USL Pro

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USL Pro
USL Professional Logo.png
Country United States
Confederation USSF
Founded September 8, 2010
Number of teams 20
Levels on pyramid 3
Promotion to None
Relegation to None
Domestic cup(s) Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
Current champions Sacramento Republic (2014)
Current shield Orlando City (2014)
Most championships Orlando City (2 titles)
Most Supporters' Shields Orlando City (3 shields)
TV partners YouTube; NSCAA-TV
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 nor 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.[1]

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.[2][3]

History[edit]

Founding (2010)[edit]

On September 8, 2010, USL formally announced the creation of USL Pro in a press release.[1] 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.[4] 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.[5] With the departure of the Portland Timbers to MLS in 2011 and the defection of the Puerto Rico Islanders to the NASL[6] from the USL First Division, the Austin Aztex were the lone First Division team left to fold into 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.[7] 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".[8] 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.[7] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] [12]

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds were added as the 9th official team on October 22, 2010.[13] October 25, 2010 saw the addition of the Rochester Rhinos[14] 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.[15]

On November 9, 2010, former USL-2 Division side Wilmington Hammerheads officially joined the league as the 12th team,[16] followed on November 17, 2010 by F.C. New York.[16] 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.[16]

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.[17] The "Caribbean Division" of USL Pro grew to four teams on December 9, 2010 with the addition of Puerto Rico United to the league,[8] marking the last of the 15 teams that would compete in USL Pro in its inaugural 2011 season.

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.[18]

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.[19]

Play begins (2011–2012)[edit]

USL PRO Progression
Season Teams Added Lost
2011 15→12 -- Puerto Rico United
Sevilla FC P. Rico
River Plate P. Rico
2012 11 -- F.C. New York
2013 13 Phoenix FC
VSI Tampa Bay FC
--
2014 14 Oklahoma City Energy FC
Sacramento Republic FC
Los Angeles Galaxy II
Arizona United SC
Antigua Barracuda
Phoenix FC
VSI Tampa Bay FC
2015 23 Orlando City's USL Pro franchise will relocate to Louisville City
Colorado Springs
St. Louis FC
Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Austin Aztex
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Reserves
Seattle Sounders Reserves
FC Montreal
FC Dallas Reserves
Real Monarchs
Charlotte Independence
Charlotte Eagles
2016 24
Houston Dynamo Reserves: McAllen

USL Pro debuted in 2011 with 12 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.[19][20][21]

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 2 teams in the International Division played-off against each other to reach the semifinals. 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 Pro Championship. In all playoff matches the highest seeded team hosted.[22]

On May 10, 2011, early in the league's inaugural season, the USL announced that it was dropping the three Puerto Rican clubs from the USL PRO schedule.[23] The PRSL clubs were dropped due to economic and ownership issues.[citation needed] 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. 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.

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.[24] With F.C. New York withdrawing in January 2012, the league announced an eleven team single-table schedule for the 2012 season.[24]

MLS partnership (2013-present)[edit]

Two expansion teams joined for the 2013 season: Phoenix FC[25][26] and the VSI Tampa Bay FC.[27]

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.[citation needed]

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.[2][3] The Houston Dynamo announced that they will be partnering with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in 2014.[28]

Following the conclusion of the 2013 season, VSI Tampa Bay folded after only one season, along with founding league member Antigua.[29]

Sacramento was announced in December 2012 as an expansion team for 2014,[30] and USL announced in July 2013 that Oklahoma City would also join USL in 2014.[31] Orlando City Soccer Club will leave USL after the 2014 season to join MLS as an expansion team for the 2015 season.[32][33][34] On January 29, 2014, the Los Angeles Galaxy announced the creation of LA Galaxy II, a reserve team within the club's existing development structure, that will join in the USL Pro as an expansion team.[35] This is the first MLS club to enter its reserve team into the USL Pro. The Los Angeles Blues were rebranded as Orange County Blues FC on February 5, 2014.[36] The Phoenix FC franchise was revoked and replaced with Arizona United SC on March 13, 2014.[37] On September 10, 2014 Real Salt Lake revealed the name of their new USL Pro affiliate team to be called Real Monarchs. The team has a license and is expected to begin play in 2015. Games are to be played at Rio Tinto Stadium until a new stadium can be built.[38] On September 17, 2014 USL Pro announced the Charlotte Eagles will transfer their USL Pro rights to the Charlotte Independence who will begin play in 2015 and the Eagles will move down to U23 PDL. [39] On September 18, 2014 the Colorado Rapids announced an affiliation partnership with the Charlotte Independence [40]

Competition format[edit]

With the release of the 2014 season schedule, the league stated that teams play 28 games with a maximum of four games played against any single opponent. Each team will also play two games against MLS reserve teams; the games will count equally in the standings with those played against league competition. The 2014 USL PRO Playoffs include the top eight finishers in the table. The semifinals featuring the four remaining teams are played the following weekend, followed by the USL PRO Championship. All playoff rounds feature a single-game knockout format.

