|Founded||September 8, 2010|
|Number of teams||13|
|Levels on pyramid||3|
|Domestic cup(s)||Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup|
|International cup(s)||CFU Club Championship|
|Current champions||Orlando City (2013)|
|Most championships||Orlando City (2 titles)|
|Current shield||Richmond Kickers (2013)|
|Most Supporters' Shields||Orlando City (2 shields)|
|Website||USL Pro website|
|2014 USL Pro season|
The USL Professional Division, commonly known as USL Pro (stylized USL PRO), is a professional men's soccer league in the United States that began its inaugural season in 2011. USL Pro is sanctioned as a Division III Professional League by United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer), placing it under Major League Soccer (Division I) and the North American Soccer League (Division II) in the hierarchy.
The league is owned and operated by United Soccer Leagues (USL) and was formed as result of the organization's merger of the old USL First and Second Divisions, following the controversial 2010 season which saw neither the USL First Division or the North American Soccer League (NASL) receive sanctioning from the USSF, resulting in the temporary USSF Division 2 Pro League. The merger is meant to consolidate USL's position within the American professional soccer landscape and focus on stability, commercial growth and the professional development of soccer in four main regions throughout the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.
In January 2013, USL and MLS reached an agreement to integrate USL Pro league competition with the MLS Reserve League, primarily to improve player development in North America, strengthen league competition and build ties between divisions in the American soccer pyramid. This multi-year deal encourages MLS and USL Pro team affiliations and player loans, and it will lead to more games for teams and developing players.
On September 8, 2010, USL formally announced the creation of USL Pro in a press release. 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. 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. With the departure of the Portland Timbers to MLS in 2011 and the defection of the Puerto Rico Islanders to the NASL from the USL First Division, the Austin Aztex were the lone First Division team left to fold into USL Pro.
On September 22, 2010, at a press conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, USL formally announced that Sevilla FC Puerto Rico and Club Atletico 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.
On September 28, 2010, USL announced that one of their flagship clubs and reigning 2010 USL Second Division Champions, the Charleston Battery, would be joining USL Pro for its launch in 2011. Two days later, 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. The following week, on October 4 and October 7, 2010, the USL revealed two Second Division clubs, the Charlotte Eagles and the Harrisburg City Islanders, would be making the jump to USL Pro for 2011.  The Pittsburgh Riverhounds were added as the 9th official team on October 22, 2010. October 25, 2010 saw the addition of the Rochester Rhinos who had previously committed to the NASL, along with expansion team Orlando City Soccer Club (formerly the Austin Aztex of USL First Division) after new ownership secured and moved the team from Texas to Florida.
On November 9, 2010, former USL-2 Division side Wilmington Hammerheads officially joined the league as the 12th team. They were followed by F.C. New York on November 17, 2010. The Los Angeles Blues, associated with the successful women's Pali Blues organization, were added with a message of future "Western Conference" growth into 2012, on December 7, 2010.
The "Caribbean Division" of USL Pro grew to four teams with the addition of Puerto Rico United to the league on December 9, 2010, rounding out the 15 teams that would compete in USL Pro for its inaugural season.
On May 10, 2011, early in the league's inaugural season, the USL announced that it was "reforming" its agreement with the Puerto Rican Soccer League and dropping the three Puerto Rican clubs from the USL PRO schedule. The PRSL clubs were dropped due to economic and ownership issues, and the two remaining International Division teams – Antigua Barracuda FC and Los Angeles Blues – were re-aligned into the American and National Divisions.
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.
Partnership with MLS
On January 23, 2013 USL Pro 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 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 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. The Houston Dynamo announced that they will be partnering with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in 2014.
USL Pro debuted in 2011 with 12 teams playing a 24-game regular season schedule.
American and National Division teams play 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 play 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.
The original playoff format saw eight teams compete in a one-game quarterfinal. Both the American and National Divisions will see their top three teams advance for an inter-divisional playoff, while the top 2 teams in the International Division will play-off against each other to reach the semifinals. The four remaining teams will be re-seeded for a single semi-final match, again with the higher seed hosting, leading up to a single match for the USL Pro Championship. In all playoff matches the highest seeded team hosts. Due to the removal of the International Division, the revised playoff format features the top four teams in each of the two divisions. The two eventual division playoff winners will meet in the USL Pro Championship, at the home venue of the team with the better record.
With the release of the 2012 season schedule, the league stated that "Teams will once again play 24 games in the 2012 season with a maximum of four games played against any single opponent. The 2012 USL PRO Playoffs will include the top six finishers in the table, with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds receiving a first-round bye the weekend of August 24–26. The semifinals featuring the four remaining teams will be played the following weekend, with the 2012 USL PRO Championship set for the weekend of September 7–9. All playoff rounds feature a single-game knockout format."
On September 14, 2010, USL President Tim Holt expressed the desired structure for the league to launch with 14–18 teams across 4 specific geographic areas in 2011, expansion to 22–26 teams by 2013, and 28–32 teams by 2015. 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, however 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.
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. 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". With the inclusion of a team from Los Angeles, this division eventually became the International Division.
On May 10, 2011, the USL announced it formally removed the three Puerto Rico Soccer League (PRSL) teams from the 2011 USL PRO schedule due to severe economic difficulties and serious unforeseen medical situations involving owners from two of the three PRSL teams. The USL announced a revised schedule for USL PRO, with the Antigua Barracuda FC joining the American Division and the Los Angeles Blues joining the National Division as part of the adjusted divisional alignment resulting in two, six-team divisions.
