USL to rebrand leagues as USL Championship, USL League One, USL League Two
In an announcement that spans over the entirety of the United Soccer League’s properties, USL D2, USL D3 and USL PDL will re-brand themselves as USL Championship, USL League One, and USL League Two. These changes will occur following the end of the 2018 season. The move signals the first big re-branding move for the league since dropping PRO from the name in the 2015 off-season and since its inception in 2011.
Understood as a move to help ease the understanding of the league’s status, the change in name plants seeds of more change to come down the line. The “Championship”, “League One”, and “League Two” names are clearly based on the English leagues and help define where each league lies. This move can also subsequently push lower division soccer out of the shadow of Major League Soccer and keep local media from seeing USL and below as the minor leagues of soccer.
It’s unclear what the future holds past these name changes. Obviously, with the English roots behind it, the discussion of “promotion and relegation” will be brought up for the years to come, but for now USL is focused on sustainability and securing a solid future before pushing further.
This move can also be seen as USL’s next move towards distancing itself from MLS. Obviously, with the inclusion of MLS 2 sides, USL has had to deal with the negatives some fans have had towards MLS 2 sides who only put 50% of the effort into promoting and generally caring for their MLS 2 sides. With Toronto FC 2 and the return of Orlando City B, USL understands the place that some MLS 2 sides have over others.
While based in European roots, the name change will provide more casual fans on the outside a route to getting involved with the league. It also chips away at the stigma that any professional soccer league that isn’t Major League Soccer is a “minor league” system.
With the rebranding, as well as the ESPN Plus TV deal for 2018, USL has begun to emerge as a healthy alternative for multiple professional teams in the United States. USL can be seen, from a business side, as either a long-term league solution, a place to show your sustainability for eventual moves to MLS, or even help re-secure your sustainability like teams like Rochester Rhinos who were able to cling to the league for support while it searched for more financially healthy options.
The shift in branding can also possibly lead to bigger and better TV deals, merchandising deals, as well as gaming licensing deals which cater to a large part of the soccer audience.
It won’t happen for many years, but USL is taking clear steps towards getting away from the shadow of MLS and pushing towards greater heights and a possible division one status fight down the line. Regardless of the possible goals in the future, USL is making sure it continues to grow and build on its success.
What do you think about the new branding for USL? Do you like it? Do you not like it? Tweet @BGNWritten or @TheBGNfm your thoughts!