United Soccer League: Status And Vision

The United Soccer Leagues consist of the USL Championship, USL League One and USL League Two.

For an overview of the USL, click on the link below:

USL Overview


Second Division

The current ownership of the USL is ten years old.

The highest division of the USL (now branded as the “USL Championship”) overtook the defunct North American Soccer League as the United States’ second division for the 2018 season.

In 2019, they added a third-tier division (League One) to further the pyramid while renaming the fourth-division, formerly known as the Premier Development League or PDL, to League Two.

USL has been successful in developing a number of markets around the country, some of which have gone on to acquire franchises in Major League Soccer. Some examples of markets that have performed well in USL are Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Cincinnati, Nashville, Sacramento, Saint Louis, Louisville, and Albuquerque.

USL is comprised of both independent clubs and MLS-affiliated clubs.

Clubs in USL Championship

Leadership

heading up the USL is its president, Jake Edwards. He has been league president since 2014 and has overseen a period of growth. He has also been instrumental in framing the vision of the league.

Expansion

A number of new teams are expected to join the Championship to reach the maximum number of franchises which is expected to be between 34 to 38 teams. USL believes that this is enough to create regional rivalries and derby’s while keeping travel costs in check.

Expansion of League One is a priority. The plan is to have two conferences by 2023. This could be accomplished by movement of teams from the Championship to League One, in addition to new expansion teams. The vision is to have 20 to 22 teams in League One by the 2023 season.

In addition to Union Omaha, two new MLS-affiliated sides will enter League One for 2020, owned by the New England Revolution and Inter Miami CF.

Stadium Upgrades

The USL is focused on its clubs playing in stadiums that enhance the fan experience and provide the proper environment for the game.

The league came to the end of a 10-year strategic plan where 16 soccer specific stadiums were built. In 2019, Austin and Hartford opened. Others are in the works. The goal leading up to the 2026 World Cup is for all or most of the USL Championship teams playing in soccer specific stadiums. The current view is that these stadiums be in the range of 10,000 to 15,000 seats.

Promotion / Relegation

USL President Jake Edwards says the league is studying promotion and relegation as a potential future feature. Edwards has played in that system in England and says he is aware of the pros and cons, the effects it has on clubs, employment and revenues. “I’m also well aware of the excitement and the drama, and the reward for ambition, and the punishment for apathy,” he said when asked about the subject.

For now it’s a potential future enhancement. The key would be to have a sustainable third division and narrow the differences in quality from one league to the other.

Long Term Goal for USL

Edwards was asked where he sees the USL when it reaches its 20th anniversary.

During my playing days, I never really looked further than the weekend. Now when we look forward, I’m looking as far as the World Cup in 2026. I think that’s a great event that’s going to come and change the game here — far more, in my opinion, than it did when it came in 1994. We’re starting at a much more sophisticated place. That’s what we’re using as a guidepost: the league that we want to be when the World Cup arrives. 

Jake Edwards, USL President