A look at the United Soccer League’s two professional leagues in 2020

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Here is what is known so far about about the USL Championship and the USL League One for 2020.

Philadelphia Union II — the artist formerly known as Bethlehem Steel FC — will compete in the Eastern Conference of the USL Championship this coming season.  “Union 2” or “Philly 2” open at home Saturday, March 7, at 7:30 p.m. hosting Loudon United.  The rest of Philly 2’s schedule was announced yesterday and can be found here.

2020 USL Championship Conferences

Eastern Conference (17)Western Conference (18)
Atlanta United 2Austin Bold
Birmingham LegionColorado Springs Switchbacks
Charleston BatteryEl Paso Locomotive
Charlotte IndependenceL. A. Galaxy II
Hartford AthleticLas Vegas Lights
Indy ElevenNew Mexico United
Loudon United FCOKC Energy FC
Louisville City FCOrange County SC
Memphis 901 FCPhoenix Rising FC
The Miami FCPortland Timbers 2
New York Red Bulls IIReal Monarchs SLC
North Carolina FCReno 1868 FC
Philadelphia Union IIRio Grande Valley FC
Pittsburgh RiverhoundsSacramento Republic FC
St. Louis FCSan Antonio FC
Sporting KC IISan Diego Loyal
Tampa Bay RowdiesTacoma Defiance
FC Tulsa
USLC points of interest
  • Nashville has left USLC for MLS.
  • Ottawa failed to receive sanction to operate from both U. S. Soccer and Concacaf; it subsequently sold its franchise rights to The Miami FC. (The Miami FC has no connection to David Beckham’s Inter Miami FC, which is launching its own USL League One expansion team.)
  • Sporting Kansas City and the Philadelphia Union have rebranded their wholly-owned USLC teams in their own images, Sporting KC II (formerly Swope Park Rangers) and Philadelphia Union II.
  • There are five wholly owned “MLS2” sides in the East and four in the West. Additionally, there are two “hybrid affiliates” in the West, Colorado Springs Switchbacks (Colorado Rapids) and Rio Grande Valley Toros (Houston Dynamo), in which the MLS side has primary control over soccer decisions while local businesses control the business side of things.
  • USLC’s website lists two future expansion sides, East Bay 2021 and Queensboro FC 2021. The former will be somewhere on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay and the latter is in the borough of Queens in New York City.
  • Given the unbalanced conference alignment, Eastern Conference teams will play two extra games. For example, Philly 2 plays Pittsburgh and Hartford three times each. Everybody else in the Eastern Conference will be played home and away, with no interconference play until the final.

2020 USL League One

1Chattanooga Red Wolves SC7Union Omaha
2Forward Madison (WI) FC8Orlando City B
3Greenville (SC) Triumph9Richmond Kickers
4Inter Miami CF10South Georgia Tormenta
5New England Revolution II11Toronto FC II
6North Texas SC12FC Tucson
USL1 points of interest
  • Lansing (MI) Ignite has folded.
  • There are five sides wholly owned by MLS clubs, one independent MLS affiliation, and one wholly-owned “USLC2” side.
  • Penn FC (formerly Harrisburg City Islanders) who last played in USL in 2018, is reported as ceasing operations as of the 2019 USL winter meetings.
  • Rochester Rhinos who last played in USL in 2017 are listed on Wikipedia as joining USL League One in 2021.
General reminders

The two leagues’ differences stem from U. S. Soccer’s classification requirements to be division two or division three in the three-layer United States professional soccer pyramid. Two major ones are

  • Stadium seating capacity, currently five thousand versus fifteen hundred (According to Wikipedia only four USLOne stadiums are less than 5,000 in seating capacity.)
  • The depth of ownership’s financial capacity, for example, reserves sufficient to operate for three years instead of just one.

Any future implementation of promotion and relegation would require U. S. Soccer to alter its requirements in some fashion, so future “pro-rel” is a conversation with at least three sides, with a fourth, MLS, being a highly interested outside observer.

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