The United Soccer League (USL) has announced a new structure that will debut for its 2019 season in a press conference on Tuesday, Sept. 25 and hopefully, it will change America’s view on soccer.
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.
[media-credit name=”PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE UNITED SOCCER LEAGUE” align=”alignright” width=”500″][/media-credit]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 (MLS) 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 teams 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 addition of the leagues will give the MLS the opportunity to branch out and discover new talent. They will have the ability to call up affiliate team’s best like how the Philadelphia Union called up Bethlehem Steel star Cory Burke. Burke has changed the first team in recent games, showing that young talent is to be discovered in the developmental leagues.
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.”
The color coding is a unique opportunity to give meaning to the leagues. Each of the leagues will have a ball that matches their respective colors.
[media-credit name=”PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE UNITED SOCCER LEAGUE” align=”alignright” width=”500″][/media-credit]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 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.
[media-credit name=”PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE UNITED SOCCER LEAGUE” align=”alignright” width=”500″][/media-credit]The new format will officially start in the spring of 2019 with the start of the new season. Hopefully, it will be a success to influence the way Americans enjoy soccer.