Alphabet Soup: the NASL/USL/CPL/NISA/PDL/NPSL/NCAA Soccer Thread

Titans Bastard

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Good crowds from some of the debutante clubs: New Mexico, El Paso, Memphis. Solid stuff from Vegas, Sacramento, and San Antonio as well.

 

Quintanariffic

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The USL Championship season kicks off this weekend, starting with Tacoma vs. Rio Grande Valley right now. USL League One starts in a couple of weeks.

It's a deep cut, but the games are all on ESPN+, so Tacoma Defiance (Seattle's team) and North Texas SC (FC Dallas' team) are the two biggest ones I'll keep track of from a USMNT perspective. Both have tons of teenage prospects who will be playing big roles.
Scuffed is killing it on the USL coverage of USMNT/USYNT prospects.
 

Titans Bastard

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Scuffed is killing it on the USL coverage of USMNT/USYNT prospects.
Agreed, he covers youth more closely than anyone else. Dude is going to jump off a cliff if Richie Ledezma and Alex Mendez don't turn into stars or play for Mexico, though.

His podcast partner has a fairly awkward delivery, but is generally a strong analyst too.
 

Quintanariffic

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Agree all around. They actually complement each other well with Velazquez’ pessimism/realism and deeper tactical nous offsetting Belz’ generally feverish optimism and focus on individual player technique.

But yes, if Ledesma or Mendez switch to Mexico, suicide hotline in Minneapolis needs to be on alert.
 

Titans Bastard

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Tonight is the first D3 pro game since 2016, when USL Division One will kick off. I find it pleasing to see how many professional teams are in operation these days. In 2018, we had 23 MLS clubs and 33 USL clubs (=56 total). In 2019, we have 24 MLS clubs, 36 USL Championship clubs, and 10 USL League One clubs (=70 total). In 2010, there were 34 pro clubs at all levels.
 

Titans Bastard

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The first round draw for the US Open Cup was made recently. This includes the six eligible USL League One clubs (the only pros involved right now), plus ten clubs from USL League Two (the artist formerly known as PDL), 14 from the NPSL, and eight from local qualifying tournaments.

The USSF doesn't sanction any leagues below the top three tiers, but informally USL2 and the NPSL are considered a fourth tier, with various USASA leagues comprising the tiers below that. Functionally, USL2 and NPSL are summer leagues made up mostly of college leagues, the soccer equivalent of the Cape Cod League.

The one local New England connection is Black Rock FC, a USL2 club that's an outgrowth of a youth club in Western MA, although they played home games at Hotchkiss in CT last year.

Impressively, NTX Rayados have made it through local qualifiers for the eighth consecutive season.

FC Baltimore Christos (NPSL) vs. West Chester Predators (LQ)
Richmond Kickers (USL1) vs. Virginia United FC (LQ)
Lakeland Tropics (USL2) vs. The Villages SC (USL2)
South Georgia Tormenta 2 (USL2) vs. Chattanooga Red Wolves(USL1)
New York Cosmos B (NPSL) vs. Black Rock FC (USL2)
NYRB U23 (USL2) vs. FC Motown (NPSL)
Milwaukee Bavarian (LQ) vs. Forward Madison (USL1)
Laredo Heat (NPSL) vs. Brazos Valley Cavalry (USL2)
Academica SC (LQ) vs. El Farolito (NPSL)
Cal FC (LQ) vs. FC Mulhouse Portland (NPSL)
Orange County FC (NPSL) vs. FC Golden State Force (USL2)
Lansing Ignite (USL1) vs. AFC Ann Arbor (NPSL)
Reading United AC (USL2) vs. Philadelphia Lone Star (NPSL)
Erie Commodores (NPSL) vs. Dayton Dutch Lions (USL2)
Greenville Triumph (USL1) vs. South Georgia Tormenta (USL1)
Miami FC (NPSL) vs. Florida Soccer Soldiers (LQ)
Little Rock Rangers (NPSL) vs. NTX Rayados (LQ)
Des Moines Menace (USL2) vs. Duluth FC (NPSL)
Midland-Odessa Sockers (NPSL) vs. FC Denver (LQ)


All eligible USL Championship clubs enter in the second round.
 

