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USL First Division
USL First Division.png
Countries  United States
 Puerto Rico
Confederation CONCACAF
Founded 2005
Conferences 1
Number of teams 3
Promotion to None
Relegation to None
Levels on pyramid 2
Domestic cup(s) Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
Canadian Championship
International cup(s) CFU Club Championship
Current champions Montreal Impact (2009)
Most championships Seattle Sounders (4 titles)
TV partners Fox Soccer Channel
Website Official site in English

The United Soccer Leagues First Division (usually referred to as simply USL-1) is a professional men's soccer league in North America, currently comprising teams in both the United States and Puerto Rico, although historically teams from Canada have also played in the league.

Along with the North American Soccer League, it is one of the two leagues that form the second tier of soccer in the United States and Canada league pyramid behind Major League Soccer. It is managed by the United Soccer Leagues (USL). It is the successor of the old A-League, which existed from 1997 until 2004.

The league is currently in a state of flux after all but three of its member teams broke away to form the North American Soccer League in late 2009, following the sale of USL to NuRock Soccer Holdings earlier that year.[1]

After lawsuits were filed and heated press statements exchanged, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) declared they would sanction neither the NASL or the USL First Division in 2010, and ordered both "camps" to work together on a plan to temporarily allow their teams to play a 2010 season. The interim solution was announced on January 7, 2010 with the USSF running the new USSF Division 2 league comprising clubs from both USL-1 and NASL.[2]

All 12 teams from the USL First Division and the NASL will compete in the USSF Division 2 in 2010; the future of the USL First Division in 2011 and beyond remains unclear.



When the A-League became the USL First Division in 2005, the league comprised 12 teams: Atlanta Silverbacks, Charleston Battery, Minnesota Thunder, Montreal Impact, Portland Timbers, Puerto Rico Islanders, Richmond Kickers, Rochester Raging Rhinos, Seattle Sounders, Toronto Lynx, Vancouver Whitecaps and Virginia Beach Mariners. The Calgary Mustangs, Edmonton Aviators and Syracuse Salty Dogs, all of whom competed in the final A-League season in 2004, folded during the offseason, and did not take up their places in the new league.

The Seattle Sounders won the inaugural USL1 championship, beating Richmond Kickers on penalty kicks in the championship game after a 1-1 tie in regulation time. The Vancouver Whitecaps won the first of their two USL1 titles in 2006 by beating the Rochester Raging Rhinos 3-0 in the championship game, while Seattle won their second title in 2007 by overcoming the Atlanta Silverbacks in a one-sided 4-0 final. Vancouver won their second USL1 championship in 2008 by beating the Puerto Rico Islanders 2-1 in the first USL1 final to feature no American teams; the championship went north of the border again in 2009 when Montreal Impact won their first USL1 title, beating Vancouver 6-3 on aggregate over two legs in the first all-Canadian affair.

On August 27, 2009, multi-national sports company Nike agreed to sell their stake in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) to Rob Hoskins and Alec Papadakis of Atlanta, Georgia-based NuRock Soccer Holdings, instead of to the USL Team Owner's Association (TOA), a group comprising the owners of several USL First Division clubs. In the months that followed, several prominent TOA members began to voice their concerns about the state of the league in general, its management structure and ownership model, the leadership of USL president Francisco Marcos, and about the sale of the league to NuRock, which the TOA felt was counter-productive and detrimental to the development of the league. Within several weeks, a number of TOA member clubs threatened to break away from USL and start their own league; this threat became official on November 10, 2009, when the majority of USL-1 clubs, as well as one of the expected 2009 expansion franchises, applied to the United States Soccer Federation, the Canadian Soccer Association, and FIFA for approval to create a new North American Soccer League[3], reducing the league's membership to just three teams.

On December 30, 2009, US Soccer said that it would not sanction any second division league for 2010 because neither USL nor NASL had the eight team minimum required by US Soccer.[4]. On January 7, 2010, the U.S. Soccer Federation, the United Soccer Leagues and the North American Soccer League came to an agreement on the formation and operation of a USSF Division 2 professional soccer league for the 2010 season, in which all USL1 and NASL teams will compete. Under the agreement, U.S. Soccer will oversee the league for the 2010 season, working with both the USL and NASL on the day-to-day league activities.[5]

Expansion and contraction

Prior to 2010, the league saw a steady rate of expansion and contraction. Richmond dropped down to the USL Second Division in 2006 to cut costs, Toronto dropped down to the USL Premier Development League in 2007 for similar reasons, and on March 30, 2007 the Virginia Beach Mariners folded just prior to the start of the 2007 season due to an ownership dispute which left the team without financing. These teams were replaced by two new teams: the Carolina RailHawks from the the Triangle region of North Carolina, playing out of Cary, and California Victory, a team in Northern California under the ownership of Dmitry Piterman (chairman of Spanish team Deportivo Alavés) which folded after the end of the 2007 season, having playing only one season.

