National Premier Soccer League
|Divisions||13 conferences in 4 regions|
|Number of teams||81|
|Level on pyramid||4|
|Domestic cup(s)||Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup|
|Current champions||AFC Cleveland (1st title)|
|Most championships||AFC Cleveland
New York Cosmos B
New York Red Bulls U-23
RVA Football Club
Sonoma County Sol
Southern California Fusion
Utah Salt Ratz
(1 title each)
|2016 NPSL season|
The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) is an American soccer league commonly recognized as being a fourth tier league. It is the successor of the Men's Premier Soccer League, a regional league originally based out of the Western United States, which has now expanded nationwide to encompass teams from 29 states.
Although the league is officially affiliated to the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA), and qualifies for the U.S. Open Cup through USASA channels, the league is generally considered to be at the fourth tier of competition in the United States soccer pyramid, behind Major League Soccer (MLS), the North American Soccer League (NASL), and the United Soccer League (USL), and roughly equal with the Premier Development League (PDL).
The league's motto is "A National League with a Regional Focus". Some of the clubs are former United Soccer Leagues (USL) clubs.
The National Premier Soccer League's is divided into four separate Regions (Northeast, South, Midwest, and West). Each Region contains three or four conferences with varying number of teams per conference. The four regions generally correspond to the four USASA regions, Northeast (Region I), Midwest (Region II), South (Region III), and West (Region IV) with the exception of teams in New York Western (one team), Pennsylvania West (two teams), and Missouri (only one team). The regular season runs from May to July with the exception of the West Region that has historically started in late March or early April. Most conferences play between ten and twelve games against teams within the conference, though since 2009 some conferences have played as few as eight games and as many as fourteen games. When possible, each conference follows a double round robin format allowing for a balanced schedule. Larger conferences have had unbalanced schedules due to the constraint of scheduling games within the short window. The schedule is designed to allow college students to compete during their summer break. For the playoffs, the formats vary by region and conference with the four region champions facing each other in the National Semifinals and Championship games.
The NPSL currently has eight automatic berths in the U.S. Open Cup where they gain eligibility towards the CONCACAF Champions League. The exact qualification format has varied over the years due to some teams passing on their opportunity to enter due to the timing of the tournament, as well as not being able to afford the risk associated with having to potentially absorb travel costs. In recent years the West Region has had a preseason qualifying tournament to determine their qualifying spot(s). To-date 20 different NPSL clubs have qualified for the U.S. Open Cup, and in 2014 two clubs, Brooklyn Italians and Chattanooga FC, made it to the third round (having been seeded in the second round), the farthest any NPSL team has advanced.
The National Premier Soccer League began in 2003 as the Men's Premier Soccer League (MPSL) initially as an offshoot of the Women's Premier Soccer League, and marked the first instance of a women's soccer league spawning a men's league. The league's first two champions were the Arizona Sahuaros, who had defected to the MPSL from the USL D-3 Pro League, and the Utah Salt Ratz.
The league expanded into the Midwest in 2005 with the addition of several new teams and a new conference, and changed its name to National Premier Soccer League to reflect its new national footprint; a team from the expansion conference – Detroit Arsenal – won the league in its first year after its eastward expansion. The NPSL expanded further in 2007 with the addition of a new Northeast Conference and five new teams from the eastern United States. The first team from the East to win the national NPSL title was the Pennsylvania Stoners in 2008. The league has since continued to expand, adding more teams throughout the entirety of the country.
Since its inception the league has managed to place at least one team actively playing under its banner into U.S. Open Cup competition. Though the showing of the NPSL in US Open Cup play was typically only one or two teams in its first six years, the 2009 and 2010 cups have seen four and three, respectively, NPSL teams in each tournament. The recent success of the NPSL in USASA qualifying has encouraged a movement by which the league could have automatic berths in the final tournament. The furthest a team from the NPSL has reached in the US Open Cup during the professional era (1997 and onward after the entry of MLS teams) has been the third round. However, the Brooklyn Italians have won the US Open Cup outright before the existence of either MLS or the NPSL.
As the league has continued to grow it has become a place for professional teams to place reserve or development squads. Though no formal agreement exists with other leagues in the U.S., the league is home to two squads representing NASL teams: Carolina RailHawks U-23's and New York Cosmos B.
Officially the USSF does not recognize formal levels of the soccer pyramid below the professional 3rd Division. The USSF does not officially recognize distinctions between amateur soccer leagues in the United States. However, the USASA sanctions affiliated, but separately run, national leagues that are recognized in practical terms as playing at a higher level than the USASA state association leagues; for example, they receive automatic berths to the US Open Cup.
The Premier Development League takes place during the summer months,[which?] and the player pool is drawn mainly from NCAA college soccer players seeking to continue playing high level soccer during their summer break, while still maintaining their college eligibility. The National Premier Soccer League is similar to the Premier Development League and also attracts top amateur talent from around the United States. NPSL does not have any age limits or restrictions, thus incorporating both college players and former professional players alike. The NPSL is sometimes referred to as a semi-professional league since some clubs opt to pay small salaries to players that are willing to forgo their amateur status.
The NPSL is organized in a mostly decentralized structure and is managed as a team-run league. Each year the member clubs help elect a chairman, treasurer, and secretary and an eight-member Board of Directors. Each team is individually owned and operated, and is responsible for maintaining league minimum standards. New teams seeking membership into the NPSL are subject to approval from an executive committee of existing team owners. Member clubs have the right to make localized decisions for their respective markets, conferences, and regions based on what they believe is best for their particular region. Each conference is managed by the individual member clubs and elect a conference commission each year.