Titans Bastard

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The USL is teasing an expansion announcement for League One next week. Based on old murmurings, I wouldn't be shocked to see it be Omaha. Who knows really.

 

Titans Bastard

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One of the proposals for the redevelopment of McCoy Stadium is for a USL team.

https://www.providencejournal.com/news/20190426/6-proposals-submitted-for-reuse-of-mccoy-stadium

-Brett Johnson, Fortuitous Partners, is proposing to bring a professional sports team — a United Soccer League franchise — to downtown Pawtucket and envisions construction of a multi-sport stadium and ancillary and sport-related development. The proposal includes a renewed use for the existing McCoy baseball stadium site. A new recreational park is proposed with six new multipurpose fields that can be used for soccer, lacrosse or football.
I don't know anything about this guy or the likelihood of his plan coming to fruition.
 

Titans Bastard

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The USL is teasing an expansion announcement for League One next week. Based on old murmurings, I wouldn't be shocked to see it be Omaha. Who knows really.

It's Omaha. The owners are the same group that owns the AAA Omaha Storm Chasers; the soccer team will share the stadium. That takes League One to 11 clubs for 2020, with the (tenuous?) possibility that the Rochester Rhinos and Penn FC will come back from hiatus as well.

https://www.uslleagueone.com/news_article/show/1017377
 

OilCanShotTupac

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Might have to update the thread title, TB. We have a new league in the Great White North, eh? The Canadian Premier League:

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/apr/30/will-the-canadian-premier-league-turn-the-country-into-a-football-power

Just a few years ago, young Canadian soccer players like Ryan Telfer and Kadell Thomas had little shot at professional careers. Without a professional domestic league solely based in Canada players entered their 20s with a sense of uncertainty: despite having the talent to progress into academies, colleges and semi-pro leagues, they would either be forced to play abroad – unless they made it to the handful of Canadian MLS teams – or quit the game altogether. “There are so few options,” said Telfer in 2018.

But this weekend, Telfer and Thomas entered the annals of Canadian soccer history. And more importantly, they now have a pathway to sustained success. On a windy Saturday afternoon in front of 17,611 spectators at Hamilton’s Tim Horton’s Field, Telfer and Thomas each scored in an entertaining 1-1 draw between York 9 FC and Hamilton’s Forge FC in the first ever Canadian Premier League match. The seven-team league has been in the works for more than five years now and is sanctioned by Canada’s governing soccer association as the country’s top-tier league. The league has hopes to expand and eventually develop a tiered system with promotion and relegation.
That's a very nice crowd. Of course, once the novelty wears off, we'll see what happens across the season and across all franchises.

This can only be a good thing IMO. Canada's national program has been a joke for so long, roughly akin to one of the Caribbean islands in the CONCACAF pecking order, and never a serious threat to make the Hex. A stronger Canada would produce more good prospects for the region and MLS, and also elevate CONCACAF. Better competition for the USMNT is a good thing.

It says later in the article that pro/rel is a long term goal. That's a very interesting question w/r/t the three Canadian MLS franchises, and pro/rel in the US, right? Would there be a fixed number of Canadian franchises in MLS and pro/rel from those designated Canadian spots to/from the CPL? Could/would the Canadian franchises break from MLS to the CPL? That would be hard to imagine, and I wouldn't think Vancouver would want to abandon its Seattle and Portland rivalries.

All fun to think about, and all good stuff.
 

OilCanShotTupac

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Good crowds from some of the debutante clubs: New Mexico, El Paso, Memphis. Solid stuff from Vegas, Sacramento, and San Antonio as well.

Feels like the MLS II teams in USL are apples and oranges. Galaxy II and RBNY II are drawing essentially high school game crowds.

Not that it's on the table yet, but you also wonder what pro/rel would look like with these subsidiary teams.

