As the 2013 USL PRO season began to draw to a conclusion, we began to hear that there will be more affiliations between MLS and USL PRO and some MLS reserve sides will establish themselves as full-fledged USL PRO clubs. There have also been stories that already established USL PRO teams will be making their exit from the league. Today, I uncovered a source that provides insight into what the 2014 USL PRO table will be. A club staffer unintentionally published a picture showing what the 2014 table will look like. It indicated that there will be 15 teams in USL PRO, playing a 28-game regular season schedule. It also listed those teams.
Let’s begin with two MLS reserve sides that will be establishing USL PRO clubs to begin play next season. My source indicates that those two teams will be Los Angeles Galaxy and FC Dallas. Rumors about the Galaxy standing up a USL PRO team have been circulating for a couple of months, and it appears there was good reason for that. News about FC Dallas comes out of the blue.
If you’re trying to do the math in your head, let me help. There were 13 USL PRO clubs last season. Two expansion clubs, Sacramento and Oklahoma City, have already been announced for next season. The addition of two MLS Reserve clubs takes the total to 17. In order to get back down to 15, it means that two teams must be leaving the league. Those teams are Antigua Barracuda and VSI Tampa Bay.
It’s no surprise to learn that Antigua is bowing out. The Barracuda failed to put together a competitive team since joining USL PRO, and there have been reports of financial problems that might have even brought US congressmen to their knees. The club did not even have a home venue.
VSI’s departure is somewhat of a shock. Tampa Bay made a strong push to make the playoffs in the club’s first year in USL PRO, but eventually fell short. Yes, the attendance in Plant City was dismal in 2013, but the front office had ample time this off-season to find a new home in Tampa. It looks like the ownership group did not think it was a worthwhile effort. This means that there will be no USL PRO teams in Florida by 2015 unless something else changes.
I contacted USL PRO and several of the teams involved. Tim Holt, USL President, had this to say, “We remain in the process of finalizing the status of teams and competition for the 2014 season. This will be fully resolved by our AGM next month in Clearwater Beach with public announcements following shortly thereafter.”
Thus, it appears that we will have to wait for a month or two before official word is released. Until then, I stand by my source and will keep you updated on anything else that I hear.