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Pro divisions are merged
by Paul Kennedy, September 9th, 2010 12:40AM

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TAGS:  usl, ussf division 2

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[USL] United Soccer Leagues, which has operated second- and third-division leagues since its move into pro soccer in the mid-1990s, has merged its First and Second Divisions into USL PRO, a single league property for 2011, signaling a ceasefire in the battle for control of Division 2 soccer.

Team owners and league officials met in Tampa on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for the 2011 debut of USL PRO.

2010 AVG. ATT.
D-2 Pro League
12,332 Montreal
9,017 Portland
6,978 Rochester
5,177 Vancouver
3,884 Tampa Bay
3,620 Austin
2,737 St. Louis
2,286 Puerto Rico
2,158 Carolina
1,390 Minnesota
1,286 Miami
1,042 Baltimore
4,603 Average
 
USL-2
3,641 Charleston
2,044 Richmond
1,666 Harrisburg
887 Pittsburgh
880 Charlotte
560 Maryland
1,689 Average

Source: kenn.com


USL operated a six-team USL-2 (third division) in 2010. USL-1 lost many of its members in a dispute between USL's ownership group and club owners, who formed the North American Soccer League. Ultimately, U.S. Soccer did not sanction the NASL. Instead, it is operating the D-2 Pro League with 12 teams while new guidelines for Division 2 soccer were formulated.

Those guidelines include minimum standards for the wealth of owners and the size of the markets and stadiums.

It remains to be seen if a league will be formed to meet these Division  standards.

The Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps will move to MLS in 2011 and the Montreal Impact will join MLS in 2012.

On the other end of the scale, several D-2 Pro League clubs are believed to be struggling to stay afloat. AC St. Louis's sister team, WPS's St. Louis Athletica, folded in mid-season.

Besides the three MLS-bound teams, only one minor-league team -- the Rochester Rhinos -- average more than 4,000 fans a game.

USL CEO Alec Papadakis says the new USL PRO will solve many of the problems that have plagued minor-league soccer, whose ranks have shrunk in recent years.

“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,” 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 hopes to emphasize regional competition, though the challenge will be able to build regional divisions outside the USL-2's base on the Atlantic coast.



0 comments
  1. sheldon grizzle
    commented on: September 9, 2010 at 10:17 p.m.
    This is good news for the USL, I hope. It sounds like a prudent decision...hopefully the numbers work out! On another note...I don't know if anyone has heard about what's going on here in Chattanooga, but this town has really embraced the arrival of Chattanooga FC. In fact, our NPSL side, in only their second season, averaged 4400 fans a game, and lost in the national championship game! Kind of mind-blowing to see how Chattanooga FC's attendance compares to these more established teams in bigger cities. Check out their site if you haven't had a chance yet.


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