USL: A new Division III league in works for 2019

The United Soccer Leagues, which currently operates the Division II USL and amateur PDL, has announced plans to launch a new pro Division III league in 2019.

The USL will target communities ranging in population from 150,000 to one million. The move comes after the USL, a former Division III league, was provisionally approved to have Division II status along with the NASL.
“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 in a statement. “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.”

For 14 years (1996-2009), the USL operated leagues at Division II (USL Select, then A-League and USL First Division) and Division III (USL Professional, then USL D-3 Pro, USL Pro Soccer and USL Second Division) with various names.

Three teams from the last season of its 2009 Division III league -- Richmond, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg -- still survive while only two teams from the 2009 Division II league  -- Charleston and Rochester -- still play in the USL. (Three 2009 USL Division II teams play in MLS and one plays in the NASL.)
50 comments about "USL: A new Division III league in works for 2019".
  1. R2 Dad, March 31, 2017 at 12:17 p.m.

    Just the next step for US Soccer/MLS/USL to marginalize NASL. Did the NFL create another league to further squeeze the AFL, or did NFL merge with the AFL? Did the NBA create another league to further squeeze the ABA, or did the NBA merge with the ABA? That's how adults handle these issues. So why is Sunil allowing Garber to treat american soccer like his own personal sand box? Why is this such a big deal then? Because MLS/USL is a closed system, benefiting ownership, while the rest of the soccer planet operates in an open system that greatly benefits the players. Lawyers can argue rulings all they want, but at the end of the day the Christian Pulisic's will continue to bypass MLS and the MLS monopolistic league structure will perpetuate this ad infinitum. It is therefore impossible for MLS to become a top league, so Sunsil and Garber should not speak about MLS ever becoming more than what it is today. Instead of the money going to american players and youth clubs, it's going to Garber and the MLS ownership groups. This is big business as usual in the US.

  2. don Lamb replied, March 31, 2017 at 1:56 p.m.

    The NASL brings no value to US Soccer. Some of the teams in the league might, and they will be fully embraced in the newly forming pyramid. Why would MLS/USL acquiesce to NASL demands when that league has proven itself to be a s- show? Two questions: If NASL was so much for an open structure, why didn't they implement it with a different lower league? And, regarding your comment about Pulisic, which league has a better track record of producing American youth talent: NASL or MLS? Finally, to your comment about MLS becoming a top league: If it continues on it's current trajectory, it sure as hell will be a top league as youth development continues to be a point of emphasis and money in the league continues to grow richer. Big business as usual? Can't you see how MLS has reinvested in players (81 players bought this season raising the overall level of the league and the target age of incoming players) and youth development (academies really starting to produce some big time teenage prospects: Pomykal, Davies, Davis, Carleton, etc.)?

  3. R2 Dad replied, March 31, 2017 at 4:41 p.m.

    Don, youth development might, slowly, improve but it's based upon retaining a captive audience. Unfortunately for MLS, American players (not just CP) want to go where the best coaching is: Europe and South America. The US may, in aggregate have the best youth coaches but they're spread out over 3000 miles and diluted by oceans of crappy coaches. Despite that, youth soccer up to age 16 here is OK--it's what happens after that fails for our players so miserably.

  4. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, March 31, 2017 at 5:23 p.m.

    How many American kids want to go to South America or actually do so? Hardly any. And most kids everywhere are "captive audiences" because they can't move abroad until age 18 due to FIFA regulations.

  5. don Lamb replied, March 31, 2017 at 7:36 p.m.

    You say that R2, but there are lots of young players who are thriving IN MLS. Some, like McKinnie, have decided to go abroad. That's good too. If we are developing talent to our potential, there will be plenty of great players who stay here and plenty that will try Europe. How many kids that are in Europe have a better coach than Carleton has at ATL UTD? The trend of better coaches is going to continue just as the trend of better development will.

  6. Gary Young replied, April 3, 2017 at 3:36 p.m.

    Don, hypothetically speaking, if we had 10 talents emerge 20 years ago out of 8-10 pro clubs in Usa and now have 20 emerging put of 20 pro clubs, that isn't really called improvement. I am sure that if development stats were on Mls side we would have already seen several articles written up by SA staff who seem to have a love fest going on with Mls.

