League soccer is wrapping up for 2017 with the MLS Cup set for Saturday, December 9th. But by no means is the activity around the various leagues quiet. Over the past month, a flurry of new clubs across the lower divisions in US soccer have been announced. Here is an updated look at the confirmed expansion sides for each league in the years ahead – as well as a few expansion rumors and comments on the current state of the leagues.
Today is the day.
Seat selection begins for #LAFC Members.
— LAFC (@LAFC) November 13, 2017
- Current State: 22 teams in 2017, two divisions of 11.
- 2018: Los Angeles FC
- 2019: Miami (Beckham’s franchise – still yet to be formally confirmed), plus a potential relocation of the Columbus Crew to Austin, TX.
- 2020: Teams 25 & 26 from Cincinnati, Sacramento, Nashville, or Detroit (set to be announced later this month).
- 2021 or 2022: Teams 27 & 28 (one from the two not selected for 2020, plus one from Raleigh, Phoenix, Tampa Bay, San Antonio, Charlotte, St. Louis, San Diego or Indianapolis).
- Outlook: Strong. Even with the issue over #SaveTheCrew, MLS will be at 28 clubs by 2022, setting attendance and TV records. There will be new stadiums, and the talent keeps getting younger.
Dawn of a new era. https://t.co/1dtAfqVVwD
— Utah Royals FC (@UtahRoyals) December 1, 2017
- Current State: 10 clubs in 2017.
- 2018: The FC Kansas City franchise has been relocated to Salt Lake City, UT as the Utah Royals.
- 2019: Atlanta United (MLS) and Barcelona (La Liga) are rumored to be looking to start NWSL clubs as early as 2019. Barcelona’s location would likely be a major-market such as LA, Miami or NYC.
- Outlook: Stabilizing. The focus for the next few years is ensuring that clubs and the league are financially stable. Primary goals are growing player salaries and improving revenue.
— Las Vegas Lights FC (@lvlightsfc) October 30, 2017
- Current State: 28 teams in 2017 split into Eastern and Western conferences.
- 2018: Fresno FC, Las Vegas Lights FC, Nashville SC, and North Carolina FC (joining from NASL), and an unnamed club near Atlanta, GA (owned by Atlanta United).
- 2019: Birmingham, Memphis & potentially an Austin franchise depending on how the Columbus Crew situation plays out.
- 2020: Chicago (a new downtown stadium).
- Outlook: Growing. While the league will likely lose three or four clubs to MLS expansion in the next four to five years, USL should be well over 30 teams by that point. Attendance is growing and clubs are bringing in new or renovated stadiums.
We are California United.
— California United (@CalUtdFC) August 8, 2017
- Current State: Lost D2 status earlier this year and is currently going through the appeal process in a suit against the US Soccer Federation.
- 2018: California United FC (Fullerton, CA) and San Diego 1904 FC scheduled to join the league if it operates in 2018. (Update) There are also 7 NPSL clubs that signed letters of intent to join the league to help it maintain D2 status. A few NASL owners would have to put up the funds to help those clubs join the league, as well as stadium and roster budget increases required.
- Outlook: Nearly dead. Only 5 of the 8 clubs from 2017 are still with the league, including Puerto Rico, which will likely need to sit out a year or two. The league has struggled financially and organizationally since its return.
#ProSocc3r starts here.
— USLD3 (@USL_D3) April 25, 2017
- Current State: Currently visiting locations around the US to assess readiness for D3 status, or help instruct what is needed by the target launch in 2019.
- 2018: Will continue evaluating markets and proposals.
- 2019: The league has already visited a huge number of interested cities, including Lexington, KY, Knoxville, TN, Asheville, NC, Greensville, SC, Columbia, SC, Dayton, OH, Fort Wayne, IN, Toledo, OH, Lansing, MI, Grand Rapids, MI, Des Moines, IA, High Point, NC, Fayetteville, NC, Statesboro, GA, Macon, GA, Huntsville, AL, Montgomery, AL, Mobile, AL, Portland, ME, Manchester, NH, Worchester, MA, and Providence, RI.
