COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Members of the Columbus Crew front office held a press conference Thursday to answer questions about Crew 2 — The Black & Gold’s new developmental second team.

Crew 2 will be part of the newly-formed MLS Next Pro, which will start play in March 2022 with 21 teams competing in the Division 3 level of U.S. Soccer.

“We often talk about with our players that Messi played for Barcelona B, Barcelona C before he played for the first team. Players are always developing, refining their craft,” Crew President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko said. “This team is integral and crucial for the development of players in a competitive environment playing against players from other MLS teams.”

Players as young as 14 years old can participate on the team, which is led by general manager Corey Wray.

Wray served as the assistant general manager of team operations and strategy at Toronto FC, a role in which he managed the potential player development program, including the launch of Toronto FC II.

“We want to make sure it’s structured to suit development as much as possible before getting to the first team when it’s all about results,” Wray said. “We do need to do a little bit more in terms of education and what that looks like to make sure the fans are interested in the project as well.”

Bezbatchenko said one player on the club who would’ve benefitted from Crew 2 this past season would have been forward Miguel Berry who was sent on loan to United Soccer League (USL) club San Diego Loyal SC for the 2020 season and start of 2021 campaign.

“Clearly, going to San Diego benefitted him and allowed him to be ready when the time came for him to produce for us at the first team level but being able to have him stay in market would’ve been a benefit,” Bezbatchenko said.

The formation of MLS Next Pro marks the end of MLS’s nearly decade-long partnership with the USL.