Minor-league pro numbers drop to 18

[USL-2] The USL Second Division, United Soccer Leagues’ original professional league, will operate with only six teams in 2010 at the Division III, reducing the number of pro teams below MLS to only 18, the lowest number since its launch in 1996.

The Charleston Battery joined USL-2 from the USL First Division in the offseason, while the Charlotte Eagles, Harrisburg City Islanders, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Real Maryland FC and Richmond Kickers all return. Charlotte, Richmond and Pittsburgh are all former USL-1 teams.

After the 2009 Second Division season, USL shut down the Wilmington Hammerheads, who had played 14 years in USL-2, while the Bermuda Hogges and Western Mass Pioneers dropped down to the amateur PDL.

Crystal Palace Baltimore joined the new North American Soccer League and will play in the U.S. Soccer Second Division, which will have 12 teams in 2010.

The USL Second Division received official sanctioning Friday of the USSF Board of Directors at its Annual General Meeting in New Orleans.

The USL-2, which began as the Pro League in 1996, is longest-running professional soccer league in North America.

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