Media coverage[edit]

The league featured national broadcast coverage on Fox Soccer Channel in 2011.[16] In 2014, the league will broadcast all matches on YouTube.

Clubs[edit]

Current clubs[edit]

The following teams are currently playing in the USL Pro division.[41]

*The Los Angeles Galaxy was founded in 1995 as an MLS club; the reserve team LA Galaxy II was founded in 2014.

Former clubs[edit]

Team City Stadium (Capacity) First Season Final Season MLS Affiliate
Antigua Barracuda St. John's, Antigua Stanford Cricket Ground (5,000) 2011 2013 None
Charlotte Eagles Charlotte, NC Dickson Field (5,000) 2011 2014 None
F.C. New York New York City, NY Belson Stadium (5,000) 2011 2011 None
Orlando City Lake Buena Vista, FL ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (5,500) 2011 2014 Sporting Kansas City
Phoenix FC Tempe, AZ Sun Devil Soccer Stadium (3,400) 2013 2013 None
Puerto Rico United Aguada, PR Aguada Stadium (4,000) 2011 2011 None
River Plate Puerto Rico Fajardo, PR Roberto Clemente Stadium (12,500) 2011 2011 None
Sevilla Puerto Rico Juncos, PR Josué Elevadito González Stadium (2,500) 2011 2011 None
VSI Tampa Bay Plant City, FL Plant City Stadium (6,700) 2013 2013 None

Tulsa Roughnecks St. Louis FC Real Monarchs FC Montréal Colorado Springs Switchbacks Austin Aztex Louisville City Charlotte Independence Sacramento Republic Oklahoma City Energy FC LA Galaxy II Arizona United VSI Tampa Bay Phoenix FC Wilmington Hammerheads Rochester Rhinos Richmond Kickers Pittsburgh Riverhounds Orlando City SC (2010–14) Orange County Blues Harrisburg City Islanders F.C. New York Dayton Dutch Lions Charlotte Eagles Charleston Battery Antigua Barracuda

Current clubs   Former clubs   Club moving to PDL   Club moving to MLS   Future clubs

‡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.[42]

Champions[edit]

USL Pro Championship logo
USL Pro Championship logo
USL Pro Trophy Winners
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
2014 Sacramento Republic Orlando City

Results[edit]

Season Champions Score Runners–up Venue Attendance Notes
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 attendance record
2014 Sacramento Republic 2–0 Harrisburg City Islanders Bonney Field 8,000
Key
Match decided by a penalty shootout after extra time
Bold Finished the regular season with the Best Record

USL Pro Club Honors[edit]

Current through 2014 US Open Cup & USL Pro Regular Season

Team Seasons USL Pro Playoffs USL Pro Regular Season US Open Cup Total Honors Major Honors / Championships
Winner Runner Up Winner Runner Up Winner Furthest USLP Entry
Orlando City SC 4 2 - 3 1 - 1 7 5
Richmond Kickers 4 - - 1 - 1 (pre-USLP) 1 3 2
Rochester Rhinos 4 - - - 1 1 (pre-USLP) 1 3 1
Harrisburg City Islanders 4 - 2 - - - 1 3 0
Sacramento Republic 1 1 - - 1 - - 2 1
Wilmington Hammerheads 4 - 1 - 1 - - 2 0
Charleston Battery 4 1 - - - - - 1 1
Charlotte Eagles 4 - 1 - - - - 1 0

Attendance[edit]

Season League Avg. Highest Teams Lowest Teams Ref
2011 2,274 5,330 (Orlando City)
4,927 (Rochester)
410 (Los Angeles Blues)
542 (Dayton)
[43]
2012 2,777 6,606 (Orlando City)
6,265 (Rochester)
666 (Los Angeles Blues)
722 (Dayton)
[44]
2013 2,611 8,056 (Orlando City)
5,898 (Rochester)
378 (Tampa Bay)
718 (Los Angeles Blues)
[45]
2014 3,114 11,293 (Sacramento)
5,329 (Rochester)
533 (Dayton)
597 (LA Galaxy II)
[46]

