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

Titans Bastard

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USL announced a new team in League One called the Central Valley Fuego that will begin in 2022. The team will (hopefully?) be based in Fresno, though if the current stadium plan falls through it sounds like they could build a stadium somewhere outside of town closer to Madera.

Fresno FC played in 2018 and 2019 in the USL Championship, but folded after stadium troubles. The name of the new club is a callback to the old Fresno Fuego, which was an amateur PDL team that was active from 2003 to 2017 and unlike most clubs at that level it actually had a decent following.

This would be the westernmost team in the league for now. USL still has a lot of work to do to build out this league — currently, the closest clubs to Fresno are in Tucson, Dallas, and Omaha.

https://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/marek-warszawski/article247680895.html
 

Titans Bastard

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The USL League One twitter account hinted at this earlier today and now the local press breaks the story: Northern Colorado FC will join the league in 2022.

https://www.denverpost.com/2021/01/11/northern-colorado-fc-usl-windsor/
The basics are that the team will play in Windsor, CO (halfway between Fort Collins and Greeley) at a large sports complex that will also accommodate a minor league baseball team. The combined population of the Fort Collins & Greeley metropolitan areas (nearly 700k) is actually rather solid for League One, but I always wonder if a stadium is better in Windsor, which is between the two and about 30 mins from each, or if it's better to go closer to one of the downtowns.
 

67YAZ

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Chicago is getting ready to launch a NISA team. This could be fun. Projected kickoff in August.

They have been running a tournament style bracket to name the team and have ended up with the rather blah options of Point Chicago or Chicago House.

Some of the excellent options that fell to the wayside: Second City FC, Chicago Wild Onions, du Sable Chicago, Chicago Defenders, and the Chicago Sting (not sure who owns that trademark these days). Naturally, Chicago Dish beat out Chicago Tavern Style. And I can’t believeI never thought of this - when the pandemic ends and we get the 7v7 leagues going again, definitely using the name Chicago Seven.

They do have a sleek black & gold color scheme.
 

Titans Bastard

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I don't get either of those two finalist names, but hopefully that's just because I don't live in Chicago.

I'm a Negative Nancy about NISA who I see as a half notch better than a vaporware league. If I'm a NISA club, I'm hoping to build enough gravitas to eventually be accepted into USL before NISA goes defunct, à la Oakland Roots. Most clubs in the league have minimal community or online presence. Detroit City and Chattanooga FC have the most momentum, but both of them are "problematic" fits for USL.
 

67YAZ

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I don't get either of those two finalist names, but hopefully that's just because I don't live in Chicago.

I'm a Negative Nancy about NISA who I see as a half notch better than a vaporware league. If I'm a NISA club, I'm hoping to build enough gravitas to eventually be accepted into USL before NISA goes defunct, à la Oakland Roots. Most clubs in the league have minimal community or online presence. Detroit City and Chattanooga FC have the most momentum, but both of them are "problematic" fits for USL.
"House" maybe because Chicago is where house music originated? But Point - I have no fucking clue. It doesn't even sound cool.

Peter Wilt is the mover & shaker behind this club. He's got a long track record and knows the midwest pro soccer scene as well, if not better than anyone else. Aside from a rich guy with money to burn, Wilt's probably in the best position to pull this off.

That said, Mansueto has mentioned in recent interviews that the Fire has long-term plans to establish a USL club; they are currently affiliated with Forward Madison. Maybe Wilt's play is to establish the club and get bought up by the Fire?
 
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Titans Bastard

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I don't really understand Peter Wilt's career arc. If some people fail upward, he has succeeded downward. It seems like he just likes starting clubs from scratch, and then moves on, and somehow he's now involved with a ragtag operation like NISA.
 

Titans Bastard

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The first men's domestic action of the year is tonight. The USL League One season launches this weekend with a solitary match between Fort Lauderdale CF [Miami's reserve team] and New England Revolution II. Riveting stuff no doubt, and I may even tune in for part of it because I'm a degenerate.

MLS starts next weekend, and then USL Championship begins the following weekend.
 

67YAZ

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Meanwhile, a new NPSL club for 2021 called Panathinaikos Chicago has signed Djibril Cissé.

