Real Monarchs Set to Join MLS NEXT Pro, Major League Soccer's New Lower Division League
HERRIMAN, Utah - In conjunction with Major League Soccer, the Real Salt Lake organization has announced that Real Monarchs SLC will join the newly announced MLS NEXT Pro ahead of the 2022 season.
"MLS NEXT Pro provides us the opportunity to continue developing our RSL Academy players and those players signed to MLS contracts who are not seeing minutes with the first team, to provide them with game experience and minutes at the professional level," said Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Rob Zarkos. "This has been the player development model we have executed for the past seven years that has allowed us to develop our homegrown athletes into first team players such as Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera and David Ochoa, among several others."
Real Monarchs will shift to the new league following seven seasons in the USL Championship, during which the team won the 2019 USL Championship Cup, the 2017 USL Regular Season Shield and the Western Conference Title in both 2017 and 2019, while also qualifying for the postseason in 2018.
The team will compete in the MLS NEXT Pro Western Conference with Colorado, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Portland, San Jose, Seattle, St. Louis and Vancouver.
The 21-team league is set to begin competition in March of 2022, with playoffs scheduled to take place in September. In 2023, the league will add seven additional teams: Atlanta United, Charlotte FC, D.C. United, LA Galaxy, LAFC, Nashville SC and New York Red Bulls.
Head Coach Jamison Olave will continue to lead Real Monarchs as it transitions into this new league. Olave has been at the helm since midseason 2018, later leading the team to victory at the 2019 USL Championship final. The former RSL icon will enter into next season with three returning players, including Yekeson Subah, Timi Sobowale and Charlie Wehan.
Over the past seven seasons, the Monarchs have seen great success in using the team as a development pathway towards Major League Soccer's Real Salt Lake, providing a place for Homegrown Players like Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera and David Ochoa to receive valuable playing time. Meanwhile, it has functioned as an additional recruiting arm for the first team, giving the front office further time to scout players before moving them to RSL contracts, as demonstrated with Andrew Brody, Maikel Chang and Douglas Martinez, amongst many others - an even dozen (see list below) who have contributed to the Claret-and-Cobalt at both levels.
For 2021, Real Monarchs shifted its focus to youth development, as 24 past or present players from RSL Academy made appearances in the 2021 USL Championship season for Real Monarchs, with 19 of them earning professional debuts.
Real Monarchs made history several times throughout the 2021 season, first when three goalkeepers from the RSL Academy broke each others' previous records for the youngest goalkeeper to ever appear in a USL Championship match. Gavin Beavers earned his debut on June 27 at 16 years, 1 month and 29 days, broken by Blake Kelly who debuted on August 29 at 15 years, 7 months and 7 days, which was then broken by Fernando Delgado on October 16 at the age of 15 years, 2 months and 21 days.
Additionally, Real Monarchs gained global attention when RSL Academy forward Axel Kei made his professional debut at just 13 years, 9 months and 9 days, making him the youngest to ever appear in U.S. professional team sports.
Players to sign with Real Salt Lake from Real Monarchs
FW Danilo Acosta (26 Real Monarchs appearances, 29 Real Salt Lake appearances)
MF Nick Besler (35 Real Monarchs appearances, 78 Real Salt Lake appearances)
DF Andrew Brody (101 Real Monarchs appearances, 16 Real Salt Lake appearances)
FW Maikel Chang (68 Real Monarchs appearances, 47 Real Salt Lake appearances)
FW Douglas Martinez (32 Real Monarchs appearances, 25 Real Salt Lake appearances)
DF Taylor Peay (36 Real Monarchs appearances, 11 Real Salt Lake appearances)
MF Justin Portillo (53 Real Monarchs appearances, 11 Real Salt Lake appearances)
DF Noah Powder (51 Real Monarchs appearances, 7 Real Salt Lake appearances)
GK Andrew Putna (24 Real Monarchs appearances, 25 Real Salt Lake appearances)
GK Connor Sparrow (30 Real Monarchs appearances, 0 Real Salt Lake appearances)
FW Ricardo Velazco (22 Real Monarchs appearances, 0 Real Salt Lake appearances)
FW Emery Welshman (101 Real Monarchs appearances, 16 Real Salt Lake appearances)
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