USL Championship
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USL Championship

USL Championship
USL Championship vert dark logo.svg
Organising bodyUnited Soccer League
FoundedSeptember 8, 2010 (2010-09-08)
First season2011
CountryUnited States
ConfederationCONCACAF
(North American Football Union)
ConferencesEastern Conference
Western Conference
Number of teams32
Level on pyramid2
Domestic cup(s)U.S. Open Cup
Current championsvacant
Current regular
season title
Not awarded (2020)
Most championshipsOrlando City
Louisville City FC
(2 titles each)
Most regular
season titles
Orlando City (3 titles)
TV partnersESPN+
YouTube
Websiteuslchampionship.com
Current: 2020 USL Championship Playoffs

The USL Championship (USLC) is a professional men's soccer league in the United States that began its inaugural season in 2011. The USL is sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer) as a Division II Professional League since 2017, placing it under Major League Soccer (Division I) in the hierarchy.[1] The USL is headquartered in Tampa, Florida.[2]

The league is owned and operated by United Soccer League (originally "United Soccer Leagues") and was formed as result of the merger of their USL First (USL-1) and Second Divisions (USL-2), following the controversial 2010 season which saw neither the USL-1 nor the North American Soccer League (NASL) receive Division II sanctioning from the USSF, resulting in the temporary USSF Division 2 Pro League. United Soccer Leagues stated that the merger would strengthen the league's position within the American professional soccer landscape through stability, commercial growth and the professional development of soccer in four main regions throughout the United States and Canada.[3]

Formerly known as United Soccer League (USL) and USL Pro, in January 2013, United Soccer Leagues and MLS reached an agreement to integrate the USL league competition with the MLS Reserve League, primarily to improve player development in North America, strengthen league competition and build ties between leagues in the American soccer pyramid. This multi-year deal encourages MLS and USL team affiliations and player loans, aiming to have more games for teams and developing players.[4][5] As of the 2020 season, 13 USL Championship teams are affiliated to MLS teams. Most MLS teams have an affiliate in either the USL Championship or third-level USL League One (USL1), although some MLS teams do not currently maintain a formal affiliation with a team in either league.

History

Founding (2010)

On September 8, 2010, the United Soccer Leagues formally announced the creation of USL Pro in a press release.[3] Prior to the official announcement of the new league, on August 11, 2010, the Dayton Dutch Lions FC revealed they would be joining the "USL-Pro Championship Division (former USL-2)" at a press conference, revealing the name of the new league before its official announcement.[6] With this disclosure, the Dutch Lions were the first confirmed team in USL Pro for its inaugural 2011 season. Alongside the announcement of the new league, the Richmond Kickers revealed they would be moving to USL Pro for 2011.[7] With the departure of the Portland Timbers to MLS in 2011 and the defection of the Puerto Rico Islanders to the NASL[8] from USL-1, the Austin Aztex were the only remaining USL-1 team not yet a part of USL Pro.

On September 22, 2010, the "Caribbean Division" of USL Pro was announced, with teams from Puerto Rico and Antigua and Barbuda signing on to compete in the league.[9] With the addition of Puerto Rico United to the league and "Caribbean Division", league representatives expressed their intent to see expansion in the region continue, with an eventual 8-team "Caribbean Conference".[10] With the inclusion of a team from Los Angeles, this division eventually became the International Division. On September 22, 2010, USL announced that Sevilla FC Puerto Rico and River Plate Puerto Rico would be joining USL Pro in 2011 alongside Antigua Barracuda FC as part of the building blocks of a Caribbean division.[9] On September 28, 2010, USL announced that one of their flagship clubs and reigning 2010 USL-2 Champions, the Charleston Battery, would be joining USL Pro for its launch in 2011.[11] On September 30, 2010, nearly two months following the team's own announcement of a "USL Pro Championship Division" move, the USL formally announced Dayton Dutch Lions FC would join USL Pro.[12] On October 4 and 7, 2010, the USL revealed two USL-2 clubs, the Charlotte Eagles and the Harrisburg City Islanders (the latter now known as Penn FC), would be making the jump to USL Pro for 2011.[13][14]

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds were added as the 9th official team on October 22, 2010.[15] October 25, 2010 saw the addition of the Rochester Rhinos[16] who had previously committed to the NASL, along with expansion team Orlando City SC (formerly the Austin Aztex FC of USL-1) after new ownership secured and moved the team from Texas to Florida.[17]

On November 9, 2010, former USL-2 side Wilmington Hammerheads officially joined the league as the 12th team,[18] followed on November 17, 2010 by F.C. New York.[19] The expected number of teams to launch league play in 2011 was announced as 18-20, alongside the announcement of the Wilmington Hammerheads joining the league.[18]

The Los Angeles Blues, associated with the successful women's Pali Blues organization, were added on December 7, 2010 with a message of future "Western Conference" growth into 2012.[20] The "Caribbean Division" of USL Pro grew to four teams on December 9, 2010 with the addition of Puerto Rico United to the league,[10] marking the last of the 15 teams that would compete in USL Pro in its inaugural 2011 season.