In November 2008, the Atlanta Silverbacks announced that they would sit out the 2009 season to "reassess the landscape," and would possibly return at a future date.[6] Similarly, the Seattle Sounders left prior to the 2009 season due to the imminent entrance of Seattle Sounders FC into Major League Soccer. Their spot in the league was taken by the Cleveland City Stars, who won the USL Second Division title in 2008, are voluntarily moved up to USL-1 for the 2009 season. [7], only to fold at the end of the year. On December 2, 2009, Inside Minnesota Soccer reported that the USL had asked the City Stars to terminate the contracts of all the players, as the franchise was to be dissolved. Posting an email addressed to all players under contract with the Cleveland City Stars and written by team president Jonathan Ortlip and executive director Aaron Tredway, the club executives went on to accept the decision to terminate the franchise. [8]

On June 19, 2008, an announcement was made that an expansion slot had been awarded to a Tampa Bay, Florida-based franchise led by main investors Andrew Nestor (CEO) and Hinds Howard (Chairman) of Citrus Ventures.[9] The plan was for the club to join the league in 2010 and be named the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Future expansion

Possible cities mentioned for future campaigns include Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Syracuse, New York. Syracuse had had a highly-attended team from 2002–2004, but it folded due to stadium issues, having ground-shared with the local baseball team. Fort Lauderdale also has a history of teams from the NASL, ASL, and USL First Division. There is also discussion that Argentinian team River Plate is interested in putting a second USL team in Puerto Rico.

Prior to the 2009 NASL split several other cities had been mentioned as being locations where future USL-1 franchises might be launched, including St. Louis, Missouri (led by the current PDL franchise St. Louis Lions),[10] Orlando, Florida (with Mexican side C.F. Pachuca being rumored as connected to it),[11], Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Detroit, Michigan, Hamilton, Ontario[12], San Antonio, Texas[13] and Ottawa, Ontario. On September 1, 2009, a group from Ottawa formally applied for USL-1 team, contingent on the approval of updates to Lansdowne Park. The team would share a field with the Ottawa CFL team.[14] No further official announcements from the USL on any of these possibilities have been made.


Unlike most other nations, there is currently no system of merit-based promotion and relegation in the American and Canadian pyramids, meaning that the champions of USL-1 cannot move up to Major League Soccer and, similarly, the worst teams in MLS are not in danger of being demoted to USL-1. However, some USL-1 teams have in the past chosen to take voluntary relegation to a lower level of the USL system, often to reduce operating costs, while teams have also decided to move up to USL-1 after finding success at the lower levels.

Playoff format

The top seven teams advance to the playoff tournament, with the Commissioner’s Cup winner (regular season champion) receiving a bye into the semi-finals. Each round consists of two legs, the lower seeded team hosting the first leg, and the higher seed hosting the second. Prior to 2009, the final was played as a single leg at the higher seed's stadium. In the Quarterfinal round, the #2 seed plays #7, #3 plays #6, and #4 plays #5. After these legs are completed, the lowest remaining seed plays the Commissioner's Cup winner, and the higher seeds play each other. The highest remaining seed hosts the penultimate game of the Finals. The playoffs start the week after the completion of the regular season, and typically end in mid-October.