View: https://twitter.com/chicago_pao/status/1381689275478110209
They were founded in 2019x and haven’t played a match yet due to the pandemic. Wonder what “signed” really means? Their websites notes:

It has been publicly noted that Panathinaikos Legends Georgios Karagounis and Djibril Cisse have recognized our club and shown there support to our efforts here being demonstrated in Chicago.
 

Titans Bastard

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Here's something enigmatic. Normally I'd think this would be an amateur league like USL League Two or NPSL or something like that, but the Twitter account for Portland's USL League One expansion effort has been engaging with it, so I'm wondering if they'll take a crack at pro soccer. If so, legitimate expansion efforts in Portland and NH, plus the Revs reserve team, would make a nice little pod of teams in that league.

View: https://twitter.com/VermontGreenFC/status/1385383099375046658
 

Titans Bastard

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The MLS reserve league that has been rumored for a while now is reported to be in the "advanced planning stages" for 2022.

https://theathletic.com/2626561/2021/06/01/mls-third-division-league/

This would likely result in the migration of most or all MLS2 teams currently in USL to this new league. There is also the possibility that independent teams will join this league eventually; the article suggests that these teams could largely be drawn from existing MLS Next (the former DA) pool of clubs. I'm a little skeptical that the economics would work, but it could be a way to give non-MLS academies a presence in a full-time professional league, which would provide an intriguing new pathway to the pros for more players.

MLS has been partnered with USL for quite a few years now. The proliferation of MLS2 teams in the USL Championship helped populate the league and give it a true national footprint. Now there are enough independent clubs and expansion prospects that MLS2 teams are viewed as a net drag on the league. MLS2 teams, with few exceptions, have a minimal following and it annoys other USL teams and their fans that the quality of MLS2 lineups can vary dramatically (sometimes teams send down a lot of first team players for match fitness).

The new MLS reserve league would be sanctioned as a D3 league, which has looser standards for stadiums and the like. Other D3-sanctioned leagues include USL League One and NISA. USL1 has yet to get over the hump and only has 12 teams so far. However, they are talking a big game about a lot of expansion, and have already award three new teams in northern CO, Fresno, and Fort Wayne. We'll see if they can deliver on more (like long-rumored Portland, ME and somewhere in NH, for instance)

NISA is a ramshackle league that I don't think is likely to have a long-term future.

In theory the MLS reserve league shouldn't step on the toes of USL League One all that much, but it depends on how the recruitment of independent clubs goes. If it's just outgrowth of youth clubs in MLS Next, that's one thing. If they are trying to poach teams or compete for the same expansion ownership groups, it's another. I don't like overlapping lower league geographic footprints. It may be necessary given the different goals of USL and MLS in this case, but again...please no more lower league soccer warz.
 

Titans Bastard

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The MLS reserve league that has been rumored for a while now is reported to be in the "advanced planning stages" for 2022.

https://theathletic.com/2626561/2021/06/01/mls-third-division-league/

This would likely result in the migration of most or all MLS2 teams currently in USL to this new league. There is also the possibility that independent teams will join this league eventually; the article suggests that these teams could largely be drawn from existing MLS Next (the former DA) pool of clubs. I'm a little skeptical that the economics would work, but it could be a way to give non-MLS academies a presence in a full-time professional league, which would provide an intriguing new pathway to the pros for more players.

MLS has been partnered with USL for quite a few years now. The proliferation of MLS2 teams in the USL Championship helped populate the league and give it a true national footprint. Now there are enough independent clubs and expansion prospects that MLS2 teams are viewed as a net drag on the league. MLS2 teams, with few exceptions, have a minimal following and it annoys other USL teams and their fans that the quality of MLS2 lineups can vary dramatically (sometimes teams send down a lot of first team players for match fitness).

The new MLS reserve league would be sanctioned as a D3 league, which has looser standards for stadiums and the like. Other D3-sanctioned leagues include USL League One and NISA. USL1 has yet to get over the hump and only has 12 teams so far. However, they are talking a big game about a lot of expansion, and have already award three new teams in northern CO, Fresno, and Fort Wayne. We'll see if they can deliver on more (like long-rumored Portland, ME and somewhere in NH, for instance)

NISA is a ramshackle league that I don't think is likely to have a long-term future.

