The 2017 USL regular season kicks off on Mar. 25, and there have been a number of significant changes ahead of the new season. To give you a sense of what’s new this year, here’s a quick rundown:
There are three new teams in the league this year. Two, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury, are moving from the NASL, and a third, Reno 1868 FC, is a brand-new expansion team. From over here on the West Coast, Reno will be the new guys in town, as they’re playing in the Western Conference alongside LA Galaxy II and Orange County SC. Did anyone say road trip?
Prior to this year, USL was sanctioned as a Division III league by U.S. Soccer. After a weeks-long deliberation process this winter, the federation sanctioned both the USL and NASL as Division II leagues for 2017, to be reviewed again in the future. What does this mean for now? We don’t know! USL can now market itself as a Division II league, and the change reflects the reality that the competitive level of both the USL and NASL is pretty even at this point. Beyond that, we’ll see what it means for the future.
Before this season, USL teams were allowed to make five substitutions per game, as a way to facilitate player development. While that makes some sense, the decision to move to a standard three subs per game is a good move. USL has become increasingly professionalized in recent years, and moving in line with the rest of the world in substitution rules will make the league more legitimate globally and will help replicate game states in other leagues better.
Roster turnover in USL is common, so major changes made to the local teams’ rosters is not entirely surprising. But this is an offseason of transition for both Orange County and Galaxy II, as both sides have new head coaches. Longtime academy coach Mike Munoz has become head coach of Los Dos, while former Chicago Fire captain Logan Pause takes the reins of OCSC. It’s the first pro head coaching job for both men — how will they do in their debut seasons?
New name, new home
Orange County did more than just get a new head coach this offseason. They’ve also rebranded, from Orange County Blues to Orange County SC, gotten a new crest and colors, and will be playing in a new home this season, at Orange County Great Park. The stadium is currently being built, but the team is planning to play there this season.
We’ll have season previews for the local USL teams next week. The new season is right around the corner!