, the face of the United Soccer League for most of the last decade, is leaving the league.
He joined the USL in 2013 as executive vice president and has been president since 2015.
During his tenure, the USL has evolved into one of the biggest league structures in the world with two men's pro leagues (USL Championship with 24 teams and USL League One with 12 teams) as well as men's and women's national amateur leagues (USL League Two and USL W League) and academy and youth competitions. It has plans to launch the USL Super League, a Division 2 women's pro league, in 2024.
The USL was started by Francisco Marcos
in 1986 as the Southwest Indoor Soccer League. NuRock Soccer Holdings took over the USL in 2009, and the USL's biggest growth has come during Edwards' tenure in the organization.
Both the USL Championship
and League One
have collective bargaining agreements, which reflect improved working conditions for players and relations with club management. Many USL Championship teams are now strong enough that they are starting to sign, develop and sell young players in a manner you'd typically see small pro teams accomplish in other soccer markets. • Jake Edwards: On USL growth, the Open Cup impact, and pro/rel prospects
Probably the biggest deterrent to faster expansion is the lack of stadiums in place in potential markets for teams to operate profitably and sustainably. Lots of stadium projects are slowly making their way through approval processes.
"All of us at the USL are grateful for the contributions that Jake Edwards has made to growing not only the USL, but also soccer in America,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis
. “When we outlined our vision for the future of the USL more than a decade ago, Jake proved to be the right leader at the right time to guide our organization through this transformative period. Jake will always be part of the USL family.”
Edwards was born in England, but his family later moved to New Jersey for his father's work and he played college soccer at James Madison and professionally both in the USL (Charleston Battery) and England. Before joining the USL in 2013, he was working as a strategy consultant in London for Octagon Worldwide.
“The USL has played a significant role in the dramatic growth of the sport across the nation over the past 10 years,” Edwards said in a statement. “It has been an enormous honor to help lead that growth during my tenure alongside a fantastic executive team at USL HQ, and over the next decade, I believe the USL will continue to shape the future of the sport at all levels.”
With Edwards leaving, the USL has promoted Jeremy Alumbaugh to USL Championship president and Lee O’Neill to USL League One president. Both were hired earlier this year.
• Jeremy Alumbaugh: Inspired by the power of the soccer community (March 2023)
The USL has developed a deep and experienced senior executive team. Besides Alec Papadakis, it includes COO Justin Papadakis, USL Super League president Amanda Vandervort, Chief Commercial Officer Court Jeske, Deputy COO Dan Holman, Chief Financial Officer Karen Gittens, Chief Marketing Officer Greg Lalas and Executive Vice President of Media Michael Cohen.
The USL has been based in Tampa for many years -- its Westshore Center offices were named one of the coolest office spaces in Tampa -- but it added New York offices in 2022 when it launched a new Broadcast and Media group.