  7. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 5:33 p.m.

    We didn't have ANY talents emerging from pro clubs 15-20 years ago. Bradenton, college, or abroad were basically the only routes to go. Bradenton has been replaced by a much more far reaching system of academies, college has improved dramatically, and the abroad option is proving much more viable. We are light years ahead of where we were even 10 years ago.

  8. Gary Young replied, April 3, 2017 at 8:29 p.m.

    Light years? How did you come to that conclusion? Numbers? Before and after.

  9. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 9:47 p.m.

    If you need that, then you do the research. I've got perspective that you apparently don't have.

  10. Gary Young replied, April 3, 2017 at 10:14 p.m.

    I guess i dont. Our numbers are low in Europe compared to past years. Most of the talent you named in Mls is yet to be proven. You are optomistic and nothing more.

  11. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 11:07 p.m.

    We have never had anywhere close to the number of teenagers playing in Europe than we have now. We have never had anywhere close to the number of teenagers getting major minutes in MLS than we have right now. There is reason for optimism. I keep on supporting my view with facts. Then you ignore those facts and bring up some other weak point that I then disprove with facts. The cycle continues. You bring up a stupid argument, I explain how that is false, you bring up a different stupid argument, I explain...

  12. Mario Cesarone, March 31, 2017 at 1:30 p.m.

    NASL marginalizes itself quite easily, without anyone's help. That BIG BUSINESS has given us a sustainable Professional Soccer league. What exactly has the NASL done other than blow millions of dollars when they started back in 1968?

  13. Fire Paul Gardner Now, March 31, 2017 at 2:15 p.m.

    NASL is likely to be defunct in the near future and American soccer will not be any worse off as a result. Pulisic went to Europe because 1) he was better than basically any American his age and 2) he had an EU passport. American soccer needs MLS to develop young players, most of whom won't have the option of going to Europe at age 16.

  14. R2 Dad replied, March 31, 2017 at 4:21 p.m.

    As long as Garber leaves open the option to syphon off all the top teams to MLS, leaving only the weaker teams/markets, you're probably right.

  15. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, March 31, 2017 at 5:22 p.m.

    The "top teams" from the minor leagues want to come to MLS. What's the alternative? Playing the "Cosmos" in a college lacrosse stadium?

  16. don Lamb replied, March 31, 2017 at 7:38 p.m.

    lol. seriously. You act like MLS is stealing teams from NASL unfairly. These teams are mostly chomping at the bit to leave the instability of NASL.

  17. R2 Dad replied, March 31, 2017 at 8:51 p.m.

    ...and yet it's the churn that creates the instability. It's a chicken vs egg problem, isn't it? That's due to Sunil refusing to grow a set and letting Garber make up the rules as he goes along.

  18. don Lamb replied, March 31, 2017 at 10:27 p.m.

    Maybe if the league was quality at all, then that church wouldn't exist, huh? This isn't a matter of if the chicken or the egg came first, it's a question of whether or not the chicken cut it's own head off, or if the egg never hatched because the mom didn't incubate it correctly. Garber making up the rules as he goes along? Garber has overseen a transition from MLS being a league in peril to having it's lofty goals (full maturity in terms of footprint, active supporter cultures, major media deals, developing youth players, emerging in the global player market Almiron, Nikolic, Lodeiro, Giovinco, dos Santos, etc.) in sight. Don't you think that he has his finger on the pulse and has made good decisions? Even if MLS isn't doing every little thing perfectly at this point in it's early existence, I would say that Garber has contributed a lot in terms of the growth of the game in US. To say that MLS and USSF are somehow harming US Soccer, and pretending that the answer is something like NASL or a single foreign-born billionaire that can start a league from scratch is absolutely ridiculous.