The Sacramento Republic played before a record crowd of 20,231 in its home debut on April 26, 2014 at Hughes Stadium.[47] This broke the USL Pro's previous record for attendance at a regular-season match of 10,687,[47] set by Orlando City at the Citrus Bowl on August 11, 2013.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "USL Restructures Professional Division". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-09-08. Retrieved 2010-09-08. 
  2. ^ a b "MLS, USL Pro reach deal on restructured Reserve League". www.mlssoccer.com. 2013-01-23. Retrieved 2013-01-27. 
  3. ^ a b "USL PRO & MLS Announce Partnership". www.uslpro.uslsoccer.com. 2013-01-23. Retrieved 2013-02-07. 
  4. ^ "DDL FC will play USL next season". www.dutchlionsfc.com. 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  5. ^ "Kickers Join USL Pro". www.richmondkickers.com. 2010-09-08. Retrieved 2010-09-14. 
  6. ^ "Puerto Rico Islanders Join NASL". www.carolinarailhawks.com. 2010-09-09. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  7. ^ a b "Sevilla, River Plate Join USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-09-23. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  8. ^ a b "Puerto Rico United Joins USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-12-09. Retrieved 2010-12-09. 
  9. ^ "Battery To Play in USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-09-28. Retrieved 2010-09-28. 
  10. ^ "Dutch Lions Join USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-09-30. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  11. ^ "Charlotte Joins USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-10-04. Retrieved 2010-10-08. 
  12. ^ "City Islanders Join USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-10-07. Retrieved 2010-10-08. 
  13. ^ "Riverhounds Join USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-10-22. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  14. ^ "Rochester Rhinos Back in USL". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-10-25. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  15. ^ "Orlando City Joins USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-10-25. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  16. ^ a b c d "Hammerheads Return for 2011". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-11-09. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  17. ^ "LA Blues Set to Play in USL Pro". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-12-07. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  18. ^ "USL Pro League seeks to embrace regional model". www.potomacsoccerwire.com. 2010-09-14. Retrieved 2010-09-14. 
  19. ^ a b "USL Pro Concludes Successful AGM". www.uslsoccer.com. 2010-11-23. Retrieved 2010-11-24. 
  20. ^ "USL Pro Schedule Released". www.uslsoccer.com. 2011-01-14. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  21. ^ "Shaping the USL Pro Schedule". www.uslsoccer.com. 2011-01-17. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  22. ^ "USL Pro Postseason Format Unveiled". www.uslsoccer.com. 2011-01-24. Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  23. ^ "USL Reforms Agreement with PRSL". www.uslsoccer.com. 2011-05-10. Retrieved 2011-05-11. 
  24. ^ a b "USL PRO 2012 Schedule Released". www.uslsoccer.com. 2012-01-11. Retrieved 2012-01-22. 
  25. ^ "Phoenix to Join USL PRO in 2013". United Soccer Leagues (USL). 2012-07-02. Retrieved 2012-07-02. 
  26. ^ "Phoenix Announces Name and Logo". United Soccer Leagues (USL). September 7, 2012. Retrieved April 17, 2013. 
  27. ^ "VisionPro Academy Headed to Tampa". United Soccer Leagues (USL). November 16, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2012. 
  28. ^ 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. 
  29. ^ "USL PRO to see teams fold; MLS to field squads; new team partnership | ODFCnews.com". odfcnews.com. Retrieved 2014-05-02. 
  30. ^ "Sacramento lands minor league soccer franchise". Sacramento Bee. 2012-12-03. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  31. ^ "Oklahoma City to Join USL PRO in 2014". USLSoccer.com. 2013-07-02. Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  32. ^ "MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER AWARDS EXPANSION TEAM TO ORLANDO". orlandocitysoccer.com. Orlando City Soccer Club. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  33. ^ Schmitz, Brian (November 19, 2013). "MLS officially awards Orlando soccer franchise". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved November 20, 2013. 
  34. ^ 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. 
  35. ^ [1]
  36. ^ "Orange County Blues Set For New Era". United Soccer Leagues (USL). February 5, 2014. Retrieved February 6, 2014. 
  37. ^ "Ownership Change, Rebrand in Phoenix". United Soccer Leagues (USL). March 13, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  38. ^ "Real Salt Lake announce that new USL PRO team will be called Real Monarchs". Major League Soccer (MLS). September 10, 2014. Retrieved September 10, 2014. 
  39. ^ "USL PRO Welcomes Independence". USL Pro Men's Soccer. 
  40. ^ "Colorado Rapids' Pablo Mastroeni ecstatic about USL PRO partnership with Charlotte Independence". mlssoccer.com. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  41. ^ USL PRO 2014 Schedule Released
  42. ^ "USL reforms Agreement with PRSL". United Soccer Leagues. May 10, 2011. Archived from the original on May 14, 2011. Retrieved May 10, 2011. 
  43. ^ "current 2011 attendance - USL Discussions". usldiscussions.com. Retrieved 2014-05-02. 
  44. ^ Doherty Soccer, 2012 USL-Pro Attendance, http://dohertysoccer.com/2012-lower-division-attendance/2012-usl-pro-attendance/
  45. ^ 2013 USL-Pro Attendance, http://www.kenn.com/the_blog/?p=5613
  46. ^ 2014 USL-Pro Season Attendance Log, http://dohertysoccer.com/2014-lower-division-american-soccer-attendances/2014-usl-pro-season-attendance-log/
  47. ^ a b "Republic FC loses home opener before sellout crowd at Hughes Stadium", Sacramento Bee, April 27, 2014.

External links[edit]