USL PRO will look to be sanctioned by the USSF (Photo courtesy of USL Soccer).
Newly Formed League to Debut in 2011
Tampa, Fla. (Wednesday, September 8, 2010) – United Soccer Leagues (USL) announced today a merger of its First and Second Divisions, which will officially go into effect for the 2011 season. USL representatives stated that the union of the two divisions is being done in an effort to establish itself as the premiere soccer league in the country below Major League Soccer (MLS).
“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 focus on regionalization while being collectively operated by a Board of Governors, which will be responsible for decisions regarding expansion and business strategy. Team owners are expected to have a heavy influence on the growth and decision-making with the league.
USL was originally established in 1986 as a professional indoor soccer league and introduced an outdoor component to its setup three years later. It has served as the longest running professional outdoor soccer organization in the United States and was the top league in the country before the formation of MLS. However, a split occurred between some of the USL clubs prior to the 2010 season when a group of teams left to form the rival North American Soccer League (NASL). Among the dispute, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) refused to sanction either of the two leagues, and the groups were essentially forced to play together in two conferences as the USSF Division-2 Pro League. That season is still underway, with playoffs slated to begin in early October.
Current plans appear to be that the USL Premier Development League, Super Y-League and W-League will all continue to operate as usual. At the moment, it is unknown how this will affect the NASL with the USSF Division-2 Pro League shutting down after this season. The NASL was recently rumored to be applying to the USSF to operate independently in 2011 with a newly proposed 10-club league.