TAMPA, Fla. – The transformation that will occur in the United Soccer League this offseason that brings the USL Championship, USL League One and USL League Two under the same branding is focused on providing a clear structure for the organization as it enters the next stage of its growth beginning in the 2019 season.
The long-term view from USL executives, however, is the new streamlined structure will offer much for all three leagues in the future.
In an exclusive interview with ESPN.com’s Jeff Carlisle, USL President Jake Edwards reasserted the organization’s belief that the opportunity for promotion and relegation between the USL Championship and League One was considered when the planning for the new brands began, but insisted the organization’s key focus for the short term was building a strong USL League One.
“What I'm focused on over the next few years is turning USL League One into a strong, competitive, professional league that is going to have infrastructure, stadiums, ownership and quality of players that lends itself to looking at [pro/rel] down the road,” Edwards told Carlisle.
“I don't think that's something you can launch right away. I think we need to work on those clubs and get to a point – like we did in the USL over the last few years – whereby you could consider that.”
According to Edwards, part of that work will be a new cup competition that will see clubs from the USL Championship and League One compete side by side, set to launch in the 2020 season. In addition to providing a new piece of silverware for clubs to battle for over the season, it will also provide continued conversation for fans as the league embraces the international structure the new league brands provide.
“I think the football fans in North America are very savvy, very switched-on, they understand that structure, and they're very familiar with what they've seen overseas,” said Edwards.
“So, I think it will resonate and help to articulate the difference in the divisions as you move up or down.”