The USL First Division lost its sixth team following the announcement that the Charleston Battery, a USL member since 1993 with two championships to its
name, will to play in the USL Second Division (third level) in 2010.
USL1 has already lost five 2009 teams to the proposed NASL
-- champion Montreal, Vancouver, Miami FC, Carolina and Minnesota. In addition, expansion Tampa Bay joined the NASL.
That leaves Austin, Cleveland, Puerto Rico, Portland and Rochester as the only holdovers from 2009. New York is committed as a 2010 expansion team. Portland will be joining MLS in 2011.
The Battery joins several longtime USL clubs in USL-2, most notably the Richmond Kickers (founded in 1993), Charlotte Eagles (1993) and Pittsburgh Riverhounds (1999).
USL-2's regional structure will help reduce the Battery's travel costs.
"We believe that the level of competition in USL-2 will be very similar to that in USL-1 and we
expect to field a very exciting and competitive team," said Battery President Andrew Bell
. "We also look forward to renewing old rivalries with
Richmond and Charlotte. Playing in this division will also substantially reduce our travel costs as we won't be flying all over the country."
Charleston was the only USL-1
team that was not part of the Team Owners Association (TOA), formed in 2008 to address issues with USL management and now looking to form the NASL.
"The Charleston Battery has
never been a part of TOA," said Charleston Battery CEO Tony Bakker
, "not because we disagreed with some of the legitimate complaints they had about
how USL1 operated in the past, but because we totally disagreed with their stated vision to be a viable alternative league to Major League Soccer (MLS) and to compete with MLS on and off the field.
This made absolutely no sense to us."
The Battery will play a 20-game regular season schedule beginning mid-April. It will once again host its preseason tournament the Carolina
Challenge Cup featuring Major League Soccer teams in March and will also enter the U.S. Open Cup, in which it finished second in 2008.