Thursday, December 24, 2009

USL-1 in Review, a look back at the history and today

UPDATE 12/24/09 2:22 AM :
A phone message from Robert Scorca indicated interesting happenings over at the USL website. It turns out they updated the USL Teams page and excluded the Tampa Bay Rowdies and FC New York. Furthermore, we still see The Cleveland City Stars and the Wilmington Hammerheads (under USL-2) even though these teams folded. Clearly, it is last years team line ups but what happened to the expansion teams? There is also no information concerning the Ft Lauderdale Shulz Academy PDL team... Things that make you go hmmmm.

I had a discussion with Robert Scorca the other day about the history of USL-1. Robert, for those that don't know him, is South Florida's own Soccer guru. He has seen many South Florida Soccer teams come and go. Starting with the Miami Gatos, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the Miami Fusion and now Miami FC. Robert has Soccer paraphernalia that is older then I am! So when you talk to him he pretty much knows what he is talking about.

My questions to him were about what he thinks of this whole USL vs NASL mumbo jumbo? Was he for one side or the other? Robert preferred a solution that would allow the USL-1 and NASL to both coexist. As most of the NASL clubs are on the east coast he feels the USL could have a western league. Maybe both leagues could have an East-West Championship Game. This solution would cut down on travel expenses which has always been a concern of the USL. He feels this solution would be best for the sport.

He pointed out the many virtues of USL and it's long history but he also pointed out the failure in vision as they let MLS become the First Division of United States Soccer instead of taking the reigns of such a project which would have led to a real Soccer league with a definite pyramid much like that of leagues all over the world. He feels that although relegation and promotion is a great idea it would not work. If soccer was the number one sport in America then it might have a chance, but the additional cost can not be absorbed by clubs or leagues today. To be promoted (a reward) would cost teams a fortune. Teams who paid to become a MLS club would most likely fold before moving down to the second division.

Robert continued:
I went over the last 10 years of the USL-1. Ten years ago (2000) there were 25 teams and it was called the A-League. Now there are only 4 teams left. 36 teams came and went with Seattle moving up to the MLS. Seven more joined the NASL. The remaining 25 were not so lucky as they either folded or moved down to USL-2 or the PDL.
In 1998, the A-League consisted of 28 teams. By 2006, only 12 remained in the USL First Division. For the most part, the teams that left dropped down to lower classifications, such as the USL Second Division and Premier Development League. These teams generally dropped down to rid themselves of the high costs of travel and player payrolls.
Here is a list of former teams come and gone:
* Atlanta Silverbacks (1997-2008) (now in the NASL)
* Boston Bulldogs (1997-2000, as Worcester Wildfire in 1997-98)
* Calgary Mustangs (2002-04, as Calgary Storm in 2002-03)
* California Jaguars (1997-98)
* California Victory (2007)
* Carolina Dynamo (1997) (now in the PDL)
* Charleston Battery (1993-2009) (Now in the USL-2)
* Charlotte Eagles (2001-03) (Now in the USL-2)
* Cincinnati Riverhawks (1998-2003)
* Cleveland City Stars (2009)
* Connecticut Wolves (1997-2001)
* Edmonton Aviators (2004, as Edmonton F.C. at the end of the season)
* El Paso Patriots (1997-2003) (now in the PDL)
* Hershey Wildcats (1997-2001)
* Indiana Blast (1999-2003)
* Jacksonville Cyclones (1997-99, as Tampa Bay Cyclones in 1995-1996)
* Lehigh Valley Steam (1999)
* Long Island Rough Riders (1997-2001) (now in the PDL)
* Maryland Mania (1999)
* Milwaukee Rampage (1997-2002)
* Milwaukee Wave United (2003-04)
* MLS Project 40 (1998-2000)
* Nashville Metros (1997-2001, as Tennessee Rhythm in 1999-2000) (now in the PDL)
* New Orleans Storm (1997-99, as New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers in 1997)
* Orange County Waves (1997-2000, as Orange County Zodiac in 1997-99. Now play in the PDL as Orange County Blue Star)
* Orlando Sundogs (1997)
* Pittsburgh Riverhounds (1999-2003) (Now in the USL-2)
* Raleigh Express (1997-2000, as Raleigh Flyers in 1997-98)
* Richmond Kickers (1997-2005) (Now in the USL-2)
* Sacramento Geckos (1998-99, as Albuquerque Geckos in 1998)
* San Diego Flash (1997-2001, as Colorado Foxes in 1997)
* San Francisco Bay Seals (1998-2000, as Bay Area Seals in 2000)
* Seattle Sounders (1997-2008) (now in MLS as the Seattle Sounders FC)
* Staten Island Vipers (1998-99)
* Syracuse Salty Dogs (2003-04)
* Toronto Lynx (1997-2006) (now in the PDL)
* Virginia Beach Mariners (1998-2000, 2002-2006, as Hampton Roads Mariners 1998-2000, 2002)

Now only 4 teams remain in USL-1
Austin Aztex · F.C. New York · Portland Timbers · Puerto Rico Islanders

A little history... The old American Professional Soccer League (APSL) became the A-League in 1995. The A-League played in 1995 and 1996. After the 1996 season the Rochester Raging Rhinos, Vancouver 86ers, Montreal Impact, Colorado Foxes, Seattle Sounders, Atlanta Ruckus, and 2 expansion teams set to play that year ( Toronto Lynx and Hershey Wildcats) are absorbed by the United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues (USISL) after the A-League folds.
At this point the USISL Select League (Division3) from 1996 becomes the USISL A-League (Division 2) in 1997. The USISL A-League carries this name for 1997 and 1998. In 1999 the name is changed to the United Soccer League (USL) A-League (Division 2). In 2005 the league changes its name to the United Soccer League Division 1 (USA Division 2).

Today there is some speculation that several USL-1/NASL clubs are waiting for the top-tier Major League Soccer to expand, in hopes that they will be given the opportunity to move up. For now we wait for the final word from the United States Soccer Federation to see if they approve the North American Soccer League. If approved this could be a blow to the United Soccer Leagues USL-1. But the fact that so many teams have come and gone is a sign that USL-1 does not have the right soccer model.

For more Soccer history check out Robert's History of South Florida Soccer at


Oscar said...

What I want for Christmas is MLS to Miami. What abut you U.ED? We need to do more to see it come true.

Seattle said...

Ed, if you guys gave up on MLS that would be a big mistake. Miami FC will never bring MLS to Miami. Keep pushing Mr Claure and Beckham.

hornplayersoccerlover said...

The Atlanta Silverbacks actually began in 1995, as the Ruckus. They didn't become the Silverbacks until 1999 (actually 1998, when they were sold to new owners).