Sunday, December 26, 2010

USL Pro: 15 Teams So Far, What Will Be the 16th?

Fifteen teams have been announced for the future sixteen team league, the USL Pro. The league consists of four teams in the Caribbean, three in the Carolinas, five teams in the Northeast, and one team in Florida, Ohio, and California. The United Socer Leagues have said that they want to bring the league to 16 teams. So which team will it be?  In my opinion, there are three major competitors for the last team; Mayagüez FC, Fort Lauderdale, and San Antonio. I'll cover all three.

Mayagüez FC is a club that is located in the city of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. It was founded in 2004 an seems like an experienced club with many youth teams. It is currently part of Puerto Rico Soccer League and formerly the Liga Nacional de Futbol de Puerto Rico. They would most likely be in a "Caribbean Division" along with Barracuda FC, Puerto Rico United, River Plate Puerto Rico, and Sevilla FC Puerto Rico. This would be a good fit geographically as it is close to all of the other four Caribbean clubs. This is a club with some history and would be helping the USL spread its wings farther out in the Caribbean.

The second possible expansion is a club in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Fort Lauderdale has quite a history with soccer. It had a successful North American Soccer League club, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, that lasted from 1977 until the league suspended its operations in 1984. The city also had a revival of the Strikers in 1988 in the American Soccer League and won a championship in 1989, until it folded in 1994. Then the third version of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers was brought back a year later in the United States International Soccer League (the predecessor to the USL). The teams all had successful campaigns, but the inconsistencies with the leagues can be a little misleading. I think a team in Fort Lauderdale would work well. With a potential rivalry with Orlando City S.C. and a strong population of people from soccer loving nations, a fourth revival of the Strikers could be the most successful yet.

The third potential candidate is San Antonio. San Antonio has a huge hispanic population which would give them a good chance. A battle will go on for the first franchise in San Antonio which has huge potential for a successful soccer franchise. Which begs the question; Will the MLS come calling? It would seem a solid candidate for at least a USL team, but I think that San Antonio could have a successful MLS franchise with natural rivalries with Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas. But as for a USL franchise, it would be a great hand into the west for the USL Pro which currently only has one team west of Ohio.

The United Soccer Leagues have made many smart decisions since the founding of the organization in 1986 as the SWISL, and the expansion to the USL Pro is a great move. I like the idea of having one big league instead of multiple smaller leagues, and it will be more interesting for the fans. Though it may be far off, a merge with the MLS to make a relegation system would be nice. But that would require the advancement of the USL into a league with teams that can compete on a consistent basis with MLS franchises; on the basis of teams and fan support. But even a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and expansion is that first step.

1 comment:

  1. I think that the quantity is not that important then the quality of the games, having many teams in a league does not assure that that league will be good. The games have to be exciting and well played