On September 14, 2010, United Soccer Leagues President Tim Holt expressed the desired structure for the league to launch with 14-18 teams across four specific geographic areas in 2011, expansion to 22-26 teams by 2013, and 28-32 teams by 2015.[21]

Following USL Pro's first annual general meeting, the league confirmed it would debut with 16 teams playing a 24-game regular season schedule in 2011, with planned growth for 20-24 teams to start the 2012 season.[22]

Progression of USL Expansion
Season # Teams
2011 12
2012 11
2013 13
2014 14
2015 24
2016 29
2017 30
2018 33
2019 36
2020 35
2021 32


Play begins (2011-2012)

USL Pro debuted in 2011, starting with 15 teams playing a 24-game regular season schedule. American and National Division teams played a home-and-away series against all opponents from the two divisions (totaling 18 games), 2 additional regional rivalry matches, with each team making an additional trip to either Los Angeles or the Caribbean to play two games while hosting International Division competition for two games. International Division teams played each team in their division four times (twice home, twice away, totaling 16 games) while traveling to face American or National Division opponents in four games and hosting those opponents for four games.[22][23][24]

The original playoff format saw eight teams compete in a one-game quarterfinal. Both the American and National Divisions saw their top three teams advance for an inter-divisional playoff, while the top two teams in the International Division played-off against each other to reach the semi-finals. The four remaining teams were re-seeded for a single semi-final match, again with the higher seed hosting, leading up to a single match for the USL Cup. In all playoff matches the highest seeded team hosted.[25]

On May 10, 2011, early in the league's inaugural season, the league announced that it was dropping the three Puerto Rican clubs from the USL Pro schedule.[26] The PRSL clubs were dropped due to economic and ownership issues.[26] The two remaining International Division teams - Antigua Barracuda FC and Los Angeles Blues - were re-aligned into the American and National Divisions. Due to the removal of the International Division, the revised playoff format featured the top four teams in each of the two divisions. The two division playoff winners met in the USL Pro Championship at the home venue of the team with the better record.

Following the 2011 season, USL Pro announced with the release of the 2012 season schedule that F.C. New York would not be returning to play, with the former National and American Divisions being dissolved to form a single, eleven team league table.[27]

Beginnings of MLS partnership (2013-2014)

Two expansion teams joined for the 2013 season: Phoenix FC[28][29] and the VSI Tampa Bay FC.[30]

On January 23, 2013 United Soccer Leagues and MLS announced a multi-year agreement to integrate MLS Reserve League play with USL Pro teams, first through team affiliations and "interleague" play, but eventually fully merging MLS Reserves into the USL Pro structure. The stated goals[31] of this partnership are to improve North American player development, strengthen league competition, build long-term ties between the leagues and expand the audience for both the leagues and developing players.

While the 2013 season would feature partnered competitions between USL Pro and MLS Reserve teams, four Major League Soccer clubs opted to affiliate with an existing USL Pro team, agreeing to loan at least four MLS players to their affiliate: Sporting Kansas City with Orlando City, the Philadelphia Union with the Harrisburg City Islanders, D.C. United with the Richmond Kickers and the New England Revolution with the Rochester Rhinos. Each MLS club will eventually be expected to either affiliate with a USL Pro team or operate an independent reserve team in the league.[4][5] The Houston Dynamo announced that they would be partnering with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in 2014.[32] However, this partnership between the Riverhounds and Dynamo was dissolved after just one year.[33] Following the conclusion of the 2013 season, VSI Tampa Bay folded after only one season, along with founding league member Antigua.[34]

In December 2012, Sacramento announced it would begin play in 2014 as an expansion team,[35] and in July 2014, USL announced that Oklahoma City would also join USL in 2014.[36]Orlando City announced that it would leave USL after the 2014 season to join MLS as an expansion team for the 2015 season.[37][38][39] The Los Angeles Blues were rebranded as Orange County Blues FC on February 5, 2014.[40] The Phoenix FC franchise was revoked and replaced with Arizona United SC on March 13, 2014.[41]

In what would become a major trend, on January 29, 2014, the LA Galaxy announced the creation of LA Galaxy II, a reserve team within the club's existing development structure. The Galaxy purchased a USL Pro expansion franchise[42] and became the first MLS club to enter its reserve team into the USL Pro.

