We finally have more information on this season's new league in the American soccer pyramid: MLS Next Pro. More pertinently, we have a schedule for Orlando City B, Orlando's resurrected second team.
OCB will play a 24-game regular season this year, the club announced Thursday. Orlando is in the Central Division, alongside Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus and Miami's second teams. OCB will play its home games at Osceola Heritage Park, with games streaming online.
This will be an important testing and proving ground for the club, especially as the club's academy continues to grow. Homegrowns like Alex Freeman and Wilfredo Rivera will likely see heavy minutes, the first of their professional career, with OCB and that'll be vital for their development.
We've seen OCB before in the USL Championship and USL League 1, but now the second team is reborn in a new, development-specific league in MLS Next Pro. The league is in the third tier of American soccer, beneath MLS and the USL Championship. The division is made up of second teams for every MLS club, including 2023 expansion side St. Louis CITY SC. Some teams are coming from the USL, but most are brand new second teams, including all of OCB's divisional rivals.
All the best academies in MLS have good reserve teams. Seattle, Dallas, the Red Bulls, Salt Lake and Philadelphia, probably the five best American academies, all have strong reserve squads that have provided meaningful minutes to homegrowns. Each of those franchises have seen success stories go from the academy to reserve team to MLS. If Orlando City wants to become a high end academy, which very clearly seems to be the goal, then getting OCB right this time around is a must. These 24 games will give us a glimpse into that project and will hopefully provide valuable experience for young prospects.