Charlotte, (N.C.) - Late Friday night, the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors announced that the United Soccer League (USL) had been granted provisional Division 2 status, starting in the 2017 season.
“The USL is honored to receive provisional U.S. Soccer Federation Division 2 status, which provides further validation about our League’s financial sustainability, national footprint, ownership quality, stadium infrastructure, and player development,” said Alec Papadakis, the USL Chief Executive Officer.
The Charlotte Independence entered the league in 2015 taking over the USL rights from the Charlotte Eagles. The Independence have posted winning seasons in both years of USL competition including a playoff berth last year by finishing fifth in the 14 team Eastern Conference. Since 2014, the USL has more than doubled competing teams and is set to add Ottawa Fury FC, Reno 1868 FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies this season.
“I think it's a nice step forward for us as a league,” said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. “Even before this decision, you saw the level of soccer go up within the league. Not only from some of the new teams coming in, but from some of the teams that had been around. When you increase the quality of play, the quality of the players, you put a better product on the field.”
According to Papadakis, the USL and ownership fielded more than 1,000 players, hosted 1.5 million soccer fans, and arranged nearly 100 coaches last season. Charlotte Independence General Manager Tom Engstrom points out that having a 30-team league is simply amazing in itself.
“The USL being granted provisional Divison 2 status is another sign of the great progress the USL has made,” said Engstrom. “This change of status will help continue to raise the standard of the league on and off the field.”
U.S. Soccer Board of Directors said they would be in cooperation with the USL to meet full compliance with Division 2 status in the coming weeks, and will set forth additional standards.
“U.S. Soccer will create an internal working group that will work with the league to set a pathway to meet the full requirements for Division II and allow for the larger goal of creating a sustainable future,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati.
The 2017 conference alignment and schedule are slated to be released soon, with league play beginning in late March.