In theory the MLS reserve league shouldn't step on the toes of USL League One all that much, but it depends on how the recruitment of independent clubs goes. If it's just outgrowth of youth clubs in MLS Next, that's one thing. If they are trying to poach teams or compete for the same expansion ownership groups, it's another. I don't like overlapping lower league geographic footprints. It may be necessary given the different goals of USL and MLS in this case, but again...please no more lower league soccer warz.

This is now official:

https://www.mlssoccer.com/news/major-league-soccer-launches-new-professional-league

Not too many details yet on who will participate so far, though it seems SKC II, Tacoma, and Real Monarchs are confirmed. ESPN says there could be 20 teams next season.
 

Senator Donut

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Euro players love minority stakes in USL teams! But hopefully Vardy knows that the Rhinos have been on hiatus for about half a decade.

View: https://twitter.com/RochesterRhinos/status/1404793467730108424
Looks like this is for a television reality show
View: https://twitter.com/thr/status/1408048778960150534

"As part of the club’s turnaround, the Rhinos will undergo a rebrand and return to action in 2022."

I’m going to upset if they don’t return as the Raging Rhinos.
 

yeahlunchbox

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Titans Bastard

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According to the Providence Journal, the Pawtucket ownership group has hired a construction company to build their 11,000 seat stadium and construction should begin shortly after Labor Day.

https://www.providencejournal.com/story/news/politics/2021/07/14/development-pawtucket-soccer-stadium-under-way/7951288002/?utm_source=providencejournal-Daily Briefing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_briefing&utm_term=hero&utm_content=RHODEISLAND-PROVIDENCE-NLETTER65
I don't think USL has officially approved this team yet, but they've been putting out PR material trumpeting the progress of the project, so the official approval has to be coming soon. I'm looking forward to having more USL teams in New England, with Portland and NH looking to be fairly serious endeavors as well.


In other news, the USL League One expansion team in the Greeley / Fort Collins area announced that their name will be Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC.

https://www.uslleagueone.com/news_article/show/1174295
 

Titans Bastard

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USL updates:

- all but four MLS2 teams are leaving after the season, and the remaining four (Loudoun/DC, NYRB, LAG, Atlanta) will leave the league after 2022.

Two proposals that they are considering voting on this winter:

- pro/rel between USL Championship and USL League One
- switch to a fall-spring schedule

The fall-spring schedule doesn't make a lot of sense to me unless they foresee a ton of League One expansion clubs that are partnerships with MiLB owners+stadiums, and they want to avoid a zillion scheduling headaches.

Intra-USL pro/rel would be very interesting. I think USL League One needs at least a few years to get built out first.
 

Titans Bastard

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Titans Bastard

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I have to put my hand up and acknowledge that I missed that the Charlotte Independence signed Gabriel Obertan back in August.

EDIT: They also have Christian Fuchs!
 

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NCAA Men's playoffs are set.

https://www.ncaa.com/brackets/soccer-men/d1/2021

Top seeds:
1:Oregon State
2: Washington
3: Georgetown
4: Notre Dame

I've been a season ticket holder for over a decade for the University of Portland Pilots who are also in, hosting Seattle University for a chance to play Washington.

Locally (for New England) Providence College is in too.
 

Titans Bastard

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I guess I'll have to get around to editing the thread title. MLS officially announced their D3 pro league, terrible logo and all: MLS Next Pro.

So far, it consists of the reserve teams of 20 MLS teams and, hilariously, one independent team — the former Rochester Rhinos, who are co-owned by Jamie Vardy and now known by the worse name of "Rochester New York FC".

Another slate of MLS reserve teams will join in 2023, consistently mostly of teams that haven't wound down their USL teams yet, and some newer teams like Nashville and Charlotte. Not sure what the deal is with Montreal and Austin.

St. Louis will actually be launching a team in this league one year before their MLS squad launches in 2023.

