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Impact to Introduce U23 Team for 2021 Season.

Still no announcement around which league the team will play in...

Zacharia Messoudi in USL action for the old FC Montreal against Rochester Rhinos back in the April 2015.

As part of a broader announcement of Academy re-structuring this morning, Montreal Impact announced it will have an u23 side in 2021, five years after the previous FC Montreal, effectively an U23 side, was scrapped.

Said Patrick Leduc, “The establishment of an U23 team meets an objective we had to add a post-formation step to the development structure of the club. It allows us to put the players with higher potential in a professional setting while controlling the playing time.

“We have the privilege to count on a technical staff with strong experience at the professional level and our young players will benefit from that.”

It’s move that many will welcome. The club has often been criticized for not having a reserve side since FC Montreal competed in the USL back in 2016.

Jason Di Tullio is installed as the U23 head coach. Di Tullio returned to the club in August last year as U17 head coach, while from 2015 to 2017 he was an assistant coach with the first team. He has held coaching positions nationally and spent five years as a player with the Montreal Impact (2002-2007) in NASL, making 75 appearances.

He will oversee the U23 roster, and will have as his assistant Esteban Landazabal.

It tweaks the current role for Patrice Bernier, who takes on responsibility of post-formation supervisor to help the first-team players in the U23 team.

Patrice Bernier - happy with additional responsibilities involving links to the Academy.

“I am happy to get this new role, which will let me maintain links with the Academy and to keep an eye on our development,” said Patrice Bernier. “I will have direct access to the young players, which will allow us to offer a more accompanied preparation to the first team. I will also give my advice coming from the pro level to the Academy sector.”

This new U23 team comes to the top of the club’s development pyramid, above the three existing Academy teams in the U14, U15 and U17 categories.

The U17 team will be coached by Nicolas Gagnon and his assistant Félix Brillant, the U15 team will be coached by Eduardo Sebrango and his assistant Romain Girard and the U14 team will be coached by Robert Rositoiu, while Simon Gatti will serve as his assistant coach.
The U17 and U15 teams will play in the new MLS developmental league, but it’s still uncertain where the new U23’s will find its regular opposition.

We can but speculate. CanPL will not be interested since they have previously stated they wouldn’t consider admitting MLS reserve sides. USL League 1 is an option. Toronto FC II was in fact a member until Covid disrupted the pattern of the 2020 season, causing the Ontarian’s withdrawal.

Less encouragingly there has been speculation surrounding an MLS U23 league. Given the criticism from coaches and players including our own Luis Binks, around the U23 Premier League concept in England, this would appear not to be the way to go. “Artificial’ is a word that crops up more often than not, when you hear those involved in the English game commenting on the merits of what is effectively the EPL’s reserve league.

There has been some noise around the CSA forbidding new Canadian clubs to play in US Leagues, now that CanPL is in place. But given there is no place for MLS reserve sides in CanPL and that MLS may decree all clubs participate in any prospective MLS U23 League, it won’t be in the CSA’s best interests to hold firm that assertion.