The United Soccer League has announced a new structure that will debut for its 2019 season in a press conference on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 1 p.m.
The new structure consists of, “one central brand, three leagues: USL Championship - the pinnacle of competition; USL League One - the foundation of professional soccer; and, USL League Two - the Path to Pro," according to USL's CEO Alec Papadikas.
Each league represents different levels of play in addition to the overall purpose of the brand. The newly improved USL’s plan is to bring young players up through the levels of competition, and eventually move on to more difficult leagues such as Major League Soccer and European Leagues.
Currently, the USL is the ‘minor league’ to the more prominently known MLS. In fact, many teams in the USL are the affiliates of major teams in North America.
USL has its own minor league team as well, known as the Premier Development League, that will take over the USL League Two. It will have the same purpose as before, just a different title.
The three new versions of the USL each have a color assigned to its logo to portray a desired meaning. USL Championship’s banner is gold to, “represent the ultimate goal for players, coaches, fans and communities, all of whom aspire for excellence both on and off the field.”
USL League One is a vibrant blue to represent its, “leadership and ownership that will forge a unique identity - driving by determination, unity and inspiration,” in order for them to want to move up to the Championship League.
Lastly, USL League Two is a powerful red meant to “forge the game’s future, delivering the first taste of premier competition in an authentic national soccer environment with a hyper-local focus.”
In the 2018 season, there were 33 teams split into two divisions, East and West. With this upgrade, the brand will have over 100 teams spread out across the three leagues. The number of teams that will remain in the most competitive league have not been confirmed, but each of the current USL teams have taken to social media to announce their position for the upcoming season.
Bethlehem Steel FC, affiliate of the Philadelphia Union and sitting in a playoff position for this season, has announced on Twitter that they will be competing in the USL Championship. Toronto FC II, affiliate of reigning MLS champions, have tweeted that they will move down to the USL League One after a depressing season of staying in last place.
More announcements about the expansion of the brand and new teams will most likely come during the off season. The regular season will be ending in a few weeks, and the playoffs will finish after the USL Champion is crowned in mid-November.
In my opinion, as an avid soccer fan, I am excited to see where this new expansion leads. The setup is similar to what a lot of well known clubs have all across the world. They have a developmental program that brings a young player up through the ranks of their system, giving them the opportunity to play at the top level of competition for their age.
The USL is changing the way North America will be interacting with and watching soccer. Younger players now have more opportunities to go farther in the sport after college than originally thought. People may be more inclined to think about a professional career with the more likely chance of being successful.
The expansion will officially start with the 2019 season. Until then, stay with From the Bleachers and myself for more updates until the first kickoff!