Last November, Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced the launch of their very own USL side: Whitecaps FC 2. You might’ve heard of it, but maybe not quite sure what it is, or what all the fuss is about.
With that in mind, here’s a little primer to help you familiarize yourself with the league.
What is it?
The United Soccer League (USL) is a professional soccer league based in North America. It’s currently the third tier of soccer in North America, but is considered to be the strongest men’s professional soccer league on and off the field below and in support of Major League Soccer.
In 2013, USL began a groundbreaking, multi-year partnership with MLS that featured individual team affiliations, inter-league play, and the opportunity for MLS clubs to field a second team in USL. From the perspective of MLS teams, the goal is to aid the development of young players by providing them more minutes in a competitive club environment.
On that note, MLS has mandated that each of its clubs either start their own team or reach an affiliation agreement with an existing USL club by 2015.
Whitecaps FC were the seventh MLS side to officially launch a USL team for the 2015 season.
The others are:
- LA Galaxy (LA Galaxy II) – began play in 2014
- Real Salt Lake (Real Monarchs SLC)
- Seattle Sounders FC (Sounders FC 2)
- Portland Timbers (Timbers 2)
- Montreal Impact (FC Montreal)
- Toronto FC (TFC II)
USL featured 14 teams in 2014.
With Whitecaps FC 2, there are now a total of 24 teams for 2015. In addition to the MLS clubs, other expansion teams include Austin Aztex, Charlotte Independence, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Louisville City FC, Saint Louis FC and Tulsa Roughnecks FC.
The 2015 season runs from March through September. Each team will play 28 matches (14 home, 14 away) and have the opportunity to qualify for the USL playoffs. Sacramento Republic are the reigning USL champions.
USL, which debuted in 2011, was formed as a result of the United Soccer Leagues’ merger of the old First and Second Divisions. Though it is still a relatively new league, Whitecaps FC have a long history in the USL – the organization that owns and operates USL and other leagues such as the PDL and W-League.
Prior to joining MLS in 2011, the ‘Caps spent a total of 11 seasons in the USL (between the USL A-League and USL First Division), winning league championships in 2006 and 2008. They also previously operated a U-23 PDL team and a W-League side.
Other things to know
- Whitecaps FC 2 features first-team players from Vancouver’s MLS team, players signed to USL contracts by Whitecaps FC 2 and players from Vancouver’s Residency program.
- USL allows teams to carry as many as five Academy (aka Residency) players on their roster.
- LA Galaxy loaned several players to and from their USL team throughout the 2014 season, including left back Robbie Rogers, who made four appearances with LA Galaxy II to regain fitness after suffering an injury.
- The average attendance for USL games in 2014 was 3,114.
- Sporting Kansas City striker Dom Dwyer, who finished second in the 2014 MLS Golden Boot race with 22 goals, spent the 2013 season in USL on loan with Orlando City.
- USL teams can make up to five substitutions in a single match.
For more information on Whitecaps FC 2 and to get tickets to their first ever home match, visit whitecapsfc2.com.