USL is directly affiliated with the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA), the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) and the Bermudan Football Association (BFA).
USL rosters may consist of a maximum of 26 players, with 18 designated for each game. In the PDL, a maximum of eight (8) players may be over the age of 23. In USL PRO, each team is permitted a maximum of seven (7) foreign players on its active game-day roster and on its master roster. The PDL and W-League are permitted a maximum of eight (8) foreign players on both rosters.
Each USL league has a Roster Freeze Date after which no team may register any new players. For 2012, those dates are:
W-League: July 11
PDL: July 11
USL PRO: July 20
From the 2012 season and until further notice, FIFA will not register player transfers that take place outside of the following transfer windows:
- January 21 through April 15 (primary window)
- June 27 through July 27 (secondary window)
Amateur Player Definition
An amateur player is defined by the following: A player who does not receive payment for playing soccer and who has signed an amateur registration form with U.S. Soccer or Canadian Soccer Association. Amateur players may be reimbursed for certain expenses as allowed by USSF / CSA / NCAA rules.
The standard FIFA (3-1-0) system awards three points for a regulation or overtime victory. In the case of a tie, each team will be awarded one point.
All games are comprised of 90 minutes (two 45-minute halves). No overtime is utilized.
LAWS OF THE GAME
USL adheres to all the Laws of the Game as dictated by FIFA, soccer’s international governing body.
Five (5) substitutions are allowed per league game with no re-entry permitted in the USL professional leagues. Six (6) will be allowed in the PDL and W-League.
The breaking of ties in the final standings, playoffs and finals is accomplished by applying the following criteria, in order of importance:
1. Head-to-head record based on total points in League games. (A,B)
2. Total wins in League games.
3. Goal difference in League games. If number of games is unequal, the Game Average(C) will be used.
4. Goals scored in League games.
5. Total points within smallest group(D). If number of games is unequal, then point percentage(E) will be used.
6. Ranking based on points earned against top four group finishers. This tiebreaker will not be used if four (4) or fewer teams comprise the group. If number of games is unequal, then point percentage applies.
7. Point percentage outside / smallest division or conference in League games.
8. Total points in all regular season and Open Cup qualifying games combined. If number of games is unequal, then point percentage applies.
9. FIFA Fair Play – Team with fewest disciplinary points in League games. (If number of games is unequal, points will be divided by games played to arrive at a common basis for comparison.)
10. Lottery conducted by USL.
A. League games refer solely to games that count towards the regular season standings.
B. Should more than two (2) teams involved have played each other an unequal number of times, this tiebreaker will be skipped.
C. Game Average = Tie Breaker / number of games played (i.e. goals scored / number of games played).
D. Grouping = term used to describe the primary unit in which a team competes (i.e. Southwest Division).
E. Point Percentage = number of total points earned / maximum possible points (3 per game)
USL PRO: Each team plays 24 games during the regular season. Every team will play its league opponents at least once, with an emphasis placed on regional rivalries to round out the schedule.
USL PDL: Each team plays 16 games during the regular season.
W-League: Each team plays 12 or 14 games during the regular season.
Each league in USL has its own distinct playoff system that will determine the league champion.
USL PRO: The top six teams advance to the postseason with the highest remaining seed hosting the league championship. The top two teams receive a bye to the semifinals, with the remaining four teams opening the playoffs in the quarterfinals on the weekend of August 24-26. The regular-season champion will then meet the lower remaining seed in the semifinals, with the No.2 seed facing the higher remaining seed the following weekend. The semifinals winners will meet in the USL PRO Championship Game, to be held the weekend of September 7-9.
USL PDL: Two berths from each division will be available for 16 total across the league. The divisional representatives will meet for conference tournaments the weekend after the season concludes with the top seed from each division playing the runners-up from the opposite division. The four conference champions will advance to the National Semifinals, with the winners of that contest meeting for the PDL Championship Game, hosted by one of the two participants.
W-League: The host of the W-League Championship Weekend will receive an automatic berth to the league semifinal round with all three conferences hosting playoffs to determine the other three semifinalists. The next highest seed in the Championship Weekend host's respective division will then qualify for the regional playoffs. The W-League playoffs will conclude with a Final Four formatted championship.
Central Conference Playoffs: The top four teams from the conference advance to the conference tournament, with the top seed facing the No.4 seed in the semifinals. The two semifinal winners then meet for the conference championship.
Eastern Conference Playoffs: The team with the best record in the conference and the division's runner-up advance to the conference semifinals, with the winners of the two remaining divisions also advancing to the semifinals. The top seed faces the division champion with the worse regular season record, with the other division champion meeting the division runner-up in the semifinals. The two semifinals winners then play for the conference championship.
Western Conference Playoffs: The top two teams meet in a conference championship match.
Single playoff matches
During postseason play, single games tied after regulation will be followed by two 15-minute overtime periods played in their entirety. If still tied, FIFA penalty kicks are used to determine the winner.