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United States soccer pyramid is a term used in soccer to describe the structure of the league system in the United States. For practical and historical reasons, some teams from Bermuda, Canada and Puerto Rico (considered a separate country for sporting purposes) also compete, but they are not eligible for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Major League Soccer has a fixed number of teams (currently 16), with no merit-based promotion possible from the USL First Division, which is run by a completely separate entity, the United Soccer Leagues (USL).

The USL manages two professional leagues, the USL First and Second Divisions, which currently comprise the second and third tiers of American soccer. As of 2008 there is no merit-based promotion and relegation between the USL First and USL Second divisions, and although a promotion system has been established, it has largely been unused. Several franchises have been voluntarily relegated from the First Division to the Second, and occasionally from the professional ranks to the PDL, usually to reduce operating costs or to re-structure the organization of the franchise in question. Similarly, some franchises have been given the opportunity to move up to a higher level having found success in the lower divisions - most recently USL2 champions Cleveland City Stars moving to USL1 in 2009 - but this is not a regular occurrence.

According to Tim Holt, vice president of the USL, relegation between the USL and MLS is difficult to implement because the teams are franchises awarded by the leagues, not autonomous teams. The franchise gives the owner certain rights and obligations that make it difficult to move a team from one league to the other.[1] USASA affiliated leagues each have their own system of promotion and relegation, if they have any at all.

The USL Premier Development League is the top amateur league in the country. As PDL seasons take place during the summer months, the player pool is drawn mainly from elite NCAA college soccer players seeking to continue playing high level soccer during their summer break, which they can do while still maintaining their college eligibility.

The National Premier Soccer League is on par with the USL Premier Development League and also attracts top amateur talent from around the United States. The NPSL does not have any age limits or restrictions thus incorporating both college players and former professional players alike.

The National Premier Soccer League and the Pacific Coast Soccer League are run by completely separate entities from both MLS and USL, but they all defer to the United States Soccer Federation, the national governing body, in terms of setting game rules and play development.

Contents

Cup eligibility

There are two national cups in American soccer.

US Open Cup: Levels 1-5
George F. Donnelly Cup: Level 5

Men

In the United States, professional soccer leagues are ranked by the United States Soccer Federation into one of three divisions.[2] Amateur soccer organizations are also recognized by the USSF, but individual amateur leagues are not.[3] Amateur leagues are sometimes ranked into additional levels of the soccer pyramid, but these rankings have no official standing and meaningful comparisons cannot be made between leagues run by different organizations based on them. Currently the only adult amateur soccer organization recognized by U.S. Soccer is the United States Adult Soccer Association ("USASA"), although several other leagues operate independenly under the USASA's umbrella, including the Premier Development League, the amateur division run by the USL organization that also runs Division I and Division II leagues

Some or all of these leagues and organizations are also recognized by the Canadian Soccer Association or another governing body; however, the list below reflects the USSF designation.

NASL Conference

Level

League(s)/Division(s)

1

Major League Soccer (MLS)
16 clubs (in 2 conferences)

Eastern Conference
Western Conference

2

USSF Second Division
12 clubs (in 2 conferences)

3

United Soccer Leagues Second Division (USL-2)
6 clubs

4

United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL)
68 clubs (in 4 conferences)

Central Conference
Eastern Conference
Southern Conference
Western Conference

National Premier Soccer League (NPSL)
30 clubs (in 6 conferences)

Eastern Atlantic Conference
Eastern Keystone Conference
Midwest Conference
Southeast Conference
Western Conference
Southwest Conference

5

United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA)
55 state associations in 4 regions
See List of USASA affiliated leagues for complete list
Region I
Region II
Region III
Region IV

Women

The Women's United Soccer Association suspended operations in 2003 and was replaced in 2009 with Women's Professional Soccer.

Level

League(s)/Division(s)

1

Women's Professional Soccer
(WPS)
9 clubs

2

W-League
(W-L)
41 clubs (in 5 conferences)

Women's Premier Soccer League
(WPSL)
51 clubs (in 5 conferences)
North & South Divisions in Big Sky & Pacific

3

United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA)
55 state associations in 4 regions
See List of USASA affiliated leagues for complete list
Region I
Region II
Region III
Region IV

References

  1. ^ "Q & A with USL Vice President Tim Holt". United Soccer Leagues. 2006-04-21. http://www.uslsoccer.com/home/129515.html. Retrieved 2007-07-15.  
  2. ^ USSF Policy 202(H)(1) (PDF)
  3. ^ USSF Bylaws 109(13) to 109(17) (PDF)

External links

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