This is the most logical way they could have divided the three divisions, and I would rather have three 5-team divisions, than four 4-team divisions. The main reason being that one way or another one division is going to have to go play LA and with all the Carribean teams playing them, LA's road trips could be a lot less costly.
But on to what really matters here: The Battery. Each team plays 24 game regular season, with 12 home matches and 12 away matches. Here's the Battery's schedule, followed by my thoughts:
Saturday, April 9 Charlotte Eagles 7:30 PM
Saturday, April 16 @ Dayton Dutch Lions 7:30 PMSaturday, April 23 @ Richmond Kickers 6:30 PM
Friday, April 29 @ Charlotte Eagles 7:00 PM
Saturday, April 30 Pittsburgh Riverhounds 7:30 PM
Friday, May 6 @ Pittsburgh Riverhounds 7:00 PM
Saturday, May 7 @ Rochester Rhinos 7:00 PM
Friday, May 13 FC New York 7:30 PM
Saturday, May 21 @ Wilmington Hammerheads 7:30Tuesday, May 24 Richmond Kickers 7:30 PM
Saturday, May 28 Harrisburg City Islanders 7:30 PM
Friday, June 3 @ FC New York 7:30 PMSaturday, June 4 @ Harrisburg City Islanders 7:00 PM
Thursday, June 9 @ Sevilla FC Puerto Rico
Saturday, June 11 @ Puerto Rico United 8:30 PM
Friday, June 17 Dayton Dutch Lions 7:30 PM
Saturday, June 25 Pittsburgh Riverhounds 7:30 PM
Friday, July 1 Puerto Rico United 7:30 PM
Saturday, July 9 Orlando City 7:30 PM
Thursday, July 14 Wilmington Hammerheads 7:30
Saturday, July 23 @ Dayton Dutch Lions 7:30 PMSaturday, July 30 Rochester Rhinos 7:30 PM
Saturday, August 6 @ Orlando City 7:35 PMFriday, August 12 Charlotte Eagles 7:30 PM
Luckily we get to open the season at home, unlike the last three years. Going on the road for the first game is really just an inconvenience. Though last year we opened at Charlotte, which is an easy drive for the Battery fans, not only in Charleston, but for those in the Upstate. Opening on the road is tough, but this year will have the home fans to hopefully lead us to a successful beginning to the season.
Then, as we'll see many times this season, the Battery go on a long road trip. The first of these is in the second half of April, when we travel to Dayton on the 16th, Richmond on the 23rd, and Charlotte on the 29th. Having a road trip this early is challenging, but hopefully the Battery will be able to stay in the top part of the standings early. This is also an advantage. By getting our long road trips done early in the season, means that we have many more home games than away in the second part of the season.
After the game on the 29th in Charlotte, the Battery come back the next day and play at home against Pittsburgh. This starts off a two game series against the Riverhounds on April 30th and and May 6th. Pittsburgh was a USL-2 playoff team last year. They lost in the first round of the playoffs against Richmond.
Then its off to Rochester to play the Rochester Rhinos at Marina Auto Stadium. After playing them for 13 seasons we didn't get to face the Rhinos last year (as we were in the USL-2 and they were in the USSF D2 Pro League.) Last year, the Rhinos won the regular season title for the USL divsion of the USSF D2 Pro League.
After facing the Rhinos, we face the brand new franchise FC New York at home (I'll get to them a little later), followed by a trip to North Carolina to play the Wilmington Hammerheads. After playing 5 straight seasons in the USL Second Division, the Hammerheads had to cease operations for the 2010 USL-2 Season. Keep in mind this was a season after they won the USL-2 regular season title in 2009.
Then we come back home for two straight home matches. The first is against the Richmond Kickers, which the Battery faced in the USL-2 championship match last year. The Battery came out to be victorious in that match, but that gave the Battery a one game advantage in a series that dates back to 1993. After the Kickers, we play the Harrisburg City Islanders for the first time of the season. The Islanders played with Charleston in the 2010 USL Second Division season.
After the two game home stand, the Battery go on a four game road trip. The first match is at FC New York, which I touched on a bit already in this article, but here's the real lowdown: I think FC New York can be one of the most successful USL franchises. Lets think about this logically. We have a team that plays in Hempstead, New York (a Latino and immigrant heavy area of New York,) in a city that wants a soccer team in the actual city (the team will play at Hofstra University.) The New York Cosmos, which is one of the most likely 20th team in the MLS, is still 2-3 years off. So this is a chance for FC New York to get some real recognition in the city, for the simple reason of nobody wanting to travel to New Jersey to watch New York Red Bull play. Then the Battery go to the Harrisburg City Islanders. The Islanders are located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
After the first two games of this road trip being in the Northeast, we then go down to Puerto Rico to play our only two matches at one of the International Division teams stadiums. We first play at Sevilla FC Puerto Rico, followed by a match up with Puerto Rico United. Ah the memories in the Puerto Rico...
After our four game road trip, we get a very long home stand. This will consist of five games spanning from June 17th to July 14th. Here's how it will go: Dayton on June 17th, Pittsburgh on June 25th, Puerto Rico United on July 1st, Orlando City on July 9th, and we'll wrap up the home stand with Wilmington on July 14th. This will be good for the Battery, as a long home stand could give us a spark towards winning the regular season, or getting into the playoffs, depending on our situation.
With only four games left on the schedule, we have an away fixture with the Dayton Dutch Lions. Dayton was founded just in 2009 and this will be their first season of soccer. The team is supported by the Dutch team FC Twente, out of the Eredivisie. Then we play the Rochester Rhinos at home in our last match in July, on the 30th.
This will be followed by a trip to Orlando City SC. Well I'm torn on this team, as I'm glad to see another USL Pro team in the Southeast, but they also moved from Austin, Texas where they were the Austin Aztex. This was such a blow to Austin, and Texas soccer as a whole. Plus, the only reason they brought the team to Orlando, is so they could get an MLS team. Phil Rawlins said he wants to have Major League Soccer in Orlando "within 3-5 years." I mean don't get me wrong, I want a MLS team in the Southeast, but taking a successful USL franchise and moving it for just that reason seems harsh to those fans in Austin. And to add to that, what will happen to this club if they do get a MLS club in 3 years? Will it disintegrate? Lots of mystery down their in Orlando. Plus they took Ian Fuller from the Battery.
Just like the 2010 season, Charleston will play the Charlotte Eagles at home in the last game of the season. Last year, the Battery clinched the regular season in that final game of the season. So again the Battery get to come home to end the season, and hopefully we'll be celebrating another regular season title.
The playoff system for the USL Pro has not been announced yet. But here's what I think a possible 6 team playoff would look like:
I think having 6 out of the 15 teams in the playoffs. This gives each division winner a playoff spot, with the team with the most points/best record playing one of the two "At Large's." It also allows the second place team from each division to get a spot, or possibly just the three teams with the most points/best record.