S2 learned a bit more about its league structure and which teams it will be seeing the most next season.
USL PRO announced today that starting in 2015, the league will be split into two conferences—Western and Eastern—made up of 12 teams each. S2 will play each team in the Western Conference at least twice during its 28-game regular season campaign.
“I think all the games will be competitive and fun, but the games against MLS teams will be especially competitive,” said S2 Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson. “I’m really looking forward to the games against the Cascadia opponents. Just like the First Team, that rivalry will be there. There will be young guys who are hungry and who want to play, so I am looking forward to some great games.”
This new Western Conference includes other teams fielded by MLS clubs such as Timbers 2, Whitecaps FC 2, LA Galaxy II and Real Monarchs (the Real Salt Lake affiliate). Each team will play the other 11 teams in its conference at least twice, and the remaining six games will be matchups against geographic rivals, which could include cross-conference contests. That is good news for fans looking to travel to a handful of away games.
“Transitioning to a conference-based structure is consistent with our long-term growth strategy and enabled by the rapid expansion of the league,” USL PRO Executive Vice President Jake Edwards said in a press release. “This new format will promote regional rivalries, allowing fans greater opportunity to support their clubs home and away as the league continues to bring its brand of professional soccer to enthusiastic markets throughout the U.S. and Canada.”
S2 not only joins MLS squads in the new Western Conference, but also incumbent USL PRO sides like defending champion Sacramento Republic, a team vying for MLS expansion in the coming years. Each of the MLS squads are new to USL PRO this season save for LA Galaxy II, who joined the league last year and finished third in the table.
With the new conference alignment, the USL PRO playoff structure is also being changed for 2015.
The top six finishers from each conference will move on to a four-week post-season. From there, teams will go head-to-head in a single-elimination playoff, with the top two seeds receiving First Round byes. Winners of the Western and Eastern Conference Championship games will face off in the 2015 USL PRO Championship, hosted by the higher seeded club.
Although the full-season schedule is yet to be released (it is expected by the end of the month), fans now have an idea of how the cards will fall once it does. Regional conferences means less cross-country trips for the team, and a chance for fans to make more of the regional away matches.