With the preseason now in full swing, Real Monarchs have made it back onto the pitch in preparation to defend its USL Championship title during the 2020 season. While there are many returning faces on the field, there are also a number of new faces entering the scene as well. 

For Joe Gallardo and Christopher Bermudez – who join the USL Championship side from USL League One – they now enter the fray at a higher tier of American soccer. For others, such as RSL Academy U-19 DF Bobby Pierre, it’s an opportunity to fulfill training experience with a professional team during his development.

Whether it’s from the RSL Academy or USL League One, the new faces on the pitch represent the Development Ladder that RSL is so strongly committed to and being a place for players to grow and develop.

Standing as the middle ground between Academy and First Team, as well as operating at the highest level in the USL, Real Monarchs stands neatly positioned as an apex for development. The club’s position allows it to bring players in through USL League One as well as from its own backyard in the RSL Academy, providing the Monarchs with the tools and talent to help lift players seamlessly into the top flights of professional soccer.

The United Soccer League shares a similar vision as Real Salt Lake, aiming to help in player development through its various statured leagues. Through Gallardo and Bermudez, the Monarchs have joined few other teams that have brought players up from League One, keeping in step with the club’s and league’s vision of development and moving on to the next levels in American soccer.

A product of the RSL Academy, Pierre is no stranger to the Monarchs as he rejoins the team for training after having trained with the team in 2019 while earning a single start and appearance, playing the full 90 minutes in the 3-1 loss to Rio Grande Valley FC in late September.

With his experience from last year along with the continued opportunity in the preseason training sessions, the U-19 member has noted that he has seen his skills as a player improve.

“Playing with these players is helping play a lot quicker and think on the ball,” Pierre said after Thursday’s training session. “When I’m out here, it’s more mature, way quicker, way more physical. Everything is just a lot better when you go up. We’re trying to get a lot of the kids into the system to build the Academy to get all the kids going forward, going through the teams from the Monarchs to the First Team. We try to bring the energy to show them that we are here for something. We are here to make it to the next level.”

There is no shortage of players who have made it to the next level within the RSL ladder. Defender Erik Holt started with the RSL Academy before earning a professional contract with Real Salt Lake. Holt since has played 17 regular-season games for Real Monarchs and five for RSL in 2019, all of them in a starting role.

“It’s great that they train on a regular basis but playing is the main thing,” RSL Academy Director Tom Spall said. “If the rest of the boys go and see them in games, that’s a massive motivation to them and to us to keep doing the good work that we are doing hopefully. The more boys that train with the Monarchs before decisions are made the better it is for us and everybody else here.”

With constant communication between the coaching staff from Real Salt Lake, the Monarchs and the Academy transitioning from team-to-team has been streamlined and made a simple process.

“Salt Lake is the best I’ve seen for the continuity from the First Team to the U-15s and the 15s to the First Team,” Spall expressed. “We don’t like talking about the 15s being the bottom group, we always talk about playing across the age groups. In the final age groups, you’ll be in the Monarchs or the First Team. So, if we are doing similar things to them, we’ll just dilute it at 15, it gets bigger and stronger at 17s and then the 19s is a mini version of the First Team. Especially in the U-19s, we are trying to mirror what the other teams are doing. When you step into the Monarchs, it’s just a seamless transition and that’s where we should all be working towards.”

As the Monarchs head into the 2020 USL Championship season, not only will it aim to retain its USL Championship title, but it will put a prioritized focus on helping its young players develop into something greater and move on to the next the stages of their bright careers in professional soccer.