Expansion of MLS partnership and first rebranding (2015-2016)

USL Pro nearly doubled the number of teams in the league for 2015 in large part due to MLS franchises following the path taken by the LA Galaxy II. Seven MLS clubs announced the purchase of a USL Pro franchise for their reserve team. These MLS franchises joined four independent expansion teams that were previously announced for Colorado Springs, St. Louis, Tulsa and Austin. Additionally, Orlando City sold its franchise rights to Louisville interests, which unveiled Louisville City FC on June 3, 2014 as an affiliate of the new MLS side.[43] The United Soccer Leagues announced that the Charlotte Eagles would drop to its Premier Development League (PDL), now known as USL League Two, while selling their franchise rights to another Charlotte group, which formed Charlotte Independence for play beginning in 2015.[44] Finally, on December 11, 2014, the Dayton Dutch Lions self-relegated to play in the PDL starting in 2015.[45]

During 2014 and early 2015, the various MLS clubs in conjunction with the USL announced seven new franchises that would be owned or controlled by MLS team ownership, and would all begin play in 2015. On September 10, 2014, Real Salt Lake revealed the name of their previously announced USL Pro affiliate team would be Real Monarchs, and confirmed that the team would begin play in 2015.[46][47] The team played at Rio Tinto Stadium until the 5,000-seat Zions Bank Stadium was built in Herriman, Utah.[48] Both the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders FC created their own USL Pro squads, Portland Timbers 2 and Seattle Sounders FC 2 on October 14, 2014.[49] The Montreal Impact announced that it would field a USL Pro team in September 2014. On November 18, 2014, FC Montreal officially joined the league.[50][51][52] On November 20, 2014, Toronto FC announced that it would also field a team, subsequently named Toronto FC II, for the 2015 season.[53]Whitecaps FC 2 joined USL Pro the next day.[54] After discussing plans for a USL Pro team in 2015,[55] then postponing those plans in September,[56] the New York Red Bulls announced that their USL Pro team, New York Red Bulls II would begin play in 2015.[57][58]

MLS affiliations were announced for the remaining MLS teams that did not have an affiliation in 2014 and did not elect to purchase a USL Pro franchise. On September 18, 2014 the Colorado Rapids announced an affiliation partnership with the Charlotte Independence.[59] On January 16, 2015 New York City FC announced that it would have an affiliate relationship with the Wilmington Hammerheads[60] and the Chicago Fire announced their affiliation with St Louis.[61] On February 9, 2015, FC Dallas announced it would add Arizona United SC as its USL Pro affiliate.[62][63] As a result, all 20 MLS teams for the 2015 season were either fielding their own team in the USL Pro or were affiliated with an independent USL Pro club.

The league also announced in 2015 that the league would be divided into two conferences. Teams would play a 28-game schedule with 22 games against all the teams in their conference, and the teams would be further assigned to four-club subdivisions for the other six games with an eye towards geographic rivalries between clubs.[64]

USL logo used from 2015 until 2018

On February 10, 2015, United Soccer Leagues announced a branding change for the league. It would now be called the "United Soccer League" or "USL" for short. They introduced a new logo and branding, and stated their intention to apply for Division II status within the United States Soccer Federation hierarchy.[65]

During the 2015 season, USL announced several expansion teams for the 2016 season. The 25th franchise was awarded to Lone Star, LLC and the team would be named Rio Grande Valley FC.[66] In a first for the USL, the team has a "hybrid" affiliation with the Houston Dynamo, who are responsible for the tactical part of the club, while the ownership group, Lone Star, is responsible for operations and management.[67][68]FC Cincinnati was added as the 26th franchise[69][70] and Bethlehem Steel FC, in the Lehigh Valley area and owned by the Philadelphia Union, became the 27th,[71][72]Orlando City B (owned by Orlando City SC) as the 29th,[73] the Swope Park Rangers (owned by Sporting Kansas City) as the 30th,[74] and San Antonio FC as the 31st.[75]

The Austin Aztex announced that they would go on hiatus for the 2016 USL season on October 2, 2015. Floods damaging House Park midway through the 2015 season forced the team to relocate to a high school facility. The team was intended to return in 2017, pending construction of a new, soccer-specific stadium.[76] However, stadium and ownership issues continued to plague the franchise, and they did not return.[77]