  19. R2 Dad replied, April 1, 2017 at 12:17 a.m.

    No one's said Garber hasn't done a good job, or that NASL hasn't shot itself in the foot. But Sunil & Garber have colluded to favor the bad business model (MLS) for the sake of control and stability over the other priorities (youth soccer development, player salaries). In the short term everything looks rosie. Good luck getting Sunil/Garber to cede power/control and change the MLS business model once they are able to flex their monopoly power. In 20 years time MLS will still be signing majority foreign players at the expense of american youths and youth development. College soccer will still suck, and the USMNT will still have not played in a World Cup Final.

  20. don Lamb replied, April 1, 2017 at 7:23 p.m.

    Your pessimism is not so charming. I have to wonder where this bitterness comes from? Look at how far MLS has come in the last 20 years, and you think that the state of the game will be the same or worse in another 20 years? Common sense and trends suggest that you are as wrong as wrong an be. Again, look at how far MLS has come in the last 20 years, and you are going to question the business model? Then you are going to act like the amateur hour s--- show otherwise known as the NASL was the victim of come "collusion?" USSF did NASL some favors when they rebooted, but NASL screwed the pooch and USSF was forced to step in and clean up the mess. In the meantime, MLS continued doing the right things building partnerships, infrastructure, investing in youth development, marketing, new clubs, etc. and you are going to pull this poor cry baby act about how it isn't fair.

  21. R2 Dad replied, April 1, 2017 at 9:10 p.m.

    Don, I'm not whining. You see pessimism, I understand human nature and am actively involved in youth soccer and see where this is headed. You can be as pollyannaish as you want, but now we've set up our professional league to be the grown-up version of pay-to-play, where all the benefits fall to management and everyone else gets the short end of he stick. I hope you're right and I'm wrong, but when you put non-soccer people in charge of US Soccer and MLS, can we really be surprised the soccer end of things falls down the list of priorities compared to, say, media deals, tweets, DP signings and flashy stadia? I've said my piece and we disagree. End rant.

  22. don Lamb replied, April 1, 2017 at 10:59 p.m.

    R2 - Believe it or not, those things are actually more important than the soccer part at this point. A professional sports league doesn't just get to pronounce itself and then suddenly become a great league because it has "soccer people" running it. These things - stadia, media deals - are the foundation of the long term success and stability of the league, which is still VERY young. To think that if we just focused on the soccer part, that everything else would fall into place is to not recognize the complexity of what it takes to do something like this to the level that will really make it on par with the best leagues in the world. That said, people who follow the league can see a transition toward a higher level of attention being paid to the soccer part. Their is a clear emphasis on youth development and playing youth players that is very new. There is a clear emphasis on signing lesser known players who are in their prime or have not reached their prime. Again, the stability of the league and the success of it financially is what has brought these things about. Before you can focus on the soccer, you have to have the other things in place. You seem completely blind to that. These are the things that point to a rosy future for MLS, and to basically say that everything about soccer in the US will suck in 20 years completely ignores all of this progress on and off the field that is occurring at a rapid pace.

  23. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, April 2, 2017 at 10:41 a.m.

    MLS started from scratch and is now a 22 team league (with additional cities lining up to pay $150m each to join), its teams play mostly in new soccer specific stadiums with higher per game attendance than the NBA and NHL and earning $90m a year in TV revenue. Meanwhile, NASL almost went broke last season, it is down to eight teams, one of which lost to Portmore United the in CCL qualifiers, and its teams play in ancient venues in front of a handful of people. Yet, NASL has the better business model? Huh?

  24. don Lamb replied, April 2, 2017 at 3:08 p.m.

    Fire - It's like people just want to snap their fingers and suddenly have a top European-quality league in front of them. The lack of perspective and impatience can be frustrating, but I guess these haters are actually another sign of progress in some way.

  25. Gary Young, April 3, 2017 at 9:46 a.m.

    The business side of it is more important that soccer itself. Ok......

  26. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 10:08 a.m.

    That is starting to shift, but yes. When a league still hasn't even reached maturity, it has to be sound and stable financially. Only then can the sporting aspect take off.

  27. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 10:09 a.m.

    Or we could go with NASL 3.0...