The current chairman is Joe Barone of the Brooklyn Italians who was elected in late 2013 after previously serving as treasurer. Michael Hitchcock of Playbook Management Inc. was hired as commissioner of the NPSL in 2013. With Hitchcock leading the league, plans to expand the reach of the league and discussion of introducing promotion and relegation in the future were made public. Near the conclusion of the 2014 season the NPSL terminated the contract of Hitchcock and PMI.
The costs to join the league as of 2013 are reported to be a one-time $10,000 franchise fee and a $3,500 annual league fee. Those fees have doubled since 2007 when the franchise fee was only $5,000 with the annual league fee at only $1,800. The low entry fee compared to the PDL's of $75,000 has made the league an attractive alternative to teams looking to compete at the highest level of amateur play.
The league requires that all teams play in stadiums with at least 500 seats, a scoreboard, and locker rooms with showers for both teams and officials. The home team is also responsible for providing water and food for the visiting team, ensuring there is a trainer or doctor on-site for the match, and paying the referees fees at the end of each game ($275).
Sponsorship and partnerships
Mitre Sports International will provide the official ball for the NPSL starting in 2014, the sponsorship agreement will last through the 2016 season. The league has also announced several partnerships for the 2014 season, Global Scarves, Wecando, and Pabian Law. Global Scarves and the NPSL plan on strategically partnering to not only outfit every NPSL team with soccer scarves branded to the specific team, but plan on working together to increase and elevate the status of both entities to a higher level. Global Scarves will begin providing custom soccer scarves throughout the league, and will work with the NPSL on various events and contests to increase awareness and fervor throughout the 2014 NPSL season. Wecando Print is a full-service branding company that specializes in printing, promotional products, embroidery, screen printing, banners, fulfillment services, and company stores. Pabian Law specific in law and immigration services and has experience with signing international soccer players.
The following expansion clubs have been announced for the 2016 NPSL Season:
- AFC Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)
- Grand Rapids FC (Grand Rapids, MI)
- North County Battalion (San Diego, CA)
- Birmingham Hammers (Birmingham, AL)
- Little Rock Rangers (Little Rock, AR)
- Shreveport Rafters FC (Shreveport, LA)
- Memphis City FC (Memphis, TN)
- Boston City FC (Boston, MA)
- Albion SC Pros (San Diego, CA)
- Kingston Stockade FC (Kingston, NY)
- Rochester River DogZ FC (Rochester, NY)
- Southern California Sports Club (San Bernardino, CA)
- Kalamazoo FC (Kalamazoo, MI)
- Fort Lauderdale Strikers U-23 (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
- SC Corinthians USA (Rancho Cucamonga, CA)
- Tobacco Road FC (Durham, NC) 
- New Jersey Copa FC (Metuchen, NJ)
- Jacksonville Armada U-23 (Jacksonville, FL)
- Tampa Bay Rowdies 2 (Tampa, FL)
The following expansion clubs have been announced for the 2017 NPSL Season:
|Year||# of Teams||Teams Added||Teams Departed|
Many NPSL teams have rivalries given the close geography of the teams throughout the league. The most notable rivalry is the Rust Belt Derby contested between Detroit City FC, AFC Cleveland, and FC Buffalo. The name refers to the economic decline, population loss, and urban decay due to the shrinking of the once powerful industrial sector of these cities that each are part of the broader Rust Belt.
Another intense rivalry existed between the San Diego Flash and San Diego Boca/Force FC, which were crosstown rivals in San Diego. Until the 2013 sale and rebranding of Force FC from Boca FC, the ownership groups of the two clubs were previously partners in the original San Diego Flash club of the A-League that competed from 1998 to 2001. The current San Diegan Derby is contested between North County Battalion and Albion SC Pros.
Records and Champions
Notable players with NPSL experience
Directors, officers and management team
- Joe Barone – Brooklyn Italians – Chairman (2013–)
- Cindy Spera – Chairman of Soccer Programs for New York Athletic Club – Treasurer (20??-)
- Barry Dixon – Founder, Jacksonville United – Secretary (2013–)
Current Regional Board Members:
- Kenny Farrell – New Orleans Jesters
- Sean McDaniel – Chattanooga FC
- Terry Lawriw – AFC Cleveland
- Cristian Brei – Madison 56ers
- William Forte – San Francisco Stompers FC
- Kabba Joof – Rhode Island Reds FC
- TBA – Commissioner
- Jef Thiffault – Managing Director
- Gary Moody – Media Relations
- Dr. Joseph Machnik – Director of Officials
- Kabba Joof – Head Coach, Rhode Island Reds FC – Northeast Region – North Atlantic Conference (2013–present)
- TBD – Northeast Region – Keystone Conference
- TBD - Northeast Region – Mid-Atlantic Conference
- TBD - South Region – South Atlantic Conference
- TBD – South Region – Sunshine Conference
- TBD -South Region – South Atlantic Conference
- TBD – South Region – Southeast Conference
- TBD – South Region – South Central Conference
- TBD – Midwest Region – Great Lakes Conference
- Cristian Brei – Madison 56ers – Midwest Region – Central Conference (2013–present)
- TBD – West Region – Southwest Conference
- William Forte – San Francisco Stompers FC – West Region – Golden Gate Conference (2013–present)
- TBD – West Region – Northwest Conference
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