USL to Launch a Third-Division League in 2019
10 Apr, 2017
Professional Soccer Expanding to New Markets and Fans throughout the U.S.
Shaping the future of the game in the U.S., the United Soccer League (USL) – the largest Division II league in the world and longest standing member of the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) – today announces plans to launch a third-division men’s professional league, uniting passionate fans in new markets with the thrill of a proven professional soccer experience. The new league will begin play in 2019.
The USL’s sophisticated and established model will entertain new markets and fans with an unforgettable professional soccer experience while cultivating the increasing demand for the sport – targeting communities ranging in population from 150,000 to one million. More than 75 million people in these U.S. markets do not have access to a local professional soccer club. The new third-division league will also create exciting opportunities to showcase homegrown talent alongside experienced players from across the globe.
The league will focus on launching new third-division clubs in markets that possess strong local ownership groups, populations with broad-based diversity, a vibrant millennial and strong family base, established corporate support, and stadiums to properly showcase the sport for fans, partners and the public.
“We are in a unique position to lead the sport’s next phase of growth with a proven and exciting competition model, the same which has made the USL the top Division II league in North America,” said CEO Alec Papadakis. “With elite competition and strong ownership groups providing unrivaled fan experiences, the USL will continue shaping the future of professional soccer through a third-division league, cultivating and bonding local supporters through the ‘beautiful game’ for generations to come.”
Plans for the third-division league have been in development for more than 18 months, and market discussions are well underway with numerous potential owners who have extensive experience in MiLB and other professional sports leagues. Official branding for the new Division III league, as well as inaugural teams and preliminary competition format will be announced in the summer of 2017.
The new league will immediately benefit from several new USL initiatives, including the recently launched USL Productions, the league’s $10 million broadcast and content arm featuring a cutting-edge broadcast and production facility in South Florida. Developed in partnership with industry leader VISTA Worldlink, USL Productions provides all USL clubs with first class broadcast services, more than 1,000 hours of engaging original content, and unequaled production capabilities and distribution throughout the U.S. and abroad.
The new third-division league will be operated with the same high level of sophistication and operational expertise that has built the USL into a widely successful and respected league. Based in Tampa, Fla., the USL supports its clubs through a dedicated staff of over 50 executives in vital business areas including: Broadcasting, Sponsorship, Communications, Competition, League Operations, Merchandise Licensing, Team Services and more.
About the USL: The USL is the world's largest Division II professional soccer league with 30 markets in 20 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces for the 2017 season. In total, the USL reaches a population of 75 million people, fueling the growth of professional soccer across North America.
In 2016, more than $100 million were invested league-wide into stadium infrastructure to create venues that deliver an unforgettable fan and competitor experience. The USL has national media partnerships with ESPN and SiriusXM, and recently invested $10 million to create USL Productions - which includes a state-of-the-art facility that will produce and distribute nearly 500 league matches and more than 1,000 hours of original content to national partners, local affiliates, USL's Match Center and international markets.
A growing league, the USL has more than doubled in size since 2014, with Ottawa Fury FC, Reno 1868 FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies scheduled to debut in 2017. Nashville SC is the first club set to join the league for 2018. Beyond league play, the USL regularly features international exhibitions against leading Premier League, Liga MX, and Bundesliga clubs, among others.
Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., the USL provides unparalleled club support with a growing team of more than 50 professionals across 17 departments, ranging from operations to marketing, communications and sponsorship. Follow the USL at USLSoccer.com, the USL Match Center, and on social media via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.