  28. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, April 3, 2017 at 3:33 p.m.

    The business side is paramount in any pro soccer league because they are businesses. You guys act like it was no big deal to start from nothing and get to where MLS is now. The business had to managed properly to get to this point. It doesn't mean MLS is perfect but it's pretty good considering where we were 20-25 years ago.

  29. Gary Young replied, April 3, 2017 at 3:39 p.m.

    Fire, whats good about it this structure compared to Germany taking away owners risks? I'll wait.

  30. Gary Young replied, April 3, 2017 at 3:45 p.m.

    I know what you will say. "Everyone had a head start and soccer isnt as popular in Usa". Thats a lie. We are and have been above many countries as far as soccer viewership. It just hasnt been American games. We continue to watch Liga Mx and Euro leagues at a much mich higher rate than Mls. I would say probably more than ever. We now know more than ever of how development is done in other countries and therefore can't help but make the negative comparisons with Mls. You guys like to say that college is horrible for development but the sad truth is that the entire DA system is not that much better except for very few cases. The sad byy honest truth is that a kid graduating from DA structure at 17-18 years old should be going pro if that structure was competent. It is not.

  31. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 4:35 p.m.

    No matter the country or the system of development, a very relative few 17-19 years olds around the world are actually pros. Consider that we started developing players about 10 YEARS AGO, and I'm pretty impressed at where we are at this point. Have you seen some of the 16-18 year olds playing in MLS? Pomykal, Davies, Farfan, Ferreira, Carleton, Tabla, Adams, Mihailovic, Trusty, Cannon, Acosta, Lennon, Palmer-Brown... We're not Brazil or even Mexico at this point, but to pretend like our entire system is a complete failure is ridiculous. And what does Germany have to do with this? You think that the market for football in the US in comparable to Germany? Or any other country in the world for that matter?

  32. Gary Young replied, April 3, 2017 at 5:44 p.m.

    Lets put it this way. If Mls were truly developing then we would have many many more homegrown players playing meaningful minutes because fact is that Mls is 3rd tier Germany or England level or Liga Mexico 2nd division level, exactly where you can find many many 17-19 year olds playing. 10 years is plenty of time to develop top, by world standards, players. Just ask Germany, Belgium, Iceland, Japan, etc. Some on that ppayer list you gave, I have seen, and am not impressed. Giving a 10-20 playet list does not measure improvement. All variables must be taken into account to establish gains. Maybe the market isnt comparable to Germany but I am willing to bet the market for soccer in usa id stronger than in most countries.

  33. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, April 3, 2017 at 6:21 p.m.

    Gary you say "10 years is plenty of time to develop world class players" - then cite Belgium and Germany, where they have been playing the game for 100+ years, Japan (which does not have many world class players, if any) and Iceland (same).

  34. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 7:37 p.m.

    Not to mention, our U17s just waxed Japan's 17s in 3 out of 4 games. The talent is coming up. You can have your blinders on if you wish.

  35. Gary Young replied, April 3, 2017 at 8:35 p.m.

    Fire everyone has excuses. Mediocre. Facts. Belgium could say that they finally took it seriously and completely changed their development system after many years of not caring much. Soccer has always been a soccer playing immigrant rich country. Or are you saying we had one without the other? We can do things wrong for another 20 years and they will say the same thing you are saying today. Japan on the womans side revamped their development about 10 years ago. Question. Were their woman playing soccer for many years? All you have to do is look at a nunber of countries that are apssing Usa up on all kinds of levels on woman side. Take the blinders off guys.

  36. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 9:54 p.m.

    Comparisons to the women's game are useless. Very few countries in the world emphasized women's player development -- that includes the US. The reason we were so far ahead are cultural and because of NCAA athletics. That should give you an idea of how limited women's development has been -- NCAA soccer is still perhaps the best producer of talent in the world. The same NCAA soccer that you malign regularly with its serious limitations has been the motor behind our women's game. Now, we are starting to see Germany (first) and France with their professional models and Japan with their academy models surpass our women. We still have a major cultural advantage that will keep us at least close to the top, but that is just another reason the women's game and player development with the women has absolutely nothing to do with the men.