Surpassing NASL for Division II sanctioning (2016-present)

Expansion continued for the 2017 season with Reno 1868 FC, which had been announced during the 2015 season as the 28th franchise, starting play.[78] On October 25, 2016, the USL added two teams from the North American Soccer League (NASL): the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury FC. This was the first time a club moved from the NASL to the USL.[79] The Montreal Impact also announced that it would fold its USL team, FC Montreal, in favor of affiliating with Ottawa Fury FC.[80]

On August 31, 2016, Kyle Eng sold his majority share of Arizona United SC to an investment group led by Berke Bakay and was rebranded as Phoenix Rising FC with plans to build their own stadium.[81][82][83]

On January 6, 2017, the U.S. Soccer board of directors voted to grant provisional Division II status to the USL for the 2017 season,[1] placing the league on the same tier as the North American Soccer League. The NASL was also downgraded from Division II sanctioning to a provisional status due to its membership decreasing below the 12 team minimum. Following the 2017 season, the USL gained two more NASL teams: Indy Eleven[84] and North Carolina FC.[85] For the 2018 season, the NASL's provisional sanctioning was not renewed by U.S. Soccer, while the USL was granted full sanctioning under Division II on a year-to-year basis.[86] The NASL attempted to sue U.S. Soccer for colluding with Major League Soccer to protect what it deemed to be a monopolization of top-flight soccer in the United States, but was denied by an appeals court.[87]

The USL's expansion efforts continued in the 2018 season with the additions of Nashville SC,[88][89]Las Vegas Lights FC,[90][91][92]Fresno FC (affiliated with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC)[93] and Atlanta United 2 (owned by Atlanta United FC).[94][95] The league also lost Orlando City B and the Rochester Rhinos, which each announced a hiatus,[96][97] while the Whitecaps FC 2 were folded after its parent team in Vancouver decided to no longer run its own development team and affiliated with the new Fresno expansion.

Four teams left the USL top flight after the 2018 season. The ownership group of FC Cincinnati was awarded an MLS franchise that started play under the FC Cincinnati name in 2019.[98]Penn FC,[99] the Richmond Kickers,[100] and Toronto FC II voluntarily dropped to USL League One, a new third-level league that United Soccer Leagues launched in 2019.[101] The Kickers and Toronto FC II began League One play in 2019; Penn FC suspended professional operations for 2019 and will resume play in League One in 2020. In addition, the announced hiatuses for both the Rhinos and Orlando City B became permanent departures. The Rhinos announced they would extend their hiatus through 2019 before resuming play in League One in 2020,[102] while Orlando City B resumed play in 2019 in League One.[103]

The league also approved several other expansion locations in Austin,[104]Birmingham,[105]Memphis,[106][107] Chicago,[108][109] Oakland East Bay, Hartford,[110]Albuquerque,[111]El Paso,[112]Loudoun County, Virginia,[113] and San Diego.[114] All of these teams began play in 2019 except for San Diego, which began play in the 2020 season; Chicago and East Bay were both announced to launch by 2021, but were indefinitely put on hold when they had issues in securing stadium plans.[115]

Following the end of the 2019 season, three teams left the USL Championship. Nashville SC was awarded a Major League Soccer franchise,[116]Fresno FC announced that they would not be returning to Fresno,[117] and Ottawa Fury FC announced that they would be suspending operations after not receiving sanctioning to remain in USL by CONCACAF and U.S. Soccer.[118] An expansion team was announced for the New York City borough of Queens to be named Queensboro FC.[119] On December 11, the Ottawa Fury announced the sale of its franchise rights to the ownership group of The Miami FC, with Miami set to participate in the 2020 USL Championship season. This marked the entrance of another former NASL team into the league, with Miami having previously spent time in NPSL and the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) after the NASL folded.

Saint Louis FC folded at the end of the 2020 season. The city is set to receive an MLS franchise, with St. Louis City SC set to start play in 2023. A spokesperson for SLFC told Sports Illustrated in August of that year, "The ownership decided that with the financial impact of COVID-19 and MLS on the horizon, it didn't make sense to continue operations."[120] Also at the end of the 2020 season, two MLS clubs, the Philadelphia Union and Portland Timbers, withdrew their reserve sides, Philadelphia Union II and Portland Timbers 2, from the United Soccer League system.[121] The proposed East Bay club's bid had faltered due to stadium issues and its USL franchise rights were purchased by Oakland Roots SC, which had previously played in the NISA, with plans to debut in the USLC for the 2021 season.[122][123] On November 6, 2020, Reno 1868 FC announced it was ceasing operations as a result of the financial and operational impacts of COVID-19.[124]

Clubs

Current clubs

The following teams are expected to play in the USL Championship during the 2021 season. Conference alignments should be considered tentative.