Two teams were announced as expansions for 2013: Phoenix FC, owned by BDR Sports, and the VSI (VisionPro Sports Institute) Tampa Bay FC. However, VSI Tampa Bay folded after their first season in 2013 along with founding league member Antiqua.
The following teams are currently playing in the USL Pro division.
|Team||City||Stadium (Capacity)||Founded||First Season||Head Coach||MLS Affiliate|
|Colorado Springs||Colorado Springs, CO||Sand Creek Stadium (2000)||2013||2015||TBA|
|Team||City||Stadium (Capacity)||First Season||Final Season||MLS Affiliate|
|Antigua Barracuda||St. John's , Antigua||Stanford Cricket Ground (5,000)||2011||2013||None|
|F.C. New York||New York City, NY||Belson Stadium (5,000)||2011||2011||None|
|Puerto Rico United||Aguada, Puerto Rico||Aguada Stadium (4,000)||2011||2011||None|
|River Plate Puerto Rico||Fajardo, Puerto Rico||Roberto Clemente Stadium (12,500)||2011||2011||None|
|Sevilla Puerto Rico||Juncos, Puerto Rico||Josué Elevadito González Stadium (2,500)||2011||2011||None|
|VSI Tampa Bay||Plant City, FL||Plant City Stadium (6,700)||2013||2013||None|
|Season||USL Pro Championship Series||Commissioner's Cup (Regular Season)|
|2011||Orlando City||Orlando City|
|2012||Charleston Battery||Orlando City|
|2013||Orlando City||Richmond Kickers|
|2011||Orlando City||2–2 †||Harrisburg City Islanders||Citrus Bowl||11,220||Orlando won 3–2 on PSO|
|2012||Charleston Battery||1–0||Wilmington Hammerheads||Blackbaud Stadium||4,963|
|2013||Orlando City||7–4||Charlotte Eagles||Citrus Bowl||20,886||USL PRO All-Time Attendance Record|
|*||Match went to extra time[A]|
|†||Match decided by a penalty shootout after extra time|
|Bold||Finished the regular season with the Best Record|
|Season||League Avg.||Highest Team||Lowest Team||Ref|
|2011||2,274||5,330 (Orlando)||410 (Los Angeles)|||
|2012||2,777||6,606 (Orlando)||666 (Los Angeles)|||
|2013||2,611||8,056 (Orlando)||378 (VSI Tampa Bay)|||
- United States Soccer Federation
- Major League Soccer
- North American Soccer League
- United Soccer Leagues
- USL Premier Development League
- "USL Restructures Professional Division". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-09-08. Retrieved 2010-09-08.
- "MLS, USL Pro reach deal on restructured Reserve League". www.mlssoccer.com. 2013-01-23. Retrieved 2013-01-27.
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- "DDL FC will play USL next season". www.dutchlionsfc.com. 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2010-09-10.
- "Kickers Join USL Pro". www.richmondkickers.com. 2010-09-08. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
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- "Charlotte Joins USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-10-04. Retrieved 2010-10-08.
- "City Islanders Join USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-10-07. Retrieved 2010-10-08.
- "Riverhounds Join USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-10-22. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
- "Rochester Rhinos Back in USL". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-10-25. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
- "Orlando City Joins USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-10-25. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
- "Hammerheads Return for 2011". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-11-09. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
- "LA Blues Set to Play in USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-12-07. Retrieved 2010-12-07.
- "Puerto Rico United Joins USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-12-09. Retrieved 2010-12-09.
- "USL Reforms Agreement with PRSL". www.uslsoccer.com. 2011-05-10. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
- "USL PRO 2012 Schedule Released". www.uslsoccer.com. 2012-01-11. Retrieved 2012-01-22.
- Lovell, Darrell. "USL PRO side Pittsburgh Riverhounds "a great place to send our players to develop" for Houston Dynamo". mlsssoccer.com. Major League Soccer. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- "USL Pro Concludes Successful AGM". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-11-23. Retrieved 2010-11-24.
- "USL Pro Schedule Released". www.uslsoccer.com. 2011-01-14. Retrieved 2011-01-20.
- "Shaping the USL Pro Schedule". www.uslsoccer.com. 2011-01-17. Retrieved 2011-01-20.
- "USL Pro Postseason Format Unveiled". www.uslsoccer.com. 2011-01-24. Retrieved 2011-01-27.
- "USL Pro League seeks to embrace regional model". www.potomacsoccerwire.com. 2010-09-14. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
- "Phoenix Announces Name and Logo". United Soccer Leagues (USL). September 7, 2012. Retrieved April 17, 2013.
- "VisionPro Academy Headed to Tampa". United Soccer Leagues (USL). November 16, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
- "Sacramento lands minor league soccer franchise". Sacramento Bee. 2012-12-03. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
- "Oklahoma City to Join USL PRO in 2014". USLSoccer.com. 2013-07-02. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
- "MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER AWARDS EXPANSION TEAM TO ORLANDO". orlandocitysoccer.com. Orlando City Soccer Club. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
- Schmitz, Brian (November 19, 2013). "MLS officially awards Orlando soccer franchise". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved November 20, 2013.
- Wiebe, Andrew (November 19, 2013). "Orlando City SC fans, owners see years of hard work bear fruit, but promise there's plenty more to come". mlssoccer.com. Major League Soccer. Retrieved November 20, 2013.
- USL PRO 2012 Schedule Released
- Doherty Soccer, 2012 USL-Pro Attendance, http://dohertysoccer.com/2012-lower-division-attendance/2012-usl-pro-attendance/
- 2013 USL-Pro Attendance, http://www.kenn.com/the_blog/?p=5613