The Montreal Impact have revamped their academy structure, creating a reserve under-23 squad under coach Jason Di Tullio.
The new team will sit atop the MLS franchise's development pyramid, above the existing under-14, -15 and -17 academy squads.
In the past, the Impact operated a reserve side under the name of FC Montreal. Founded in 2015, FC Montreal played two seasons in the USL. The Impact then dissolved the team and formed an affiliation with Ottawa Fury FC from 2017 to 2019 until the club withdrew from the USL and folded.
Di Tullio, who played for the Impact pre-MLS from 2002 to 2007, has previously coached in the academy and served as first-team assistant coach. He will be assisted by Esteban Landazabal.
"I think Jason brings experience and Impact DNA to the table when it comes to taking charge of this group," Impact academy director Patrick Leduc told reporters Friday.
Do Tullio says his job is to prepare young talent for the next level.
"My job every single day with my staff will be to give them the tools necessary to sign a (pro) contract and have a long career," Di Tullio said.
The under-23 team will play friendly matches for the time being due to travel and other restrictions due to the pandemic. As for future play, Leduc says "We'll cross that bridge when we're allowed to."
"There's no specific league or structure that were announcing today as far as competition," he added. "We're going against older teams right now, semi-pro teams that play in the provincial semi-pro circuit or, when they're allowed to play, university teams."
Toronto FC 2, TFC's reserve team, withdrew from the USL League One in July, citing the same restrictions. The team has sent subsequently some players on loan, with more moves expected to get players time on the field.
The Vancouver Whitecaps' developmental squad, formed in 2018, is coached by former Canadian international Nick Dasovic. It features up-and-coming first-team players and top academy prospects.
The young Whitecaps played matches against local and international competition prior to the pandemic with 2019 trips to England, South Korea and Mexico.
Montreal also announced that Patrice Bernier will serve as a link between the first team and U23 squad. The former Canadian international will remain as an assistant coach with the first team.
"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," Bernier said in a statement. "I will have direct access to the young players, which will allow us to offer a more accompanied preparation to the first team."
The U17 team will be coached by Nicolas Gagnon and assistant Felix Brillant while the U15 team will be run by Eduardo Sebrango and assistant Romain Girard. Robert Rositoiu will coach the U14 team with help from Simon Gatti.
The U15 and U17 teams will play in the new MLS developmental league.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 4, 2020.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press