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The United Soccer Leagues First Division (often referred to as simply, USL-1) is a professional men's soccer league in North America. It is 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 . It was known as the A-League until 2004.

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.

Expansion and contraction

In 1998, the A-League consisted of 28 teams. By 2006, only 12 remained in the USL First Division. For the most part, the teams that left dropped down to lower classifications, such as the USL Second Division and Premier Development League. These teams generally dropped down to rid themselves of the high costs of travel and player payrolls.

There is some speculation that several First Division clubs are waiting for the top-tier Major League Soccer to expand, in hopes that they will be given the opportunity to move up. The First Division does not have the promotion/relegation system common in most countries' football pyramids, although teams theoretically could move up if they meet MLS' criteria for expansion franchises. The costs of moving to a higher division are usually not recouped with higher attendance at the First Division level.

On January 26, 2006, the USL announced that it was expanding USL First Division in 2007 to include a new team in the Triangle region of North Carolinamarker, playing out of Carymarker. The Cary franchise, since named the Carolina RailHawks, hosted an exhibition schedule in 2006 in advance of its first full league schedule in 2007. On May 16, 2006, it was also announced that the USL would place a team in Northern Californiamarker under the ownership of Dmitry Piterman, chairman of Spanish team Deportivo Alavés. The Northern Californian team, the California Victory, folded after the end of the 2007 season, playing only one season. Other possible cities mentioned for future campaigns include Fort Lauderdale, Floridamarker and Syracuse, New Yorkmarker. 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. Ft. 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.

On March 30, 2007 the Virginia Beach Mariners team folded just prior to the start of the 2007 season due to an ownership dispute which left the team without financing.

The Seattle Sounders were cut from the 2009 season due to the entrance of the MLS team Seattle Sounders FC. 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. Also, the Cleveland City Stars, who won the USL Second Division title in 2008, are voluntarily moving up to USL-1 for the 2009 season.

On June 19, 2008, an announcement was made that an expansion franchise had been awarded to Tampa Bay, Floridamarker. The plan is for the club to join the league in 2010 and be named the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The main investors are Andrew Nestor (CEO) and Hinds Howard (Chairman) of Citrus Ventures. Recent reports, however, have indicated that the Tampa Bay franchise may play instead in a new breakaway league instead of USL First Division.

There are also several cities where interest has been raised in placing USL-1 franchises, including St. Louis, Missourimarker (led by the current PDL franchise St. Louis Lions), Orlando, Floridamarker (with Mexican side C.F. Pachuca being rumored as connected to it),, Milwaukee, Wisconsinmarker, Detroit, Michiganmarker, Hamilton, Ontariomarker. and San Antonio, Texasmarker, Ottawa, Ontariomarker. An official announcement from the USL on any of these possibilities has yet to be made.

On September 1, 2009. A group from Ottawa applied for a USL-1 team, contingent on the approval of updates to Lansdowne Parkmarker. The team would share a field with the Ottawa CFL team..

2010 teams

Team City/Area Stadium Founded Joined Color Head Coach
Austin Aztex FC Austinmarker, Texasmarker House Park 2008 2009 Red, White Adrian Heath
Cleveland City Stars Clevelandmarker, Ohiomarker Middlefield Cheese Stadiummarker 2006 2009 Green, White, Black Rod Underwood
F.C. New York Hempsteadmarker, New Yorkmarker James M.marker Shuart Stadiummarker 2009 2010 Yellow, Powder Blue TBA
Portland Timbers Portlandmarker, Oregonmarker PGE Parkmarker 2001 2001 Green, White, Yellow Gavin Wilkinson
Puerto Rico Islanders Bayamónmarker, Puerto Rico Estadio Juan Ramón Loubrielmarker 2003 2004 Orange, White Colin Clarke

Playoff format

The top seven teams will advance to the playoff tournament, with the Commissioner’s Cup winner (regular season champion) receiving a bye into the semi-finals. However, with at least two teams joining for 2010, as well as Portland and Vancouver Whitecaps FC making way for their counterparts in the MLS, this may change in the future.

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.

