As Orlando City B gears up for its inaugural season in the USL (United Soccer League), the league faces a new age. Long time City fans may be no strangers to the USL, but much has changed in the time the Lions left for MLS and returned with Orlando City B.
When the Lions last fielded a team for USL play there were only 14 teams in the league. Since that time the competition has doubled as Orlando City B will be one of 28 teams to take to the pitch in 2016. The USL isn’t done yet either, two more clubs are scheduled to join the league in 2017 making it one of the deepest tiers of professional soccer in the United States.
Fans can also expect the level of play to be very competitive. The additions of MLS owned clubs in the USL has introduced top tier youth talent raising the level of play across all teams in the league.
A big change City fans will also notice is the differences in the league’s competitive format. The USL scrapped the single table structure City once played in and has introduced a conference set up with teams playing in the Eastern or Western Conference.
The league schedule will also take on a new format for 2016 consisting of 30 matches. 26 games will be in conference home and away fixtures and the remaining four games will be against other regional opponents. This means Orlando City B will most likely play all their games within the Eastern Conference.
The playoff format will also take on a new look for the third year running in USL play. The upcoming season will use a 16 team format making the playoffs more challenging than ever. Each conference will have eight teams seeded one through eight playing single elimination games two conference champions playing for the USL championship.
Though the USL is very familiar to the Lions organization the league itself has taken on a very different look. The league is deeper and more talented than ever, but you can be sure Orlando City B will be ready come Spring 2016.