View: https://twitter.com/MLS/status/1467940019428110343
 

Titans Bastard

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Austin Bold have been sold and and will be relocated. They are taking the 2022 season off to get situated. It's widely expected that they will move to Fort Worth.

The long-term success of Austin Bold depended on Precourt's move from Columbus to Austin not happening. But once the MLS team showed up, this was inevitable.

https://www.uslchampionship.com/news_article/show/1198224
 

Titans Bastard

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Some more expansion news:

USL Championship (D2) is adding a team in New Orleans by 2025.

View: https://twitter.com/USLChampionship/status/1547582191126794241



USL League One (D3) is adding Santa Barbara Sky FC, who have already announced their name, in 2024.

https://www.uslleagueone.com/news_article/show/1232374


MLS Next Pro (D3) announced that Nashville will be fielding a team in Huntsville starting in 2023.

https://www.mlsnextpro.com/news/nashville-soccer-club-to-launch-mls-next-pro-team-in-huntsville-ala
 

Titans Bastard

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MLS Next Pro officially announces seven new teams for this D3 league next year, all of which will be MLS reserve teams. Rochester remains the only independent team in what could be a brewing war at the D3 level with USL League One. So far, the floodgates of D3 clubs hasn't really opened, but those that are trickling in are still going USL League One. MLS Next Pro is feeling a bit ramshackle and rough around the edges in its first year, and it has to be pretty weird to be one of the very few independent clubs among sparsely-attended reserve teams.

View: https://twitter.com/MLSNEXTPRO/status/1555267654239363074
 

InstaFace

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This market makes a ton of sense for USL Championship. Milwaukee is unlikely to ever be on an MLS radar, so it has the potential to be a large anchor for the second division.
There are of course two smaller markets than Milwaukee which have MLS franchises - Cincinnati and Austin - though I do wonder a bit how those got picked.

But to me this raises the question: How many cities are likely to be on MLS radar, who don't already have teams? I made this ol' list a year or so ago, with current and forecast teams. You've got (DMA ranks upfront) these markets who currently lack MLS teams:

- #11 Phoenix, which has a USL-C team that clearly wants to be "called up" to MLS.
- #12 Tampa-St Pete, which has a proud history with the TB Rowdies, could easily sustain an MLS franchise. Does have Orlando somewhat nearby.
- #14 Detroit, with DC FC in the USL-C, famously popular, you could see them getting promoted at some point
- #19 Cleveland-Akron, which has no pro soccer I can identify, though Columbus is only a few hours away.
- #24 Pittsburgh, which has a USL-C team that gets enthusiastic but small support, and has cheap real estate, but seems likelier they'll move the Penguins than add a new franchise here
- #25 Indianapolis, which has a USL-C team consistently towards the top of the attendance numbers, probably likelier to be promoted a la Cincinnati than founding a competing team like Austin.
- #26 Baltimore, which has no pro soccer
- #27 Raleigh-Durham, which has a USL League One team that is consistently mis-managed; needs new ownership or MLS coming in and flattening them
- #29 San Diego, a very recent USL-C team (and now NWSL), seems well run, good candidate for MLS promotion
- #31 San Antonio, has only one Big 5 pro team (Spurs), plus a USL-C team
- #33 Hartford-New Haven, which famously has zero Big 5 teams. USL-C franchise finished its 4th season and is mid-pack in attendance (but has Tab Ramos!). Not a great candidate.

...and then you get to #35 Milwaukee. So where does that leave us? The top USL-C franchises by attendance in 2022 were:

1) New Mexico United (Albuquerque), #46 DMA
2) Louisville City, #48 DMA
3) Sacramento Republic, #20 DMA
4) Indy Eleven, #25 DMA (as above)
5) Colorado Springs Switchbacks, #85 DMA (!)
6) El Paso Locomotive, #93 DMA

Not exactly a murderer's row of combining potential (market size) and execution (proven fan base). Maybe Indy and Sacramento get called up, and Phoenix gets sold to MLS who can find a billionaire to actually invest in it? I dunno. But either way, if your line is drawn at "bigger than Milwaukee", there aren't a whole lot of markets remaining in that pool.
 