Club City Stadium Capacity Founded Joined Head coach MLS affiliate
Eastern Conference
Atlanta United 2 Kennesaw, Georgia Fifth Third Bank Stadium[i] 8,318 2017 2018 England Tony Annan (interim) Atlanta United FC
Birmingham Legion FC Birmingham, Alabama BBVA Field[ii] 5,000 2017 2019 United States Tom Soehn
Charleston Battery Mount Pleasant, South Carolina Patriots Point Soccer Complex[ii] 3,900 1993 2011 United States Mike Anhaeuser
Charlotte Independence Charlotte, North Carolina Memorial Stadium[ii] 10,500 2014 2015 United States Mike Jeffries
Hartford Athletic Hartford, Connecticut Dillon Stadium[ii] 5,500 2018 2019 vacant
Indy Eleven Indianapolis, Indiana Lucas Oil Stadium[i] 62,421 2013 2018 Scotland Martin Rennie
Loudoun United FC Leesburg, Virginia Segra Field[ii] 5,000 2018 2019 United States Ryan Martin D.C. United
Louisville City FC Louisville, Kentucky Lynn Family Stadium[ii] 11,700 2014 2015 United States John Hackworth
Memphis 901 FC Memphis, Tennessee AutoZone Park[iii] 10,000 2018 2019 United States Ben Pirmann (interim)
Miami FC Miami, Florida Riccardo Silva Stadium 20,000 2015 2020 Scotland Paul Dalglish
New York Red Bulls II Montclair, New Jersey MSU Soccer Park[ii] 5,000 2015 United States John Wolyniec New York Red Bulls
North Carolina FC Cary, North Carolina WakeMed Soccer Park[ii] 10,000 2006 2018 United States Dave Sarachan
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Highmark Stadium[ii] 5,000 1998 2011 United States Bob Lilley
Sporting Kansas City II Kansas City, Kansas Children's Mercy Park[ii] 18,467 2015 2016 Brazil Paulo Nagamura Sporting Kansas City
Tampa Bay Rowdies St. Petersburg, Florida Al Lang Stadium[iii] 7,227 2008 2017 Scotland Neill Collins
Western Conference
Austin Bold FC Austin, Texas Bold Stadium 5,000 2017 2019 Brazil Marcelo Serrano
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC Colorado Springs, Colorado Weidner Field[ii][iv] 8,000 2013 2015 Vacant Colorado Rapids
El Paso Locomotive FC El Paso, Texas Southwest University Park[iii] 9,500 2018 2019 England Mark Lowry
LA Galaxy II Carson, California Dignity Health Track Stadium[i] 5,000 2014 United States Junior Gonzalez LA Galaxy
Las Vegas Lights FC Las Vegas, Nevada Cashman Field[iii] 9,334 2017 2018 Canada Frank Yallop
New Mexico United Albuquerque, New Mexico Rio Grande Credit Union Field[iii] 13,500 2018 2019 United States Troy Lesesne
Oakland Roots SC Oakland, California Laney College Stadium 5,500 2018 2021 Bosnia and Herzegovina Dario Pot
Oklahoma City Energy FC Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Taft Stadium[ii] 7,500 2013 2014 United States John Pascarella
Orange County SC Irvine, California Championship Soccer Stadium[ii] 5,000 2010 2011 United States Braeden Cloutier
Phoenix Rising FC Tempe, Arizona Casino Arizona Field[ii] 6,200 2014 United States Rick Schantz
Real Monarchs Herriman, Utah Zions Bank Stadium[ii] 5,000 2014 2015 Colombia Jámison Olave Real Salt Lake
Rio Grande Valley FC Edinburg, Texas H-E-B Park[ii] 9,400 2015 2016 vacant Houston Dynamo
Sacramento Republic FC Sacramento, California Papa Murphy's Park[ii] 11,569 2012 2014 England Mark Briggs
San Antonio FC San Antonio, Texas Toyota Field[ii] 8,296 2016 Canada Alen Marcina New York City FC
San Diego Loyal SC San Diego, California Torero Stadium[i] 8,000 2019 2020 United States Landon Donovan
Tacoma Defiance Tacoma, Washington Cheney Stadium[iii] 6,500 2014 2015 Scotland Chris Little Seattle Sounders FC
FC Tulsa Tulsa, Oklahoma ONEOK Field[iii] 7,833 2013 2015 Nigeria Michael Nsien
  MLS-affiliated
  MLS-owned

