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How many soccer leagues are there?

I happened across this story about a new professional soccer team coming to San Antonio, and was struck by this bit:

[Team owner Gordon] Hartman and Aaron Davidson, CEO of the NASL, said that efforts by Spurs Sports & Entertainment to field a United Soccer Leagues franchise in San Antonio, also by 2012, won’t be a conflict. The NASL, Davidson stressed, is a second-division league only one step below Major League Soccer.

Two current NASL franchises, in Vancouver and Montreal, are scheduled to move up to MLS in 2012.

“I introduced the USL to the San Antonio Spurs and the Spurs to the USL, but the reality is that the world of soccer has changed,” said Davidson, whose Traffic Sports placed the Mexico-Dominica World Cup qualifier in the Alamodome in 2004. “The USL is now a third-division league.”

Okay, so there’s MLS, which with we in Houston are all familiar. There’s the North American Soccer League, which the new San Antonio Scorpions will be joining; speaking as someone who remembers the old New York Cosmos, the league name amuses me. And there’s the United Soccer League, which is apparently a lesser league than the NASL, which in turn is a lesser league than MLS. I had no idea there were this many pro soccer leagues in existence in the US. Clearly, WUSA was ahead of its time, though there is now a successor. Are there any other leagues out there, or is this all of them?

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  1. William Hughes says:

    Professional soccer is similar to baseball in their setup. MLS is similar to MLB and NASL is similar to AAA baseball. There’s also USL Pro (also AAA) and PDL (think AA). While there’s little promotion of players or affiliation of teams like in baseball or teams like in professional soccer in the rest of the world, the structure is similar.

    Now, here’s a quick discussion of indoor soccer. There’s MISL, which is the third league to use that name, PASL, which is AAA and USL’s I-League, which is coming next year. USL also has a W-League for women’s soccer on a AAA level.

    Side note: There’s been a rumor that MLS will expand to allow a second team in NYC for some time called the Cosmos. The team would play at Citi Field and would in fact be owned by the people that own the original franchise’s name and history.

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  3. Jason says:

    My God is William Hughes wrong.

    In soccer, there are Division I, Division II, Division III and so on. MLS is Division I. The NASL has Division II sanctioning, so you could think of it as AAA if you like. But USL Pro is NOT Division II, it’s Division III (more like AA). And the PDL is an amateur league (that has a handful of professional teams) that would likely be Division IV if we went that low, but we don’t – not in this country.

    If the PASL is AAA, it’s a huge step down from the MISL – and the MISL is no great shakes anymore, with only five teams. The USL will have an indoor league (the I-League) next winter.

    And, no, the new Cosmos wouldn’t play at Citi Field.