2019 already has the makings of a historic year for soccer in North America with not one, not two, but four new leagues launching next year. This piece here should hopefully straighten things out by summarizing and explaining what we currently know.
First up, let’s talk some USL. The top league in its system is now the USL Championship and will likely comprise 36 clubs for 2019. Teams in Austin, Birmingham, El Paso, Hartford, Loudoun, Memphis and Albuquerque are all joining the league. FC Cincinnati is set to join MLS, while Toronto FC 2, Penn FC and the Richmond Kickers will all leave the league for the new third-division USL League One, with Penn FC delaying its debut to 2020.
Moving on to USL League One, the league currently has 10 teams confirmed for 2019. These teams are new teams in Chattanooga, Madison, Greenville, Lansing and Frisco, along with former PDL (now League Two) members FC Tucson and Tormenta FC. Joining them are the aforementioned teams from Toronto and Richmond, as well as a returning Orlando City B side. The Rochester Rhinos are set to end their hiatus by joining alongside Penn FC in 2020.
Then, there’s the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), formerly run by Peter Wilt. Wilt has left to spearhead the USL League One efforts in Madison. In his absence, the league has regrouped and announced four markets along with one actual team. The first team to be “officially” revealed is San Diego 1904 FC, a club which was originally announced as part of the canceled 2018 NASL season. San Diego will be joined by clubs in Charlotte, Philadelphia, Atlanta and somewhere in Connecticut. NISA does have something of a time advantage on both USL leagues, as NISA is planning to operate on a fall-spring season beginning in August of next year, rather than March/April as is the norm for MLS and USL. The league plans to have 8-12 teams announced for the inaugural season.
In addition to NISA, the NPSL, a long-established amateur/semi-professional league, has announced a new professional tournament to be known as the Founder’s Cup. So far, 11 clubs have been revealed: Chattanooga FC, Detroit City FC, Miami FC (former NASL), Miami United FC, Milwaukee Torrent, New York Cosmos (former NASL), FC Arizona, ASC San Diego, Cal FC, California United Strikers FC (former NASL expansion) and Oakland Roots SC. The league is currently dividing its clubs into Eastern and Western Conferences, with plans to add one more club to the West. The inaugural campaign will run from August through November, with plans for a full spring-to-fall season in 2020.
To finish things off, Canada is finally getting a proper top division, the Canadian Premier League, planning to kick off in April. Seven teams will contest the 24-game season. Check out our CPL primer for a much deeper look at the league.
Follow John on Twitter: @JohnMLTX.
Support Soc Takes on Patreon for access to exclusive content and supporter benefits. Click here to become a patron today.