Expansion clubs

Club City Stadium Capacity Founded Joining Head coach MLS affiliate
Planned Expansion Clubs
Queensboro FC Queens, New York New stadium at York College[ii] 7,500 2019 2022 Spain Josep Gombau
USLC Rhode Island[125] Pawtucket, Rhode Island Riptide Stadium[ii] 7,500 2020 2022
USLC Buffalo[126] Buffalo, New York TBD TBD TBD TBD
USLC Des Moines[127] Des Moines, Iowa TBD TBD TBD TBD

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d Shared facility; not a soccer-specific stadium
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Soccer specific stadium
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Baseball park
  4. ^ Set to open for the 2021 season. Not to be confused with the former Weidner Field, now known as Switchbacks Training Stadium, which served as the team's home from 2015 to 2020. After the 2020 season, the stadium name was transferred to the new venue.

Former clubs

Club City Stadium Capacity Joined Final season MLS affiliation Fate
Antigua Barracuda FC St. John's, Antigua Stanford Cricket Ground 5,000 2011 2013 None Folded
Austin Aztex Austin, Texas House Park 6,500 2015 Columbus Crew SC Folded
Charlotte Eagles Charlotte, North Carolina Dickson Field 5,006 2011 2014 None Moved to Professional Development League[i]
FC Cincinnati Cincinnati, Ohio Nippert Stadium 33,800 2015 2018 None Moved to MLS
Dayton Dutch Lions West Carrollton, Ohio DOC Stadium 3,000 2011 2014 Columbus Crew SC Moved to PDL[i]
FC Montreal Montreal, Quebec Complexe sportif Claude-Robillard 3,500 2015 2016 Montreal Impact Folded by MLS parent club
F.C. New York Queens, New York Belson Stadium 2,168 2011 None Moved to NPSL, then folded
Fresno FC Fresno, California Chukchansi Park 12,500 2017 2019 None Ceased operations
Nashville SC Nashville, Tennessee First Tennessee Park 10,000 2016 2019 None Moved to MLS
Orlando City B Orlando, Florida Orlando City Stadium 3,500 2016 2017 Orlando City SC Moved to USL League One (2019)[128]
Orlando City SC Lake Buena Vista, Florida ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex 5,500 2011 2014 Sporting Kansas City Moved to MLS; USL rights transferred to Louisville
Ottawa Fury FC Ottawa, Ontario TD Place Stadium 24,000 2017 2019 Montreal Impact Suspended operations; no sanction from United States Soccer Federation or CONCACAF[118] USL rights transferred to Miami[129]
Penn FC Harrisburg, Pennsylvania FNB Field 6,187 2011 2018 None Planned to join USL League One; folded.
Philadelphia Union II Chester, Pennsylvania Subaru Park 18,500 2015 2020 Philadelphia Union Withdrawn by MLS parent club; was Bethlehem Steel FC from 2015 to 2019
Phoenix FC Tempe, Arizona Sun Devil Soccer Stadium 3,400 2013 None Folded; replaced by Arizona United SC[ii]
Portland Timbers 2 Hillsboro, Oregon Hillsboro Stadium 7,600 2015 2020 Portland Timbers Withdrawn by MLS parent club
Puerto Rico United[iii] Aguada, Puerto Rico Aguada Stadium 4,000 2011 None Moved to Liga Nacional (PR)
Reno 1868 FC Reno, Nevada Greater Nevada Field[iv] 9,013 2017 2020 San Jose Earthquakes Folded
River Plate Puerto Rico[iii] Fajardo, Puerto Rico Roberto Clemente Stadium 12,500 2011 None Moved to PRSL
Richmond Kickers Richmond, Virginia City Stadium 22,000 2011 2018 D.C. United Moved to USL League One
Rochester Rhinos Rochester, New York Marina Auto Stadium 13,768 2011 2017 New England Revolution Will join USL League One in 2021[130][102]
Saint Louis FC Fenton, Missouri West Community Stadium[v] 5,500 2014 2020 None Ceased operations
Sevilla Puerto Rico[iii] Juncos, Puerto Rico Josué Elevadito González Stadium 2,500 2011 None Moved to Liga Nacional (PR)
Toronto FC II Toronto, Ontario Lamport Stadium 9,600 2014 2018 Toronto FC Moved to USL League One
Vancouver, British Columbia Thunderbird Stadium 3,500 2015 2017 Vancouver Whitecaps FC Folded by MLS parent club
VSI Tampa Bay FC Plant City, Florida Plant City Stadium 6,700 2013 2013 None Folded
Wilmington, North Carolina Legion Stadium 6,000 2011 2016 Toronto FC & New York City FC Moved to PDL[i], then folded
  1. ^ a b c Known as USL League Two (USL2) since the 2019 season
  2. ^ Renamed as Phoenix Rising FC in 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Puerto Rico United, River Plate Puerto Rico, and Sevilla Puerto Rico tried to participate in the USL's first season but had financial difficulties almost immediately and the league had to cancel all games after May and make significant changes to the remaining schedule
  4. ^ Baseball park
  5. ^ Soccer specific stadium

