From it's humble beginnings in 1986 as the Southwest Indoor Soccer League, the United Soccer Leagues (USL) now makeup the largest organization of elite-level soccer leagues in North America. Built on a vision of "building the base for higher levels of play," the USL has prospered through times when the success of such an endeavor would seem unlikely. This series of articles will explore the USL and it's member leagues, culminating with an in-depth review of the Premier Development League featuring the Dayton Dutch Lions.
The United Soccer Leagues and Major League Soccer are both members of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). More commonly known as US Soccer, the USSF is the governing body of soccer in the United States. Major League Soccer, MLS, represents the highest professional level of soccer in the US and is considered the "First" Division, or top, level of play.
The USL is comprised of six different member leagues representing the lower levels of men's and women's professional soccer; as well as, youth soccer. The USL First Division, USL-1, is the highest level of play within the USL and is the professional second division within US Soccer. The USL Second Division, USL-2, is the professional third division of soccer in the United States. The Premier Development League, PDL, represents the fourth and lowest division of professional soccer in the US. On the Women's side, the professional first division is the Women's Professional Soccer, and the USL W-League represents the second division of women's professional soccer.
Rounding out the USL, are the amateur levels consisting of the Super 20-League and the Super Y-League. The Super 20-League consists of some of the top 17-20 year old men and women in the US and Canada. The Super Y-League is a top-level youth academy system for U13-U17 boys and girls designed to feed the higher levels of US and international soccer.
The next article in this series will explore the United Soccer League's First Division, USL-1. We will take a look at the history and organization of the league as well as the member clubs.