The United Soccer League 2016 season has gone amazingly well, but with the annual league Summer Meetings set to begin today in San Jose, planning for the 2017 USL season is already well underway.
“In addition to our usual business objectives, these meetings will give us an opportunity to update ownership on expansion, set next season’s competition structure and roll out the League’s new media strategy for 2017 and beyond,” said USL President Jake Edwards in a press statement. “We have experienced great momentum and achieved so much in the past 12-18 months and with more exciting news on the horizon the future is remarkably bright for the League and its teams.”
Indeed—provided the league can hang onto those teams. It’s no secret that the Sacramento Republic FC and FC Cincinnati owners see their destiny in MLS, perhaps as early as 2018. And St. Louis has been mentioned as a potential MLS expansion market down the road. And while losing Sacramento and Cincinnati would take a dent out of the league attendance stats (the two are collectively averaging some 28,000 fans a match), there are still plenty of USL markets setting attendance records this season, including Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Louisville City, OKC Energy and San Antonio FC.
And we expect to see some good numbers out of Reno 1868 FC, currently set as 2017’s only expansion team. (Nashville FC will enter USL in 2018.) But there may never be a season like 2016, with six USL expansion teams on the pitch. Especially if USL moves up a level to Division 2 in the U.S. soccer pyramid.
What else will we see in USL in 2017? Plenty of baseline league business development. On a league level, we’ll see the debut of USL Productions, a new digital production division to oversee all of the League’s video production, including live game broadcasts. Speaking of broadcasts: the USL landed an ESPN3 contract, and the USL Championship will be broadcast on an ESPN over-the-air network.
Image courtesy OKC Energy FC.