PL teams have U23 squads that compete in PL2. I follow Everton's decently closely - they just won the PL2 (I like seeing someone in an Everton kit hoist some silverware, even if it's in a cow pasture with five people watching). That might be a better model for MLS rookie squads.
 

Titans Bastard

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Might have to update the thread title, TB. We have a new league in the Great White North, eh? The Canadian Premier League:

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/apr/30/will-the-canadian-premier-league-turn-the-country-into-a-football-power



That's a very nice crowd. Of course, once the novelty wears off, we'll see what happens across the season and across all franchises.

This can only be a good thing IMO. Canada's national program has been a joke for so long, roughly akin to one of the Caribbean islands in the CONCACAF pecking order, and never a serious threat to make the Hex. A stronger Canada would produce more good prospects for the region and MLS, and also elevate CONCACAF. Better competition for the USMNT is a good thing.

It says later in the article that pro/rel is a long term goal. That's a very interesting question w/r/t the three Canadian MLS franchises, and pro/rel in the US, right? Would there be a fixed number of Canadian franchises in MLS and pro/rel from those designated Canadian spots to/from the CPL? Could/would the Canadian franchises break from MLS to the CPL? That would be hard to imagine, and I wouldn't think Vancouver would want to abandon its Seattle and Portland rivalries.

All fun to think about, and all good stuff.
I think pro/rel in the CPL would be internal with a CPL2 league. It's hard to see it meshing with MLS at all. If MLS ever has pro/rel, I think it will be with a second-division league under MLS control.

Canada is already on the upswing. In the last couple of years, Montreal sold Tabla to Barcelona, Vancouver sold Davies to Bayern Munich, and Orlando sold Larin to Besiktas. Weirdly, Canada has a lot of interesting attackers but their defense sucks. Their depth is pretty poor, and the hope for them is that the CPL will help with that. Making the Hex in 2021 is definitely a possibility, though.

Feels like the MLS II teams in USL are apples and oranges. Galaxy II and RBNY II are drawing essentially high school game crowds.

Not that it's on the table yet, but you also wonder what pro/rel would look like with these subsidiary teams.

PL teams have U23 squads that compete in PL2. I follow Everton's decently closely - they just won the PL2 (I like seeing someone in an Everton kit hoist some silverware, even if it's in a cow pasture with five people watching). That might be a better model for MLS rookie squads.
MLS once had a reserve league, but it was viewed as inadequate. There was a desire for academy kids and reservists to be able to play in meaningful games against adult professionals in front real crowds (on the road, anyway).

I don't think MLS wants the PL2 model. And if they could, I also think the EPL would go to a German/French/Spanish model where U23 teams are in the pyramid somewhere.

Over the last ~5 years, there's been a highly productive marriage of convenience between MLS and USL. USL came back from the brink, in part because so many MLS II teams have helped fill the map and reduce travel. For MLS, their teams now have a way to build a bridge between the academy and the first team.

Now that there are a ton of relatively stable (relative to historical norms) independent D2 clubs and a new D3 league, there's a real possibility that some cracks in the alliance may emerge. USL fans generally don't like MLS II teams because of the poor crowds and the variable quality of a given MLS II squad from week to week. For example, Sacramento played Tacoma in the one game where Seattle sent down a ton of first-teamers for fitness and lost what would otherwise have been an easy three points.

I suspect that the USL will be encouraging MLS II teams to drop down to D3 over the coming years. However, not all MLS II teams are the same.
  • Some are making a real attempt to forge their own identity in near or near-ish markets (e.g. Tacoma Defiance, Rio Grande Valley FC, and formerly Bethlehem Steel*)
  • Some employ mostly early-20s players, while some are going super young. The very young teams like Tacoma get slapped around in USL, but NYRB II and Timbers 2 lead the East and West respectively right now.
* Bethlehem Steel were forced out of their stadium due to it not meeting D2 standards and are playing in Philly this season
 

Domer

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Hartford Athletic got their first win in club history by defeating the New York Cosmos in the Open Cup.
 