Clubs timeline

Queensboro FCOakland Roots SCSan Diego Loyal SCMiami FCNew Mexico UnitedMemphis 901 FCLoudoun United FCHartford AthleticEl Paso Locomotive FCBirmingham Legion FCAustin Bold FCNorth Carolina FCNashville SC (2018-19)Las Vegas Lights FCIndy ElevenFresno FCAtlanta United 2Tampa Bay RowdiesReno 1868 FCOttawa Fury FCSporting Kansas City IISwope Park RangersSan Antonio FCRio Grande Valley FCOrlando City BFC Cincinnati (2016-18)Philadelphia Union IIBethlehem Steel FCWhitecaps FC 2FC TulsaTulsa Roughnecks FCToronto FC IITacoma DefianceSeattle Sounders FC 2Saint Louis FCReal MonarchsPortland Timbers 2New York Red Bulls IILouisville City FCFC MontrealColorado Springs Switchbacks FCCharlotte IndependenceAustin AztexSacramento Republic FCOklahoma City Energy FCLA Galaxy IIPhoenix Rising FCArizona United SCVSI Tampa Bay FCPhoenix FCWilmington Hammerheads FCRochester RhinosRichmond KickersPittsburgh Riverhounds SCOrlando City SC (2010-2014)Orange County SCOrange County SCOrange County SCPenn FCHarrisburg City IslandersF.C. New YorkDayton Dutch LionsCharlotte EaglesCharleston BatteryAntigua Barracuda FC

? Puerto Rico clubs Puerto Rico United, River Plate Puerto Rico, and Sevilla Puerto Rico began play in the league, but in May 2011 United Soccer Leagues announced that the teams would not finish the season due to financial difficulties.[131]

Competition format

USL Pro's scheduling format changed for the 2015 season to accommodate the expansion that took place during the 2014-2015 off-season, and the league's resulting need to divide teams into conferences - which eliminated the single table.[132][133]

All teams played 28 regular-season matches stretching from March to September. This included a 22-game, double-round-robin schedule that pitted each team against all its conference opponents at home and on the road. The remaining six fixtures were played against regional rivals, which lead to some inter-conference regular season matches. The top six finishers in each conference went through to the October playoffs, which continued as a series of single-game knockout rounds. After three rounds of intra-conference play, the two conference champions met in the championship match, to be hosted by the team with the better regular-season record.[134] For 2016 season the season was extended to 30 games.[135]

Starting with the 2019 season, teams will play regular-season games only within their conference. Each team will play a home-and-home schedule within its conference, resulting in a 34-game schedule. The top 10 teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs, which will continue to be held with separate brackets for each conference and conducted entirely as one-off knockout matches. The opening round, which the league calls the "play-in round", sees the bottom four teams in action, with the 7 seed hosting the 10 seed and 8 hosting 9. The survivors join the top six sides from their respective conferences, with the lowest remaining seed visiting the 1 seed and the other play-in survivor visiting the 2 seed. All matches through the conference finals will be hosted by the higher seed. The USL Cup will be the season's only match that involves teams from different conferences; it will be hosted by the conference champion with the better regular-season record.[136]

Media coverage

The USL has been partnered with ESPN since the 2016 season. The first iteration of the deal brought 20 matches to ESPN3 and the championship match to one of its linear networks, while all remaining matches were broadcast directly by the league on its YouTube channel.[137]

Beginning with the launch of ESPN+ on April 12, 2018, all USL matches moved to the over-the-top service, with 18 games of the week and the championship continuing to air on one of ESPN's linear channels.[138] The 2019 final will also air on ESPN Deportes. The deal with ESPN expired after the 2019 season, but was subsequently renewed for three additional seasons. Although the ESPN+ match streams are not blacked out in-market, individual clubs are also allowed to syndicate the USL-produced broadcast to local television stations.[139]

In August 2020, the USL announced their first international broadcast partner with Caribbean broadcaster Flow Sports.[140]

Region Broadcaster
 United States ESPN
Caribbean Flow Sports

Champions

Teams that no longer participate in the USL Championship are in italics.

