A new USL third division league is set to launch in 2019, filling the newly promoted circuit’s former spot in the U.S. Soccer Federation pyramid.
The new league is billed as one for markets between 150,000 and a million in population, but that’s a pretty wide mandate that also covers many of the current USL markets. Still, the new USL third division league is billed as one for markets too small for USL, and the emphasis on the press release is on new markets:
The league will focus on launching new third-division clubs in markets that possess strong local ownership groups, populations with broad-based diversity, a vibrant millennial and strong family base, established corporate support, and stadiums to properly showcase the sport for fans, partners and the public.
“We are in a unique position to lead the sport’s next phase of growth with a proven and exciting competition model, the same which has made the USL the top Division II league in North America,” said CEO Alec Papadakis. “With elite competition and strong ownership groups providing unrivaled fan experiences, the USL will continue shaping the future of professional soccer through a third-division league, cultivating and bonding local supporters through the ‘beautiful game’ for generations to come.”
Plans for the third-division league have been in development for more than 18 months, and market discussions are well underway with numerous potential owners who have extensive experience in MiLB and other professional sports leagues. Official branding for the new Division III league, as well as inaugural teams and preliminary competition format will be announced in the summer of 2017.
Grass-roots soccer is experiencing major growth in the United States, and this is a smart move to take advantage of some of these efforts. Some major cities, such as Minneapolis, Des Moines and Detroit have seen successful launches of grass-roots efforts, and undoubtedly some of these smaller markets would be a prime goal for USL recruiting efforts.
Image courtesy USL.