With so many teams entering the United Soccer League each season, we’ve decided to have a regularly updated post covering expansion (and retraction) of North America’s second division league. Listed below are the teams that have officially been announced, as well as some markets with strong rumors surrounding them.
USL President Jake Edwards confirmed there will be a Central Conference, with more details coming early 2018.
Entering USL in 2018:
With eyes on MLS expansion, Nashville SC takes the field for the first time in 2018. The Music City side will play at First Tennessee Park, a baseball stadium providing a similar experience as 2017 USL Champion Louisville’s Slugger Field. Nashville is extremely likely to end up in the Central Conference.
North Carolina FC
San Antonio fans may remember The Triangle-based club as Carolina RailHawks, but the former NASL club rebranded to their current name in December 2016. Pulling the parachute cord to make the jump from NASL to the more stable USL, it is unlikely SA will play its former NASL competitor as NCFC will likely be in the Eastern Conference.
Unrelated to the long-established Fresno Fuego, Fresno FC will take the field in 2018. Specifically, they’ll take the field at the current home of the Fuego Chukchansi Park. The California expansion side will serve as the USL affiliate of Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Las Vegas Lights FC
Arguably the most unique of the new brands, Las Vegas Lights FC drew overwhelmingly positive reactions to its “so Vegas” crest. While the club will be playing in a baseball stadium, Cashman Field is located in prime downtown territory and should become a fixture of the city’s booming sports landscape.
Unnamed Atlanta United USL Team
Few details exist for this new club, but MLS club Atlanta United will field a USL team in 2018. The club will play at Coolray Field in Gwinnett, Georgia. Yet another baseball stadium entering the league
Seattle Sounders 2 is rebranding and relocating to Tacoma for the 2018 season. They’ll play at Cheney Stadium, home of a minor league baseball team, while they look to establish a soccer specific stadium.
Entering USL in 2019:
Few details have been released publicly about Memphis other than their projected 2019 entry and their place in the USL Central Conference.
The Alabama side will start play with the PDL in 2018 before moving to USL in 2019. The club is expected to take on a different name than the Birmingham Hammers. A club name, branding elements, and home stadium haven’t been announced yet.
Multiple reports have indicated that the potential relocation of Columbus Crew SC to Austin has halted the development of Austin’s USL franchise. However, as an officially announced USL franchise expected to enter the league in 2019, Austin will stay in this category until there is official word that USL is not coming to Circuit of the Americas. If the USL team comes to fruition, the team will play at CotA and be owned by former AzTex owner Bobby Epstein. The club has officially been treated as a new franchise, not a reviving of the AzTex.
Leaving USL, Folding, Rebranding, or Relocating:
Vancouver Whitecaps 2
Vancouver Whitecaps FC are the latest MLS club to shut down their USL team entirely, following fellow Canadians Montreal Impact. Fresno FC will be the Cascadia club’s USL affiliate in 2018.
Seattle Sounders 2
S2 has rebranded to Tacoma (see above)
Harrisburg City Islanders / Penn FC
Penn FC was announced as the new name and brand for the new-look City Islanders club.
Reports from El Paso news sources and personal sources indicate that USL is working towards adding a far-West Texas club.
FC Dallas 2
Rumors have swirled for years about FC Dallas wanting to establish a USL club in the metroplex. One of the signs we’ve seen recently comes in the form of reported cutbacks at OKC Energy FC, the current FC Dallas affiliate.
Rochester’s ownership group released a statement recently that read similarly to that of SF Deltas. Both clubs have pled to fans that without help, the clubs will cease to exist.
Nashville, Cincinnati, and Sacramento
MLS is coming for at least four markets in the form of expansion. While multiple USL markets have applied, Nashville, Cincinnati, and Sacramento seem most likely to get three of the four announced expansion slots. This would obviously reduce the number of USL clubs unless the newly “promoted” clubs established USL sides.
Per the USL website, The Hartford Sports Group is attempting to secure a site to bring a USL club to the Connecticut city. The ownership group has their eyes set on a 2019 entry.