DrewDawg

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So my area now has a USL2 team (VB United) and an NPSL team (VB City, which plays in Norfolk).

So, yeah. Can't decide which one to go watch this weekend.
 

Awesome Fossum

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Oh weird. Never boring in the Alphabet Soup.

I went to the Austin Bold-Tulsa Roughnecks USOC game. I was really impressed with the operation -- super easy getting in and out, reasonably priced beer, the Bold were pretty dominant on the field. Attendance has been lacking, and the Bold sent out an olive branch of sorts on Twitter in the direction of the Austin FC community, which has been boycotting the USL team in response to the Bold's attempts to prevent the MLS team from coming into town.
 

Titans Bastard

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A couple of the clubs that were supposed to play in the NPSL Founders Cup pro effort at one point have defected to NISA.



Both seem like shaky propositions at best. NPSL Founders Cup consists of clubs that actually exist and in some cases have proven support at the NPSL level (Detroit City, FC Chattanooga), but they aren't even D3-sanctioned because too many of the clubs have fly-by-night ownership that can't meet D3 capitalization requirements.

NISA somehow got provisional D3 sanctioning, but they are still talking about a short-season fall launch even though the majority of their clubs still have no branding, no marketing, and no players.


I'm curious to see how many more clubs USL can get on board their D3 league for 2020.
 

Titans Bastard

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USL announced an expansion team in San Diego for 2020 or 2021. It's backed by one of the co-founders of Sacramento Republic, Warren Smith, who has since sold his stake in the team. Landon Donovan has an executive position in the organization as well.



San Diego is one place that really needed a pro team. Way too much local talent and interest in the game to not have a club.
 

Titans Bastard

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Thoughts TB?

This conflict has been brewing for a while. Padding out what's now USL Championship with MLS reserve teams gave USL an edge in their battle with the NASL and helped provided stability that attracted new independent teams well. The USL-C is now huge, with 36 teams, and like the Old Big East, there are now different factions with different goals.

Kicking MLS reserve teams out of the second division will both improve the average attendance and overall off-the-field vibe of USL-C, and it will also seed the USL-1 third division with teams around the country that will expedite the growth of more regional divisions. (It's probably a hard sell to get a USL-1 team in, say, Bakersfield when most of the league is east of the Mississippi right now.) So, I understand where this is coming from.

I mentally divide MLS reserve teams into two categories. The ones that mostly play teenage players from their academy would be well-served by dropping to USL-1 anyway. Tacoma Defiance (Sounders), Swope Park Rangers (KC), Loudoun United (DC) are skewing very young this year. Tacoma has a lot of interesting prospects, but is getting smacked by teams filled with mid-20s veterans and it can't be ideal for their kids to be losing 4-0 every week.

On the other hand, there are other reserve teams that have a few young kids, but mostly a lot of 21-23 year old players. These teams are a lot more competitive, although they still mostly suck off the field. Despite their success with Miazga, Adams, and a bunch of current first-teamers, NYRB has never loaded their USL team with really young teenagers. They've actually had a ton of success coaching up random early-20s players and turned a lot of them into surprisingly good players. Aaron Long is basically a USMNT starter now, plus lots of solid MLS contributors like Brian White, Vincent Bezecourt, Florian Valot, et al. Since they've done well at USL-C and even won the title a few years ago, I can see why they see no value in sticking around.

Hopefully, they can reach some sort of flexible compromise where 50-70% of the MLS2 teams get pushed down and a handful stick around.
 

Titans Bastard

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This has been rumored before, but there's now some solid reporting on a proposed USL team in Queens. It would launch in 2021, be called Queensboro FC, and David Villa would be a minority owner.


The project hasn't yet been awarded a team, but they are taking about Citi Field as a temporary venue.

Lower league teams in big cities are tough for various reasons — this would have to contend with two MLS teams, and finding a permanent venue in NYC is a nightmare. There is talk of a modular stadium at Willits Point. Still, there is legitimacy behind this group, so it would be interesting to see how it works out.