Keeping Up With USL Expansion: 29 Teams To Play in 2016

Crocketeers
San Antonio is the latest edition to USL — and they will provide their fan base – the Crocketeers’ – with a team to root for in 2016 season. (photo courtesy of USLsoccer.com)

Having Trouble keeping up with all of the activity in USL this offseason?

Thursday’s news that the United Soccer League (USL), the third-division of the U.S. Soccer professional soccer pyramid, added another new franchise in San Antonio will mark the ever-expanding league’s total now to 31 teams.

There are now 29 teams, including our own Pittsburgh Riverhounds and the new San Antonio franchise that will compete on the USL’s now unbalanced schedule format in 2016.  The league will have 15 teams in the Western Conference and 14 teams in the Eastern Conference.

With the San Antonio announcement, the Riverhounds and the league are anticipating releasing a 30-game schedule the week of January 18 (up from 28 game regular season schedule a year ago).

In 2014, there were 14 teams that competed in one league that had eight playoff spots.   In 2015, the league expanded to 24 teams, including a handful of Major League Soccer (MLS) franchises adding USL teams.

In 2016, teams being added include the following:  Rio Grande Valley, Cincinnati, Lehigh Valley, Orlando and Kansas City for the 2016 season. Reno will be added for the 2017 season along with the Austin Aztex (who after an expansion season in 2015, will be suspending operations for one year until a new stadium is built).

What does this mean for the Riverhounds?

Although the schedule has not been released, it appears that the Eastern Conference will have a slightly unbalanced schedule but very likely that all games will be played in conference like in 2015.  This was a welcome change that really cut down on travel and forcing teams to play back-to-back games.

Each team will likely play each other home-and-home in this format, then likely will see two designated regional rivals three times.  (i.e. Hounds and Harrisburg will likely play three times in this format).  There’s a possibility that the Keystone Derby could include the new expansion Bethlehem Steel FC, therefore, the Hounds could play the City Islanders and BSFC each three times to rounds out a 30-game schedule.

It seems as if the Riverhounds have a chance to be a good team in this league this year, as they’re bringing back their coaching staff, their leading scorers and thus far have announced a lot of strategic signings that will fill some of the needs they’ve had when they entered the off-season.

We’ll find out more about the schedules when they are released, but in the meantime, here’s what the 2016 USL Conferences will look like with 29 teams:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Includes:  Year Founded/USL 1st Season  and MLS Affiliation

  1. * Bethlehem Steel FC   2016/2016     Philadelphia Union
  2. Charleston Battery       1993/2011
  3. Charlotte Independence 2014/2015   Colorado Rapids
  4. * FC Cincinnati              2015/2016
  5. FC Montreal                    2015                  Montreal Impact
  6. Harrisburg City Islanders      2004/2011
  7. Louisville City FC        2014/2015
  8. New York Red Bulls II    2015/2015         New York Red Bulls
  9. * Orlando City B              2015/2016          Orlando City SC
  10. Pittsburgh Riverhounds   1999/2011        Columbus Crew SC
  11. Richmond Kickers              1993/2011         D.C. United
  12. Rochester Rhinos                1996/2011       New England Revolution
  13. Toronto FC II                        2014/2015       Toronto FC
  14. Wilmington Hammerheads FC      1996/2011       NYCFC

*2016 Expansion Team

WESTERN CONFERENCE  

Includes:  Year Founded/USL 1st Season  and MLS Affiliation

  1. Arizona United SC       2014/2014                         FC Dallas
  2. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC   2013/2015
  3. LA Galaxy II           2014/2014                         LA Galaxy
  4. Oklahoma City Energy FC     2013/2014
  5. Orange County Blues FC       2010/2011
  6. Portland Timbers 2             2014/2015                      Portland Timbers
  7. Real Monarchs SLC             2014/2015                       Real Salt Lake
  8. * Rio Grande Valley FC Toros      2015/2016           Houston Dynamo
  9. Sacramento Republic FC     2012/2014              San Jose Earthquakes
  10. Saint Louis FC            2014/2015                         Chicago Fire
  11. * San Antonio            2015/2016
  12. Seattle Sounders FC 2       2014/2015                         Seattle Sounders FC
  13. Swope Park Rangers          2015/2016                         Sporting Kansas City
  14. Tulsa Roughnecks FC       2013/2015
  15. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2      2014/2015                         Vancouver Whitecaps

*2016 Expansion Team

Teams scheduled to resume/begin play in 2017: 

Reno & Austin Aztex

OTHER LEAGUE NEWS: 

In other news, USL announced on Wednesday that they will be taking over operations of the Rochester Rhinos, the 2015 USL Regular Season and Playoff Champions, and one of the original and longest-tenured franchises in third-division pro soccer in the U.S.   The USL will be managing day-to-day operations of the club until a suitable owner is found.

Apparently, things were not so rosy between the ownership group led by  Rob Clark, and the City of Rochester.  Among the concerns, the 15,000+ seat facility, has not been getting enough upgrades and the team has had sluggish attendance in recent years, despite their success in 2015.

Example A of stadium needing upgrades: when the Riverhounds played the Rhinos in a steady downpour in July, losing 1-0 on a controversial penalty in the second half, the field was not draining at all, as both teams played through puddles throughout the field.  It was a very dangerous situation, and the Riverhounds coaches were not happy with having to play in those conditions.

This article by ,  in Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, outlines a lot of specifics about the situation and how things got to this point.

As of now, the USL stepped in, and is now running things while looking for a new owner.

 

 

 

 

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