Titans Bastard

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A big part of the question depends on how big MLS will get. If MLS caps at 32, there are only three slots left with St. Louis coming in next year.

The three ingredients that matter are (a) deep-pocketed owner, (b) market size, and (c) stadium plan. Smaller markets like Cincinnati had (a) and (c), plus a huge well of proven support at the USL level is nice icing on the cake. Austin was the heart's desire of the Crew owner at the time, and it's also growing like crazy. Lack of competition from Big Four teams is a plus.

I think Milwaukee would have a chance of a mega-billionaire swooped in with a solid stadium plan, but I don't think it's a market that MLS would try very hard to pursue. Sacramento, the perpetual MLS always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride, has been gift-wrapped for the league with a stadium plan, but after their owner dropped out the league has not been trying very hard to recruit a replacement. They've always been lukewarm on the concept.

If I were a betting man, I'd think the ideal top three for MLS would be drawn from the quartet of Phoenix, Detroit, Las Vegas, and San Diego in some order.

I think Sacramento, San Antonio, Cleveland, Tampa, and Raleigh are hurt by proximity to other teams and being non-priorities for geographical coverage of a region.
 

InstaFace

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My personal dream is a 40-team MLS that includes some new franchises and some promoted USL-C teams, that splits into 2 divisions with closed pro-rel and a balanced home-and-home schedule. Or, hell, stick to the current 34 game schedule and keep it to 18 each / 36 total. 2.5 teams exchanged each season; the country would love the shit out of pro-rel playoffs, and you can actually reward the regular season with something meaningful. There's no getting around that the travel distance is tough compared with, like, England.

Surprised Vegas is as high on your list as it is. Between the Raiders, the Knights, and the fact of what outdoor weather is like in the summer in LV, plus eternal rumors of an NBA relocation / expansion there, I'm not sure it seems as fertile to me as it does to you. Yes, it punches above its weight as a DMA given all the tourism, but it's still the same market size as Austin, and not growing as fast.

To your list I would probably add Indianapolis, at the very least. No geographical-coverage issues to speak of, a "big enough" metro area with cheap real estate, and decent existing USL-C fanbase. The owner isn't David Tepper rich, but he's surely rich enough. And they're now building a 20,000-seat stadium opening in 2025. That would be bottom-third of MLS, but not so low as to knock them out of MLS contention. Even 23k capacity would get them above-median. Do we know why they got the cold shoulder from MLS in 2017 and 2019?

Also, do we think San Francisco proper is foreclosed from possibility, with the Quakes down in San Jose and the Oakland Roots doing their darndest across the bay? I have to imagine there are a ton of city-based techbros who would go to a reborn Candlestick they can get to on the BART or whatever, but can't be bothered to schlep all the way down to San Jose. Maybe the exclusivity radius alone makes that a nonstarter.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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I am not particularly desirous of an MLS team in Las Vegas, but I believe MLS leadership is.

They hoped to finalize a deal "this [past] spring", which obviously didn't happen, but it's a statement of intent.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2022/02/22/mls-expansion-las-vegas/
Are you less excited for sports gambling than all the money people in professional sports who are taking Vegas from having no pro teams to pro teams in all sports as fast as they can?
 

InstaFace

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whatever gets top-flight soccer in front of more US people is fine with me. Las Vegas wouldn't be my first pick, but it's not a bad pick. I don't much care how they justify the numbers to make it work.

I am, as a matter of ethics, kinda rooting against sports gambling in all its forms, but alongside its equally ethically-dubious peers in other parts of the casino, there's no getting around that entertainment is the bedrock industry of Las Vegas. If you replace some gambling-style entertainment with a higher proportion of experiential entertainment, honestly that's probably a net win for society.
 

67YAZ

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They should go where people are moving, which is not the Rust Belt.

Metro region population change 2015-2020:
  • Milwaukee 0.0%
  • StL -0.1%
  • Detroit -0.1%
  • Hartford -0.9%
  • Cleveland -1.0%
  • Chicago -1.5%
  • Pitts -1.7%
Unless you get a & c from Titan's list (billionaire owner & sweetheart stadium deal), expansion makes no sense in these places.