United States Soccer League System Primer

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Professional Leagues


Major League Soccer // Division I
1994 – Present

Major League Soccer was founded in 1988 when the U.S. Soccer Federation pledged to create a Division I professional soccer league after an agreement with FIFA to award the World Cup to the United States in 1994. The league, which officially started play in 1996 with 10 teams, now consists of 20 teams.The league is planning to expand to 24 teams by 2020 and to 28 teams in a timetable not yet established.

North American Soccer League // Division II
2009 – Present 

The North American Soccer League was founded in 2009 with eight teams, and currently consists of nine U.S. teams, two Canadian, and one from Puerto Rico. Despite having the same name, the league has no relation to the original North American Soccer League that folded in 1984. The association uses a split-season schedule, playing from April to November with a four-week break in July.  

United Soccer League // Division III
2010 – Present

The United Soccer League ‘s inaugural season was played in 2011, and has nearly doubled in size. The USL is the largest professional soccer league in the United States and Canada, with 29 teams divided into Eastern and Western conferences. Each team plays 30 regular season games, competing against each conference opponent at home and on the road; there’s also a series of regional games.

Amateur Leagues 


Premier Development League
1995 – Present

The Premier Development League, founded in 1995, is the top level of amateur men’s soccer. The league has 67 teams that are broken into four conferences across the U.S. and Canada. Teams play 14 regular season games and allows collegiate players to participate while maintaining their eligibility. The league is a pathway to professional soccer with players chosen in the Major League Soccer Super Draft.

National Premier Soccer League
2002 – Present

The National Premier Soccer League is the successor of the men’s Premier Soccer League, which was formed with the intent of serving as the foundation of the U.S. soccer pyramid. The league originated on the West Coast and began national expansion in 2005. With 30 teams joining another expansion in 2014, the league has more than 80 teams nationally. Each team is owned and operated individually.

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