League1Fun: Frequent Flyer Miles

Over 225,000 Travel Miles to be Logged During Inaugural USL League One Season

One of the largest variable costs for lower division professional sports teams, particularly in a nation as large at the United States, is travel. USL League Two and the NPSL generally limit travel to a reasonable driving distance for the regular season. As teams progress to playoffs travel distances and costs increase. In Europe, lower division teams can avail themselves of rail or bus travel for domestic competitions. The 10 teams in USL League One will rarely have such options. In aggregate USLL1 teams will rack up over 227,000 miles.

USL League One does not have luxury of homogeneous geography of teams. Nor are there enough teams yet to split into two divisions, although there are two geographic clusters. The southeast has five teams and there are three teams in the upper mid-west (I include Toronto). Between some of those cities bus travel may be possible,  plus the unbalanced schedule helps several teams have lower travel distances. But even the southeast is huge – the distance between Richmond and Orlando is 662 miles.

In aggregate, players and coaches who travel will accrue a total of 227,000 travel miles. Unsurprisingly FC Tucson will account for  43,500 miles, or 19%, of the total miles traveled in the league this year.  Almost double the next most traveled team. Greenville’s location between three teams helps them keep travel costs down. The Triumph will travel just under 16,000  miles, or about 7%, the shortest distance of any team.

Besides outlier FC Tucson, most other teams will travel similar distances. The unbalanced schedule generally has second away matches against teams  closer to home. Chattanooga  for example travels twice to Richmond, South Georgia, and Orlando, which helps offset its two away trips to Tucson.

Longest and Shortest Trips

The shortest trip is unsurprisingly between Chattanooga and Greenville at a very drivable 165 miles between the two cities. Lansing has the friendliest schedule with only their two trips to Tucson being over 1,000 miles one way.

The players and staff of FC Tucson will be jealous of Lansing, as only their two trips to North Texas are under 1,000 mile one way. On the plus side, post season travel might be cheaper if staff and players can keep their frequent flyer miles – accruing at least a free domestic airline ticket on most airline reward programs. Overall the longest trip is between Tucson and Richmond which clocks in at 1,925 miles; although a close second is Tucson to Toronto at 1,880 miles.

Expansion and Calculation

The addition of Penn FC in Harrisburg, PA and Rochester Rhinos next year will potentially make for a somewhat more balanced schedule, but would generally increase mileage for teams in the southeast, while decreasing those in the north. However FC Tucson will still be lost in the desert unless additional “western” teams are added. Given the league expects more than those two teams to be added, it appears Tucson at least will be hoping other additions will be closer to home.

To calculate the mileage traveled, I used straight line travel between the two city centers .  Obviously ground miles may be more when teams take bus trips and ground transportation prior to and post air travel are included – but these data is for illustrative purposes and just for some League1Fun.

Ira Jersey

twitter: @irajersey Soccer fanatic and nerd with many hobbies, Ira is a New York Red Bull supporter who loves lower division soccer. He is a youth coach with several USSF and United Soccer Coaches licenses; and also a competitive youth referee. He writes and podcasts on USL League One for BGN. Ira has worked in finance for more than two decades focusing on bond markets and is currently the Chief U.S. Interest Rate Strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence, Bloomberg LP's research arm.