On Friday the United Soccer League (USL) was made the 2nd Division of pro soccer in the US. By Monday they had a new conference alignment to publish. We wanted to share a few key changes from the 2016 season and what 2017 could look like for FC Cincinnati.
- USL ended Saint Louis FC’s one year stint in the Western Conference. STLFC move to the East will now balance the league with 15 teams in each conference. The additions of the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Ottawa Fury balance out the losses of FC Montreal and the Wilmington Hammerheads.
- The USL regular season will start the weekend of March 24th and end the weekend of October 13th.
- The USL Final will take place on the November 10th weekend with playoffs coming before hand.
All teams in each conference will play each other in a home and away series over a 32 game regular season. That leaves 4 remaining games for regional rivals similar to last season. Cincinnati is likely to play a 3rd game against their “2016 rivals” the the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Louisville City FC and the Charlotte Independence. The real question is where does USL tie them for the fourth game? I can see them linking us with Saint Louis FC like last year’s two-match series, but it could be fun to see newcomer Tampa Bay Rowdies for a third time or the defending Western Conference champions, Swope Park Rangers.
The Eastern Conference is noticeably a powerhouse of independent teams compared to the West. The Western Conference holds eight of the twelve MLS2 sides including RGV FC & newcomers Reno 1868 FC. Not only is the Eastern Conference strong, replacing perennial bottom-dwellers Wilmington and Montreal with Tampa Bay and Ottawa will make 2017 more competitive.
With at least 3 close independent regional rivals, several new rules changes (3 subs), the 2017 season is shaping up to be fun and challenging year.
*picture credit to www.uslsoccer.com
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