USL kicks off 2018 season with record 33 teams

The USL kicks off its eighth season on Friday.

While the Division 2 rival NASL won't operate in 2018, the USL continues to enjoy unprecedented growth. It will field 33 teams in 2018, almost triple the number of teams it had for its modest launch in 2011.

New teams include Fresno FC, the Las Vegas Lights and Nashville SC, each of which has already demonstrated great local support for preseason games and fan events.

The gold standard is set by FC Cincinnati and Sacramento Republic FC, which are in an expansion battle for the 26th MLS team. FC Cincinnati has already sold more than 16,000 season tickets for 2018 after setting USL attendance records in 2016 and 2017. Those records had been held by Sac Republic, which has averaged more than 11,000 a game in each of its first four seasons.

Expansion will continue in 2019 as Austin, Birmingham, El Paso and Memphis are already on board, and the USL will likely move into Albuquerque and San Diego.

EASTERN CONFERENCE:
Louisville City (18-6-8). Won 2017 USL Cup before sell-out crowd of 14,456 at Slugger Field.

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NY Red Bulls II (13-14-5). Second in 2017 after winning league title in 2016.
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Tampa Bay Rowdies (14-7-11). Signed 2017 NASL Young Player of the Year Jack Blake.
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Charlotte Independence (13-10-9). Added four players on loan from Colorado Rapids.
FC Cincinnati (12-10-10). Emmanuel Ledesma, Nazmi Albadawi and Richie Ryan arrive from NASL.
Bethlehem Steel (12-12-8). Three grads made MLS debuts in Philadelphia Union opener.
Charleston Battery (15-8-9). Michael Anhaeuser begins 14th season as head coach.
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Ottawa Fury (8-10-14). Three players are on loan from Montreal Impact, one from FC Dallas.
Penn FC (10-15-7). Former Harrisburg City Islanders took on Rush Soccer to run player side.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds (8-12-12). Ben Zemanski signed after eight seasons in MLS.
Richmond Kickers (8-16-8). Begins 26th season in the USL.
Toronto FC II (6-19-7). Will play four matches at Capelli Sport Stadium in Rochester.
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ATL UTD 2 (expansion team). Will play first season at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville.
Nashville SC (expansion team). Moved opener to Nissan Stadium because of high ticket demand.
Indy Eleven (former NASL team). Will move into 70,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium.
North Carolina FC (former NASL team). Returns to USL, where it played in 2007-09.

WESTERN CONFERENCE:
Swope Park Rangers (17-8-7). Will play at Shawnee Mission South District Stadium (7,500 seats) in Kansas.
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OKC Energy FC (14-11-7). FC Dallas loaned GA draft spicks Francis Atuahene and Ema Twumasi.
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San Antonio FC (17-4-11). Signed second-team all-league defender Ryan Felix from Rochester.
Sac Republic FC (13-12-7). Sold out every game at Papa Murphy's Park (capacity: 11,569) in 2017.
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Real Monarchs (20-5-7). Regular-season champs will move into Zions Bank Stadium this spring.
Reno 1868 FC (17-7-8). Rookies Danny Musovski and Mohamed Thiaw are on loan from San Jose Earthquakes.
Phoenix Rising (17-8-7). Didier Drogba's second season with Rising will be his 20th and final season.
Tulsa Roughnecks (14-14-4). Made playoffs for first time in three seasons in 2017.
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Colorado Springs Switchbacks (12-12-8). Ayukokata Tambe joins fellow Cameroonians Pascal Eboussi and Moise Pouaty.
Orange County SC (11-11-10). Inked 15-year-old keeper Aaron Cervantes from U.S. U-17s and Pateadores.
Rio Grande Valley FC (9-15-8). Goalkeeper Nico Corti signed from three-time NCAA champion Stanford.
Saint Louis FC (9-14-9). Moves over from Eastern Conference.
Seattle Sounders FC 2 (9-19-4). S2 could rely heavily on current academy players.
LA Galaxy II (8-19-5). U.S. U-20 John Requejo arrives from Tijuana.
Portland Timbers 2 (3-23-6). Signings include U-20 internationals Darixon Vuelto (Honduras) and Marvin Loria (Costa Rica).
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Fresno FC (expansion team). Longtime MLS coach Frank Yallop is the general manager.
Las Vegas Lights (expansion team). Family affair on sidelines: El Chelis and son Isidro Sanchez.


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4 comments about "USL kicks off 2018 season with record 33 teams".
  1. s fatschel, March 16, 2018 at 9:17 a.m.

    Too many teams with D2 status based on attendance,  salary and quality of play compared to D2 in Europe.  Hopefully with D3 starting next year adjustments will be made. D3 will also give more young US players an opportunity.

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, March 17, 2018 at 10:46 a.m.

    I really dislike generalized comparisions to "Europe." There are 55 UEFA countries and lots of clubs, but usually the Europe-is-better comparisons are made to only a few top clubs from a few countries. The success popularly attributed to some countries are largely due to success at a major club which is doing something different than the rest of the country. These few top clubs are not typical of Europe. 

    I am simply happy that there is a growing USL. I don't care what label it is given or how it compares to any other league. The clubs might be playing garbage soccer now compared to the top 5 clubs in Europe, but success in competitions is just about how much money a club spends on players and staff. Lavish spending, however, is not sustainable in the long term. By the spending standard, things are getting a little bit better in the US every year. That is a sustainable path to growth.

  3. s fatschel, March 18, 2018 at 3:38 p.m.

    I would rather see 12 or so clubs with high attendance and full time salaries so quality of games are better. The only USL games worth watching are vs MLS sides or when a famous player comes to town. Vast majority of USL games I have watched are boring. Basically put USL clubs ready for MLS (Cinci, Tampa, etc) in D2.  All the others should be D3 and developmental. This way more value for fans in D2 markets and opens up spots for US players in lower salary semi-pro D3.

  4. s fatschel, March 19, 2018 at 8:52 p.m.

    And it's not just Europe. Mexico, Brazil many others .. even Russia with its large size, have similar tiers.

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