  37. Gary Young replied, April 3, 2017 at 10:19 p.m.

    Excuses excuses. Very simple. Usa led the world on womans side 10 years ago because we had a head start. Mens side lagged behind 10 years ago because others had a head start. A handful of countries have now surpassed us on womans side in less than 10 years of new development peoccess. On mens side we have not. Not even close. There is nothing more comparable. But you can't see it because you are naive.

  38. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 11:02 p.m.

    Gary - Comparing the global cultures of women's soccer and men's soccer makes you look really dumb. One is far and away the most popular sport in the world. The other is not even an after thought in 95% of the world. If they are so comparable, and you like numbers so much, then why don't you tell me how many men's professional teams there are compared to how many women's professional teams there are. Development is mostly a function of pro clubs -- thus the challenge of the 100 year head start that much of the globe had on the US on the men's side, and relative ease with which a few nations have caught up on the women's side.

  39. Gary Young, April 3, 2017 at 12:52 p.m.

    Because its either Nasl as example or nothing else right? Got it

  40. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 2:10 p.m.

    Well, yeah, that's the only real life example we have. You got something else? You should start it up! You'd be ahead of MLS in no time!!

  41. Gary Young replied, April 3, 2017 at 3:37 p.m.

    Yea I do. How about the rest of the freakin world? You getting paid to constantly hype up Mls dude?

  42. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 4:26 p.m.

    Well then make it happen, brother. However, if that had been the model, we probably wouldn't have a professional league nearly as healthy as MLS is today. I'll take the latter.

  43. Gary Young replied, April 3, 2017 at 5:46 p.m.

    Whats healthy about it?

  44. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, April 3, 2017 at 6:24 p.m.

    How old are you Gary? Do you remember where the game was in this country 25 years ago? It was unimaginable that MLS could have grown into what it is today.

  45. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 7:55 p.m.

    What's healthy about it?? Forget what Fire says about 25 years, do you have any clue of what this league and the general soccer landscape looked like just 10 years ago? Holy cow, the game has grown a ton since 2007 and most of that is because the influence of MLS. It has raised the level of the college game (along with the DA) significantly. The subject of this article is about the formation of a THIRD division. Think about that - we are about to have a system of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd divisions working in concert with each other! That is huge for players development. It's not perfect, but hell it's still not even technically in place yet! You want promotion/relegation? This is the only way it's going to happen, so this is potentially a huge step in that direction. It's still a couple of decades off, so don't bring up Garber blocking that idea because he will be gone, and this would be a huge platform for a new commissioner. Don't say that USSF will block it because USSF is going to do whatever is best for the game in this country, and if the system is mature and stable enough in 15-20 years, then you better believe they will strongly consider that as an option if they are not already tentatively hoping for that scenario to play out. What's healthy about it???? Child, please. We are poised for a breakout within the next 10 years thanks to the structure of MLS, how it is developing youth players, how the lower divisions will tie into that development, how it is attracting younger and better foreign players, how it is diligently increasing its footprint across that country, how it is building infrastructure in stadia and academy facilities, how it is steadily growing in fan support and media attention...

  46. Gary Young replied, April 3, 2017 at 8:38 p.m.

    It has raised the level of college? Arent there more foreignors than ever before getting soccer college scholarships? So siding with Mls on paying TC and transfer fees to youth clubs is good for American soccer? Funny

  47. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 10:02 p.m.

    There are also many more professionally trained local players getting college scholarships. The combination of the two -- foreign players (coming from some of the best academies in the world) and American players who been developed at a much higher level then the previous generation of American players -- have definitely dramatically increased the depth and quality of the college game.

  48. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 10:11 p.m.

    By your lack of mention, I take it you are satisfied with our argument that MLS is very healthy... I mean, I think it's obvious but you seemed to disagree.

  49. Gary Young, April 3, 2017 at 10:20 p.m.

    I dont see whats healthy about it.

  50. don Lamb replied, April 3, 2017 at 11:10 p.m.

    You don't see well, then.

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