While we await the final release of the MLS schedule, third-division USL Pro announced their schedule and division alignments on Friday, emphasizing the league’s accessibility and stability. The press release from USL Pro emphasizes that six of their franchises have more than ten years of operational experience.
The league will feature 15 teams in three divisions: American, National, and International. The National Division will include the Dayton Dutch Lions, Harrisburg City Islanders, FC New York, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and the Rochester Rhinos. The American will include the Charleston Battery, the Charlotte Eagles, Orlando City, the Richmond Kickers, and the Wilmington Hammerheads. The International is comprised of Barracuda FC, the Los Angeles Blues, Puerto Rico United, River Plate of Puerto Rico, and Sevilla FC Puerto Rico.
Each team will play 24 games with a home-and-away with every team in their division. The games kick-off April 2nd with a Puerto Rico derby when River Plate and Sevilla FC face-off, followed by Orlando City visiting the Richmond Kickers. The four clubs in their first year of competitive play include the relocated Orlando City at Richmond April 2, Los Angeles at Sevilla FC on April 15, FC New York at Orlando City April 9, and Barracuda hosting LA on April 17. The schedule runs April through August, and the league will announce the playoff format at a later date. You can see the entire schedule here.
My first thought seeing the announcement was good luck to poor LA, who we knew would struggle with travel but will definitely rack up the frequent flier miles. At least their players can enjoy the beach four times this season. Otherwise the divisions make sense. It will be tough to do a playoff with three divisions, but if my suggestion would be take the three division winners and have two “wild cards”. The wild cards would be the two best non-division winners who would have a “play-in” match, where the winner advances to the USL Pro final four playoff.
What are your thoughts on how USL Pro is developing, and is their structure so far sustainable?