- Outlook: Promising. There has been huge interest so far, and I expect the league to launch with around 15-20 teams. Can easily hit the 30-40 range within a few years. Will see new markets and teams move up from the PDL and some move down from the USL who aren’t yet ready for D2 standards.
- Current State: A potential D3 league that wants to create an open tier system across the 2nd and 4th levels. Waiting for the outcome of the NASL situation.
- 2018: Chattanooga, Connecticut, and Miami have been accepted into the league, whenever it starts.
- 2019: Charlotte, Omaha, Milwaukee, and St. Louis submitted bids, but require improvements in order to join the project.
- Outlook: Bold idea. Until NISA gets closer to fruition, it’s a beacon for the Pro/Rel camp and those who don’t like the MLS. Could eventually see a collaboration with remaining NASL teams, new NISA clubs, and the NPSL. Likely won’t start until the fall of 2018 or in 2019.
The Premier Development League is thrilled to announce the addition of @LionsbridgeFC as a new club starting play in 2018! Welcome to the league! 🦁🌉#Path2Pro | https://t.co/9OalGFG0Ri pic.twitter.com/o4T1gMnIEk
— USL PDL (@USLPDL) November 14, 2017
- Current State: 72 clubs in 2017.
- 2018: 5 new clubs are set to join – Lionsbridge FC (Virginia Peninsula), Ogden City SC (Ogden, Utah), Corpus Christi FC (TX), AHFC Royals (Houston) & Lansing United (MI). Lansing is already looking at a move to USLD3 in 2019.
- 2019: Birmingham, AL
- Outlook: Strong. the PDL’s connection to USL and MLS makes it a stable organization, and a known path from college to the top level. Their motto is #Path2Pros.
We are Greenville Football Club, a new Member of the National Premier Soccer League (@NPSLSoccer), the 4th division of the U.S. soccer pyramid. Greenville FC will begin play in 2018! #yeahTHATgreenvilleFC pic.twitter.com/YNGoupGQmc
— Greenville FC (@gvlfc) November 27, 2017
- Current State: 96 clubs competed in the 2017 season.
- 2018: 7 new clubs set to join the league, taking the total over 100! FC Baltimore (Baltimore, MD), Katy 1895 FC (Katy, TX), Laredo Heat Soccer Club (Laredo, TX), Greenville Football Club (Greenville, SC), El Farolito (San Francisco, CA), Academica Soccer Club (Turlock, CA), and Football Club Davis (Davis, CA)
- Outlook: Strong. Like it’s D4 counterpart PDL, the NPSL is booming with teams, and interest among investors and fans. Could easily see expand upward in the future without NISA or NASL, taking their top 20-30 clubs into the USSF sanctioned D3 tier.
— CPL (@CPLsoccer) May 7, 2017
- Current State: A newly planned Canadian Premier League, set to be a D1 league.
- 2018: Hamilton and Winnipeg are the only two confirmed cities for the initial launch so far.
- 2019: Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Moncton, New Brunswick, Regina, Surrey, and Saskatoon have all shown interest or been rumored to be adding clubs either at the launch or within the first few seasons.
- Outlook: Needed. While like NISA, the CPL is currently just an idea, this one is far more necessary in my opinion. Canada needs a fully functional league to help develop the game, to support youth and national team soccer. The timing is perfect, as the league would have a few years of getting started before hopefully co-hosting WC2026.
— Asheville City SC (@AshevilleCitySC) November 3, 2017
- Current State: 106 clubs participated in the 2017 season. (A decade ago that number was 22).
- 2018: Two new clubs have already been confirmed for next season – Asheville City (also in the NPSL) and Discoveries Soccer Club from Rock Hill, SC.
- Outlook: The league has a new president and commissioner for 2018. Look for continued growth, reorganization across the regional divisions and overall structure/vision for the league moving forward.