Ownership of USL
The United Soccer League is owned by NuRock Soccer Holdings, LLC, a Florida LLC with its principal business address in Tampa. NuRock controls 99%. The other 1 % is held by Robert Hoskins.
In 2018, the USL announced a rebranding, which took effect immediately at the close of the 2018 season. The rebranded USL will be modeled after a recognized and respected international structure – one central brand, three leagues. Unlike Major League Soccer (“MLS”), which operates under the single entity, limited liability legal structure, the USL operates a pure franchise model which is highly centralized and top-down in its execution.
Looking to the future, the league aims to bring stability to the turbulent world of lower division soccer in the US. It seeks to strengthen its contribution to U.S. Soccer’s efforts toward becoming a world powerhouse and its pursuit of winning a World Cup.
The Three Leagues
USL CHAMPIONSHIP ( 2nd tier of US Soccer)
In 2017, the USL was given provisional accreditation as a DII league. In 2018, the USL was sanctioned as the sole DII league in the United States. The fee in 2018 to buy a franchise is believed to be $7 million. That fee can be expected to rise, given the historical rise in franchise fees in both USL and MLS over the past several years. According to USL documentation, the current expected initial investment by a new team is at least $10.6 million (including the aforementioned $7 million expansion fee)
Currently, the USL has 33 teams, divided into two sides (called conferences) ‘East’ and ‘West’. Teams play 34-games from in a fixture that runs from March through October. Like MLS, the USL also ends the season with playoffs. The USL Championship is a fully professional league and all players are paid.
Affiliation with MLS: Some of the teams are affiliated with MLS clubs, as the current rules permit MLS clubs to field reserve teams in USL or affiliate with USL clubs. In fact most MLS clubs have either an affiliation or field reserve teams. This agreement is subject to change in the future.
Note: Many of the early USL clubs signed a five-year franchise agreement with the league. That five-year term, depending on the club, may expire at the end of 2018 or 2019. The USL has recognized this potential difficulty and in 2016, took measures to incentivize owners to remain in the league. An increased expansion fees was one, while another is a smaller fee of $10,000 to renew membership for another term. This time, the new term is for 10 years.
USL LEAGUE ONE (3rd tier of US Soccer – as of 14 Dec 2018)
During the 2017 and 2018 seasons, US Soccer had no third division. That gap is now filled with the arrival of USL One. USL applied for Third Division status for its League One in August 2018; the USSF granted a provisional third division status on December 14, 2018.
Employing the successful methodology utilized by the USL to establish the largest professional soccer league in North America, the USL League One expansion efforts center on markets that meet the following criteria:
- Strong local ownership
- Primary owner with a net worth in excess of $10 million and 35% or greater share of the potential franchise
- Soccer-specific stadia
- Seating Capacity: 3,500
- Pitch Size: 110 yards x 70 yards
- Viable market size and support
- Markets with a population between 150,000 to one million and a strong corporate and fan base for support.
The expansion fee for USL D3 teams is believed to be $500,000, and teams are expected to spend between $2.4 million and $5.1 million during their first season of play. USL One is also regarded as a professional league.
For the 2019 season, there will be ten teams competing (9 from the US plus Toronto FC II) in a 28 fixture season. Expansion clubs for 2020 include the Rochester Rhinos and Harrisburg, PA side Penn FC. The latter club is in the process of finding a suitable home stadium and opted to sit out the 2019 season.
USL LEAGUE TWO (4th tier -unofficial)
(f/k/a Premier Development League “PDL”)
USL League Two continues the mission of the PDL, the leader in pre-professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada. The League holds a vital role as it continues to provide the elite platform for those pursuing professional careers domestically and internationally.
League Two aims to be more than the leading national U23 league: League Two bills itself as “the defined and proven pathway for players to progress to the professional ranks of soccer while becoming a staple within the community in which the team operates.”
League Two clubs have partnerships with MLS and USL Championship Clubs. At present, there are 74 clubs in League Two.
USL League Two is divided into 4 conferences: Eastern, Southern, Central and Western.
The USL League Two regular season takes place during the summer from early May to mid-July. Each team plays a 14-fixture season against their respective divisional opponents, seven games at home and seven away. Following the conclusion of the regular season, playoffs occur. The playoffs take place in late July, with each conference champion advancing to the national semifinals and the winners of those matches advancing to the League Two Championship match in early August.
A note about division sanctioning: The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) promulgated criteria and sanctions the first three divisions of soccer in the US. Below the three official divisions as designated by USSF, there are other active leagues; some of these are intrastate competitions or independent leagues. Most, though not all, of these are sanctioned by the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA).
1. USL website
3. Florida Secretary of State, Division of Corporations. http://search.sunbiz.org
5. independent research