TAMPA, Fla. – Designed to help ensure the long-term stability of professional soccer in North America, United Soccer Leagues announced the merger of its First and Second Divisions into a single league property for 2011 - USL PRO.
Team owners and league officials are meeting in Tampa, Florida today to lay the groundwork for the 2011 debut of USL PRO, which will be governed by team owners and present the highest level of competition in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean outside of Major League Soccer (MLS).
USL PRO is a national league featuring a regional competition model to build natural rivalries and reduce travel-related costs. The U.S. Soccer Federation-affiliated league benefits from the leadership of the dedicated and experienced professional staff at USL’s Tampa headquarters as well as the developmental support of USL’s proven and integrated system of leagues.
USL PRO will consist of as many as four geographic regions in 2011. Teams scheduled to compete in USL PRO in 2011 will be announced in the coming weeks.
“After much analysis of the current landscape we’ve chosen to combine our synergies into a single professional league that will operate within financial and competitive models that make sense,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “The USL PRO business plan is the first below the MLS level to give team owners a realistic roadmap to profitability. We need to focus on the future health of soccer in North America, and the USL PRO model addresses many of the issues that have led to the instability of men’s professional soccer below the MLS level.”
USL PRO will feature a Board of Governors responsible for making all major decisions for the league including expansion, competition format and commercial strategy. The league will focus on aggressive but deliberate growth by adding teams fully capable of meeting USL and USSF standards which are located in markets that further promote regional league play.
In its 25th consecutive year of operating professional soccer leagues in the Unites States, Canada and the Caribbean, USL has adjusted to the changing soccer landscape in North America on several previous occasions. In 2001 USL restructured its previously non age-restricted Premier Development League as a U23 league when men’s college players were in need of highly competitive training and playing options during the summer months. It was also the first entity to launch a national youth league for elite clubs, the Super Y-League.
USL’s professional staff includes not only experienced league administrators, but a large staff of sports professionals to assist teams in the areas of franchise development, international partnerships, marketing, ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, communications, new media, broadcast production, web services and player registration. USL also features a full-time National Technical Director to assist teams with player identification and to help create opportunities for player advancement both domestically and internationally.
United Soccer Leagues
Founded in 1986, United Soccer Leagues has become the largest organization of elite-level soccer leagues in North America by building on the vision, commitment, and passion of players, fans and investors. Now in its third decade of operation, USL continues to be a driving force in the growth of soccer in the United States, Canada and Caribbean. USL provides a clearly defined path for the progression of male and female soccer players beginning at the youth level (USL Super Y-League/USL Super-20 League), continuing through the amateur level (USL Premier Development League/USL W-League) and up to the professional level, both outdoor and indoor (USL PRO, I-League). A platform for countless players to reach for their dreams each year, USL is devoted to developing the sport at the grassroots level in every community across the region.