Former teams

1996 USISL Select League

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
2004 A-League Montreal Impact 2-0 Seattle Sounders Alan Gordon and Dante Washington Portland Timbers and Virginia Beach Mariners 17
2003 A-League Charleston Battery 3-0 Minnesota Thunder Thiago Martins Pittsburgh Riverhounds 22
2002 A-League Milwaukee Rampage 2-1 (2OT) Richmond Kickers Fadi Afash, Eduardo Sebrango, and McKinley Tennyson Portland Timbers, Montreal Impact, and Portland Timbers 18
2001 A-League Rochester Raging Rhinos 2-0 Hershey Wildcats Paul Conway Charleston Battery 22
2000 A-League Rochester Raging Rhinos 3-1 Minnesota Thunder Paul Conway, Greg Howes, and Johnny Menyongar Charleston Battery, Seattle Sounders, and Minnesota Thunder 17
1999 A-League Minnesota Thunder 2-1 Rochester Raging Rhinos Mark Baena and Niall Thompson Seattle Sounders and Vancouver 86ers 20
1998 A-League Rochester Raging Rhinos 3-1 Minnesota Thunder Mark Baena Seattle Sounders 24
1997 A-League Milwaukee Rampage 1-1 (SO) Carolina Dynamo Doug Miller Rochester Raging Rhinos 23
1996 APSL Seattle Sounders 2-0 Rochester Raging Rhinos Doug Miller Rochester Raging Rhinos 18
1995 APSL Seattle Sounders 2-1 (SO) Atlanta Ruckus Peter Hattrup Seattle Sounders 11
1994 APSL Montreal Impact 1-0 Colorado Foxes Paul Wright Los Angeles Salsa 12
1993 APSL Colorado Foxes 3-1 aet Los Angeles Salsa Paulinho Los Angeles Salsa 15
1992 APSL Colorado Foxes 1-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies Jean Harbor Tampa Bay Rowdies 13
1991 APSL San Francisco Bay Blackhawks 2-1 series Albany Capitals Jean Harbor Maryland Bays 17

Regular season champions (Commissioner’s Cup Winners)

Note: The point systems used throughout the league's history has changed. The league first started using the standard points system (3 points for a win, 1 for a draw) in 2003.

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
2004 A-League Portland Timbers 18-7-3 57 Lost in conference semifinal series overtime 1-1-0 Montreal Impact 17-6-5 56
2003 A-League Milwaukee Wave United 18-10-0 54 Lost in division final series overtime 1-1-0 Montreal Impact 16-6-6 54
2002 A-League Seattle Sounders 23-4-1 107 Lost in conference semifinal series 0-2-0 Charleston Battery 19-3-6 89
2001 A-League Richmond Kickers 16-7-3 76 Lost in quarterfinal series 0-2-0 Hershey Wildcats 16-7-3 75
2000 A-League Minnesota Thunder 20-4-4 99 Lost in final 4-2-0 Milwaukee Rampage 18-9-1 89
1999 A-League Rochester Raging Rhinos 22-6 92 Lost in final 5-3 San Diego Flash 20-8 90
1998 A-League Rochester Raging Rhinos 24-4 70 Won Championship 6-0 San Diego Flash 21-7 61
1997 A-League Montreal Impact 21-7 61 Lost in conference final series 3-2 Hershey Wildcats 19-9 55
1996 APSL Montreal Impact 21-6 55 Lost in semifinal 0-1 Colorado Foxes 16-11 44
1995 APSL Montreal Impact 17-7 51 Lost in semifinal series 1-2 Seattle Sounders 18-6 51
1994 APSL Seattle Sounders 14-6 121 Lost in semifinal series 1-2 Los Angeles Salsa 12-8 106
1993 APSL Vancouver 86ers 15-9 126 Lost in semifinals in shootout 0-1 Colorado Foxes 15-9 121
1992 APSL Colorado Foxes 11-5 89 Won Championship 2-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies 10-6 87
1991 APSL Maryland Bays 19-2 158 Lost in semifinal series 1-2 San Francisco Bay Blackhawks 17-4 126
1990 APSL Different point systems used in each conference
1985 - 1989 : Two independent leagues

Most Successful Clubs (A-League/USL Era)

Club Championships Runners-up Regular Season Championships
Seattle Sounders 4 1 3
Rochester Rhinos 3 3 2
Montreal Impact 3 0 5
Vancouver Whitecaps 2 1 1
Milwaukee Rampage 2 0 0
Minnesota Thunder 1 3 1
Charleston Battery 1 0 0
Richmond Kickers 0 2 1
Puerto Rico Islanders 0 1 1
Carolina Dynamo 0 1 0
Hershey Wildcats 0 1 0
Atlanta Silverbacks 0 1 0
Portland Timbers 0 0 2
Milwaukee Wave United 0 0 1

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
2004 3,879 9,402
2003 3,335 9,672
2002 3,034 8,902
2001 2,954 9,193
2000 2,684 7,562
1999 2,374 5,309
1998 2,531 6,091
1997 1,690 5,092

All-time USL leaders

All-Time Goal Leaders

Rank Player Goals
1 Mark Baena 86
2 Paul Conway 79
3 Doug Miller 77
4 Mauro Biello 76
5 Jason Jordan 70
6 Eduardo Sebrango 70
7 Chance Fry 68
8 Domenic Mobilio‎ 65
9 Jamel Mitchell 64
10 Kevin Jeffrey 61

All-time appearances in the USL

Rank Player Appearances
1 Mauro Biello 320
2 Nick DeSantis 245
3 Lloyd Barker 242
4 Nevio Pizzolito 228
5 Scott Jenkins 220
6 Lenin Steenkamp 219
7 Bill Sedgewick 218
8 David Diplacido‎ 217
9 Steve Klein 211

See also



External links

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