanded the reserve division, because they were cancelling reserve matches left and right at the end of the season. But this will just make it more difficult for hard working guys like Cordeiro and Zaher to make a good impression on the coaching staff and earn first team appearances. Without the reserve division, it will be real tough for our reserves to get actual match experience. Others have already commented that we will probably see an increase in loans from the MLS to the USL, which is a great idea, but not necessarily the best solution.
I understand from a business perspective why MLS made these changes, but it's just sad that so many young talented American players who had the dream of playing professional soccer might not get that opportunity.