New England Revolution: Finally becoming a modern franchise

The New England Revolution are overhauling their youth development. It is a step into how modern MLS teams are run, which is a rare occurrence in Boston.

The New England Revolution have been one of the most backwards franchises in Major League Soccer over the past decade. Still playing in the behemoth and utterly unsuitable Gillette Stadium, cycling through head coaches at an alarming rate, dwindling attendances in the doldrums of the league’s rankings, and an owner who seems far more enchanted with his brilliant NFL team than the ‘other football’ team.

However, while all that is true, and Robert Kraft deserves to be criticised for the absent role he has played, over the past 18 months, the tune has changed. The incumbent Brad Friedel was replaced by the ultra-experienced Bruce Arena, all three Designated Player slots were filled as the Revolution looked to entirely overhaul their attack, and they snuck into the playoffs, though were immediately dumped out of them by Atlanta United.

And this year, they have continued to catch up as MLS modernises itself across the league.

This time, it comes in the form of youth development, which has been far from ideal in New England, to say the least. “Do we need to get better? Yeah, absolutely,” New England’s technical director Curt Onalfo said. And it seems as though the New England Revolution are keen to do just that: get better.

“Priority number one was starting the second team, bridging that gap between the academy to the first team. And then enhancing the academy,” explained Onalfo to “Obviously that’s stopped because of the coronavirus. But we’ve made some really good progress with the academy and I spend a lot of time evaluating that and working with our academy director, Brian Scales, [to] just continually push forward and just make sure that we’re getting better on a daily basis.”

Onalfo represents the Revolution catching up with the rest of the league. Where teams like Atlanta, LAFC, Inter Miami and others have invested heavily in their teams and facilities and others like FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake have maximised their youth development, the Revolution have meandered along, leaning on their status as one of the ten founding teams.

They did not keep up with the development of the league. They were complacent. They expected to be fine because they are the Revolution and the Patriots are insanely successful. The Krafts were negligent. But now, the franchise is catching up.

It started with the signing of Carles Gil. Continued with the acquisitions of Gustavo Bou and Adam Buksa. The Arena hire provides gravitas and pedigree. And now they are committing to youth development, which is the next step sweeping across MLS.

The Revolution are finally becoming a modern MLS team. It has been a long time in coming.