2010 teams

Team City/Area Stadium Founded Joined Color Head Coach
Austin Aztex FC Austin, Texas House Park 2008 2009 Red, White Adrian Heath
Portland Timbers Portland, Oregon PGE Park 2001 2001 Green, White, Yellow Gavin Wilkinson
Puerto Rico Islanders Bayamón, Puerto Rico Estadio Juan Ramón Loubriel 2003 2004 Orange, White Colin Clarke

Future teams

Team City/Area Stadium Founded Joined Color Head Coach
FC New York Hempstead, New York James M. Shuart Stadium 2009 2011 TBA TBA

Former teams

League champions / top goal scorer

Season Winner Score Runner-up Top Goalscorer Team Goals
2009 USL D-1 Montreal Impact 6-3 Vancouver Whitecaps Charles Gbeke Vancouver Whitecaps 12
2008 USL D-1 Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Puerto Rico Islanders Alex Afonso Miami FC 15
2007 USL D-1 Seattle Sounders 4-0 Atlanta Silverbacks Sébastien Le Toux and Charles Gbeke Seattle Sounders and Montreal Impact 10
2006 USL D-1 Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 Rochester Raging Rhinos Romário De Souza-Faria and Cam Weaver Miami FC and Seattle Sounders 18
2005 USL D-1 Seattle Sounders 1-1 (PK) Richmond Kickers Jason Jordan Vancouver Whitecaps 17

Regular season champions (Commissioner’s Cup Winners)

Season Winner Record (W-L-T) Points Playoff Results (W-L-T) Runners-Up Record (W-L-T) Points
2009 USL D-1 Portland Timbers 16-4-10 58 Lost in semifinal series 0-1-1 Carolina RailHawks FC 16-7-7 55
2008 USL D-1 Puerto Rico Islanders 15-6-9 54 Lost in final 1-2-0 Vancouver Whitecaps 15-7-8 53
2007 USL D-1 Seattle Sounders 16-6-6 54 Won Championship 4-1-0 Portland Timbers 14-5-9 51
2006 USL D-1 Montreal Impact 14-5-9 51 Lost in semifinal series 0-1-1 Rochester Raging Rhinos 13-4-11 50
2005 USL D-1 Montreal Impact 18-3-7 61 Lost in semifinal series 0-1-1 Rochester Raging Rhinos 15-7-6 51

Most Successful Clubs

Club Championships Runners-up Regular Season Championships
Seattle Sounders 2 0 1
Vancouver Whitecaps 2 1 0
Montreal Impact 1 0 2
Puerto Rico Islanders 0 1 1
Portland Timbers 0 0 1
Atlanta Silverbacks 0 1 0
Richmond Kickers 0 1 0
Rochester Rhinos 0 1 0

League average attendance

Year Regular season Playoffs
2009 4,720 7,065
2008 5,164 7,786
2007 4,420 7,741
2006 4,667 5,998
2005 4,527 12,498

All-time USL leaders

All-Time Goal Leaders
Rank Player Goals
1 United States Mark Baena 86
2 United States Paul Conway 79
3 United States Doug Miller 77
4 Canada Mauro Biello 76
5 Canada Jason Jordan 70
6 Cuba Eduardo Sebrango 70
7 United States Chance Fry 68
8 Canada Domenic Mobilio‎ 65
9 United States Jamel Mitchell 64
10 Trinidad and Tobago Kevin Jeffrey 61
All-time appearances in the USL
Rank Player Appearances
1 Canada Mauro Biello 320
2 Canada Nick DeSantis 245
3 Jamaica Lloyd Barker 242
4 Canada Nevio Pizzolito 228
5 United States Scott Jenkins 220
6 United States Lenin Steenkamp 219
7 United States Bill Sedgewick 218
8 Canada David Diplacido‎ 217
9 United States Steve Klein 211
  • Note: includes stats from the old A-League

See also



  1. ^
  2. ^ "Division 2 Professional League To Operate in 2010". 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2010-01-09.  
  3. ^ "Teams Split From USL-1; To Form New League In 2010". 2009-11-10. Retrieved 2009-11-20.  
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Encina, Eduardo A. (2008-06-19). "Tampa Bay Rowdies to get new life in USL". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2008-06-20.  
  10. ^
  11. ^ "MLS: Atlanta Out! Orlando to USL. St Louis weak? Philly behind schedule...". Orlando Sentinel. 2009-01-16. Retrieved 2009-02-06.  
  12. ^
  13. ^ date=4-18-09 id=268484&lid=headline&lpos=secStory_soccer
  14. ^

External links

Simple English

USL First Division
Country United States, Canada, Puerto Rico
Confederation CONCACAF
Founded 1996
Level 2
Number of teams 11
Current champions Vancouver Whitecaps (2008)
Most successful club Seattle Sounders (4)
USL First Division 2009

USL First Division is a football league which is second division in United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Club 2009

Other pages


Template:USL First Division seasons

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