USL Merges D-2 and D-3 Leagues to Create ‘USL Pro’ for 2011
As teams from the United Soccer Leagues D-3 league met this morning in Tampa, Florida to talk about their future, the league itself issued a press release.
USL released a press statement this morning saying it’s merging its second and third divisions “into a single league property for 2011” which will be called USL PRO. The announcement is exactly what many have been anticipating with the lack of D2 teams still involved with the USL. Also, the organization was wanting to move to a more regional model which many in the US feel is better suited for soccer below the D1 (MLS) level. The statement claims the league’s regionalization will feature a ” model to build natural rivalries and reduce travel-related costs.” (See IMS’s four part series on the regionalization of D2 soccer in North America)
USL claims their league will consist of four geographic regions in 2011 but does not expound on that statement saying information will be coming on the teams involved in the coming weeks.
The press release also claims the league will “present the highest level of competition in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean outside of Major League Soccer (MLS). ” Yet the statement does not clarify if the league is D2 or D3. IMS believes the league will be a continuation of the USL’s D3 league, currently named USL-2. The league has been run by USL since 1990 and was originally named “USISL Pro League”.
The North American Soccer League (NASL) has been trying to sanction a 2nd division league with the USSF for over a year with disgruntled owners who used to be involved with the USL in Division 2. Both the NASL and the USL have had difficulty finding enough teams to create an 8-team D2 league for the 2011 season.
Recently the Puerto Rico Islanders, who have been a USL team since 2004, have started negotiations with the NASL to jump ship so they can remain a D2 team. However, Puerto Rico do not qualify for the new higher standards that the USSF have just set of D2 soccer. A waiver would be needed from the governing body of soccer in the US for the team to play in the 2011 season.
Rob Clark, owner of the long standing D-2 team Rochester Rhinos, recently told IMS that he would be attending the meetings in Orlando as a fact finding mission. Clark said: “I’m going to absorb all of the alternatives for the Rhinos should we choose not to participate in D2 next year. If the USL D3 league and its owners have their house in order and more importantly make decisions that “make sense” consistently, then I will have a very hard decision to make this off season.”
Phil Rawlins, owner of the 2nd year Austin Aztex also a D-2 team, was planning on attending the meetings in Orlando today as well. He recently said he would not affiliate himself with the NASL and didn’t believe the organization had enough teams that would make the new tougher D2 standards.
Another grievance of the NASL was that team owners did not have enough control of the league itself when under the umbrella of USL. Today’s press statement claims the new USL league will feature a “board of governors responsible for making all major decisions for the league including expansion, competition format and commercial strategy.”
A source for IMS who said they did not want to go on record recently reported that USL’s strategy is: If there is no D2 approved this year by USSF, then D3 will be the new D2.
To see the press release in its entirety, please click “read more.”
USL RESTRUCTURES PROFESSIONAL DIVISION TO CREATE USL PRO
USSF-Affiliated League Featuring Top Quality Competition to Debut in 2011
TAMPA, Fla. – Designed to help ensure the long-term stability of professional soccer in North America, United Soccer Leagues announced the merger of its First and Second Divisions into a single league property for 2011 – USL PRO.
Team owners and league officials are meeting in Tampa, Florida today to lay the groundwork for the 2011 debut of USL PRO, which will be governed by team owners and present the highest level of competition in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean outside of Major League Soccer (MLS).
USL PRO is a national league featuring a regional competition model to build natural rivalries and reduce travel-related costs. The U.S. Soccer Federation-affiliated league benefits from the leadership of the dedicated and experienced professional staff at USL’s Tampa headquarters as well as the developmental support of USL’s proven and integrated system of leagues.
USL PRO will consist of as many as four geographic regions in 2011. Teams scheduled to compete in USL PRO in 2011 will be announced in the coming weeks.
“After much analysis of the current landscape we’ve chosen to combine our synergies into a single professional league that will operate within financial and competitive models that make sense,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “The USL PRO business plan is the first below the MLS level to give team owners a realistic roadmap to profitability. We need to focus on the future health of soccer in North America, and the USL PRO model addresses many of the issues that have led to the instability of men’s professional soccer below the MLS level.”
USL PRO will feature a Board of Governors responsible for making all major decisions for the league including expansion, competition format and commercial strategy. The league will focus on aggressive but deliberate growth by adding teams fully capable of meeting USL and USSF standards which are located in markets that further promote regional league play.
In its 25th consecutive year of operating professional soccer leagues in the Unites States, Canada and the Caribbean, USL has adjusted to the changing soccer landscape in North America on several previous occasions. In 2001 USL restructured its previously non age-restricted Premier Development League as a U23 league when men’s college players were in need of highly competitive training and playing options during the summer months. It was also the first entity to launch a national youth league for elite clubs, the Super Y-League.
USL’s professional staff includes not only experienced league administrators, but a large staff of sports professionals to assist teams in the areas of franchise development, international partnerships, marketing, ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, communications, new media, broadcast production, web services and player registration. USL also features a full-time National Technical Director to assist teams with player identification and to help create opportunities for player advancement both domestically and internationally.