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United Soccer League (USL)

United Soccer League (USL) 

The United Soccer League (USL) organization oversees three men’s leagues (USL Championship, USL League One, USL League Two), two women’s leagues (USL Super League, USL W League), one player development platform (USL Academy), and a national youth platform (USL Super Y League). 

The USL is built on a proven and recognized model in international football and has more than 200 clubs in its membership.

Men’s  Leagues

Women’s Leagues

Youth Leagues 

Historical Interest

The USL has a long and colorful history so try to keep up. 

In the shadow of the defunct NASL, and before the advent of Major League Soccer,  a new indoor league was founded in 1985 by Francisco Marcos, and was known as the Southwest Indoor Soccer League.

In 1989, to complement the indoor league,  the Southwest Outdoor Soccer League was created, and the next year, they merged to become the Sunbelt Independent Soccer League.

Two years later in 1991, it was renamed the United States Interregional Soccer League (USISL). 

By the summer of 1993, only two outdoor leagues competed for national attention in North America, the United States Interregional Soccer League and the American Professional Soccer League (APSL).

By 1995 the United States Interregional Soccer League (USISL) was growing and viewed as the second division league in the US and the APSL (renamed the A-League) was losing teams.

Because of its growth, the USISL league changed its name to the United States International Soccer League and then split into two leagues, one professional and one amateur. 

The professional league was initially called the USISL Pro League, and was a FIFA-sanctioned Division 3 league. The amateur league, (the ‘Premier League’), was given Division 4 status and would evolve into the USL Premier Development League.

The USL W-League women’s semi-pro league was also launched in 1995. 

In 1996, the USISL expanded further by introducing the USL Select League, which combined the strongest teams from both the Professional and Premier Leagues. Both the Select League and the competing A-League were granted official Division II status by FIFA. 

The A-League was still declining, while the USISL continued to expansion. In 1997, the A-League ceased operations and merged with the USISL Select League, which was then rebranded as the USISL A-League

In 1997 the league changed its name to the USISL D-3 Pro League to further distinguish itself from the A-League, and then in 1999 the umbrella USISL changed its name to the United Soccer Leagues (USL), and as such the Pro League officially became known as the USL D3 Pro League. In 2003 the name was changed again to the USL Pro Select League, but during the season had to be changed to the USL Pro Soccer League for to legal reasons. In 2005 the league took its final name as the USL Second Division.

This three-level structure remained stable within the USL until 2010, when certain teams departed to establish the North American Soccer League. After the Second Division dissolved, the First and Second Divisions were combined to form USL Pro.

By 2013, the USL Pro partnered with Major League Soccer with affiliations for player borrowing.  In 2014, the LA Galaxy announced the creation of LA Galaxy II, a reserve team within the MLS’ existing development structure. The Galaxy purchased a USL Pro expansion franchise and became the first MLS club to enter its reserve team into the USL Pro.

USL Pro nearly doubled the number of teams in the league in large part due to MLS franchises following the path taken by the LA Galaxy II. Seven MLS clubs announced the purchase of a USL Pro franchise for their reserve team. 

For the 2015 season, all 20 MLS teams for the 2015 season were either fielding their own team in the USL Pro or were affiliated with an independent USL Pro club. 

In 2015, United Soccer League Pro dropped the “Pro” and rebranded to United Soccer League (USL). The PDL dropped the “USL” descriptor from their name, simply operating as the Premier Development League (PDL)

USL continued to grow, partly with the help of MLS, and after a few years of club movements between USL, MLS  and the competing NASL league, the USSF granted the USL Division II status in January 2017.  The Division 2 league was now called the USL Championship

In 2019, after another round of club movement between the various leagues, the USSF granted Division 3 status to USL League One.

The league the USL Premier Development League would be renamed as USL League Two.

On the women’s side

Since its founding 1995,  the semi-professional W-League grew to 41 teams by 2008. However, by 2015 the W-League had declined to 18 teams and suspended operations in 2015.  A number of teams moved to the United Women’s Soccer (UWS) League or the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) .

In 2021, after eight years, the semi-professional W-League was revived and began play in 2022 with over 40 teams in 2024. 

A new professional league, the USL Super League (USLS) has been sanctioned as Division 1 status, with plans to open in August 2024.

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