United Soccer League rebrands to match England

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The United Soccer League is changing the names of its divisions to match those of England’s three-tier Football League.

The top division, the second tier of the U.S. soccer pyramid below Major League Soccer, will change its name from the USL to the USL Championship next season under a rebrand the league announced Tuesday.

Its new circuit launching next year will be known as USL League One rather than USL D3, the name contemplated previously during its development. Its amateur Player Development League will be rebranded USL League Two.

The USL Championship plans to operate with 33 teams. League One intends to launch with 11 teams and the USL hopes it will expand to 25-30 in later years. League Two will have more than 80 teams in conferences with three divisions, each playing 14 games.

The USL is completing its eighth season, its second with Division II sanctioning by the U.S. Soccer Federation. The USL has applied for Division II and Division III sanctioning for 2019.

The North American Soccer League, which held second-tier status from 2011-17, did not compete this year after its status was not renewed by the USSF. The NASL filed an antitrust suit against the USSF. Its application for a preliminary injunction was denied last November in U.S. District Court in New York, a decision upheld by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.