USL Championship Final results

USL club honors

Current through completed 2019 USL Regular Season; Order based on major honors (championships).

Team Seasons USL Playoffs USL Regular Season Domestic
(USOC, CC, CFUCC)
Total honors Major honors / Champion­ships
Winner Runner-up Winner Runner-up Winner Furthest USL Entry
Orlando City SC 4 2 -- 3 1 -- 1 7 5
Rochester Rhinos 7 1 -- 1 1 1 (pre-USL) 1 5 3
Richmond Kickers 8 -- -- 1 -- 1 (pre-USL) 1 3 2
New York Red Bulls II 4 1 -- 1 -- -- -- 2 2
Louisville City FC 5 2 1 -- 3 -- 1 7 2
Sacramento Republic 5 1 -- -- 1 -- -- 2 1
Charleston Battery 8 1 -- -- -- -- -- 1 1
Real Monarchs 5 1 -- 1 -- -- -- 2 2
FC Cincinnati 3 -- -- 1 -- -- 1 2 1
Phoenix Rising FC 6 -- 1 1 -- -- -- 2 1
Penn FC 8 -- 2 -- -- -- 1 3 0
Wilmington Hammerheads 6 -- 1 -- 1 -- 1 3 0
Sporting Kansas City II 3 -- 2 -- -- -- -- 2 0
LA Galaxy II 5 -- 1 -- -- -- -- 1 0
Charlotte Eagles 4 -- 1 -- -- -- -- 1 0
Charlotte Independence 4 -- -- -- -- -- 1 1 0

Player records

As of February 7, 2020[141]

Attendance

Season Teams League avg. Playoff avg. Highest teams Lowest teams Ref
2011 12 2,274 5,555 5,330 (Orlando City)
4,927 (Rochester)
410 (Los Angeles Blues)
542 (Dayton)
[142]
2012 11 2,777 4,252 6,606 (Orlando City)
6,265 (Rochester)
666 (Los Angeles Blues)
722 (Dayton)
[143]
2013 13 2,611 6,989 8,056 (Orlando City)
5,898 (Rochester)
378 (VSI Tampa Bay)
718 (Los Angeles Blues)
[144]
2014 14 3,114 5,397 11,293 (Sacramento)
5,329 (Rochester)
533 (Dayton)
597 (LA Galaxy II)
[145]
2015 24 3,369 5,463 11,313 (Sacramento)
6,765 (Louisville City)
313 (FC Montreal)
479 (Toronto FC ll)
[146]
2016 29 3,439 5,281 17,296 (FC Cincinnati)
11,514 (Sacramento)
243 (FC Montreal)
589 (New York Red Bulls II)
[147]
2017 30 4,302 5,339 21,198 (FC Cincinnati)
11,569 (Sacramento)
632 (New York Red Bulls II)
869 (Vancouver Whitecaps 2)
2018 33 4,923 7,786 25,717 (FC Cincinnati)
11,311 (Sacramento)
810 (Toronto FC II)
812 (New York Red Bulls II)
[148]
2019 36 4,478 5,389 12,693 (New Mexico United)
10,734 (Indy Eleven)
478 (Bethlehem Steel FC)
505 (Swope Park Rangers)

FC Cincinnati played before a record crowd of 20,497 at Nippert Stadium on April 16, 2016 in a rivalry match against neighboring Louisville City FC.[149] This broke the USL Pro's previous record for attendance at a regular-season match of 20,231 set by Sacramento Republic in its home debut on April 26, 2014 at Hughes Stadium.[150] Cincinnati broke the record again on May 14, 2016, with a new all-time high of 23,375.[151] Cincinnati broke the single game attendance record again on October 2, 2016 in their first ever playoff match against the Charleston Battery, losing 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the 2016 USL playoffs. The attendance of 30,187 also set the USL playoff record.[152] Cincinnati broke the all time regular season record again on August 5, 2017 at Nippert Stadium, drawing 25,308 versus Orlando City B. They broke their own record again about six weeks later drawing 30,417 to a 4-2 win over the New York Red Bulls II[153] Cincinnati broke the record once more in their final home regular season game as a USL team on September 29, 2018, drawing 31,478 versus Indy Eleven[154]

See also

References

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