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How Soccer in the US is organized!

US Soccer ball

International, Professional, Amateur, Collegiate & Youth Soccer

From top to bottom throughout soccer in the US, there are numerous acronyms for the many leagues, divisions, and sanctioned affiliate groups. Here is a guide that will help you better understand the organization and structure of the sport within the United States. 

FIFA
The world of international soccer is governed at the highest level by The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). FIFA’s membership now comprises of 211 national associations. Member countries must each also be members of one of the six regional confederations into which the soccer world is divided.

CONCACAF
The United States belongs to FIFA’s regional confederation known commonly as CONCACAF. The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. It includes governance of international soccer involving in North America, which includes Central America, the Caribbean region, the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

US Soccer
The United States Soccer Federation (USSF), commonly referred to as U.S. Soccer, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the official governing body of the sport of soccer in the United States. With headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, the FIFA member governs U.S. amateur and professional soccer, including the men’s, women’s, youth, beach soccer, futsal, and Paralympic national teams. U.S. Soccer sanctions referees and soccer tournaments for most soccer leagues in the United States.

United Soccer Coaches
United Soccer Coaches (formerly known as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America – NSCAA) is an organization of international soccer coaches founded in 1941. With more than 30,000 members, it is the largest soccer coaches’ organization in the world.

Major League Soccer
Major League Soccer (MLS) is the highest level men’s professional soccer league, sanctioned by US Soccer,  There are currently 22 Major League Soccer (MLS) teams, 19 in the U.S. and 3 in Canada, and the league has stated that it will expand to 28 by 2020. Major League Soccer operates under a single-entity structure in which teams and player contracts are centrally owned by the league. Each team has an investor-operator that is also a shareholder in the league.

MLS Eastern Conference teams
Atlanta United FC, Atlanta, GA
Chicago Fire, Bridgeview, IL
Columbus Crew SC, Columbus, OH
D.C. United, Washington, D.C.
Montreal Impact, Montreal, QB
New England Revolution, Foxborough, MA
New York City FC, New York, NY
New York Red Bulls, Harrison, NJ
Orlando City SC, Orlando, FL
Philadelphia Union, Chester, PA
Toronto FC, Toronto, ON

MLS Western Conference teams
Colorado Rapids, Commerce City, CO
FC Dallas, Frisco, TX
Houston Dynamo, Houston, TX
LA Galaxy, Carson, CA
Minnesota United FC, Minneapolis, MN
Portland Timbers, Portland, OR
Real Salt Lake, Sandy, UT
San Jose Earthquakes, San Jose, CA
Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle, WA
Sporting Kansas City, Kansas City, KS
Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Vancouver, BC

Expansion Teams
LA United, Los Angeles, CA (2018)
Miami, Miami, FL (Pending Stadium approval)
4 more teams in 2020

United Soccer League (Men’s Division 2)
The United Soccer League (USL) is a professional men’s soccer league in the United States and Canada. As of March 2017, there are 30 USL teams with 22 of the teams affiliated to MLS teams.

USL Eastern Conference

Bethlehem Steel FC, Bethlehem, PA
Charleston Battery, Charleston, SC
Charlotte Independence, Matthews, NC
FC Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH
Harrisburg City Islanders, Harrisburg, PA
Louisville City FC, Louisville, KY
New York Red Bulls II, Montclair, NJ
Orlando City B, Orlando, FL
Ottawa Fury FC, Ottawa, ON
Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Pittsburgh, PA
Richmond Kickers, Richmond, VA
Rochester Rhinos, Rochester, NY
Saint Louis FC, Fenton, MO
Tampa Bay Rowdies, St. Petersburg, FL
Toronto FC II, Vaughan, ON

USL Western Conference

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Colorado Springs, CO
LA Galaxy II, Carson, CA
OKC Energy FC, Oklahoma City, OK
Orange County SC, Irvine, CA
Phoenix Rising FC, Scottsdale, AZ
Portland Timbers 2, Portland, OR
Real Monarchs SLC, Sandy, UT
Reno 1868 FC, Reno, NV
Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, Edinburg, TX
Sacramento Republic FC, Sacramento, CA
San Antonio FC, San Antonio, TX
Seattle Sounders FC 2, Tukwila, WA
Swope Park Rangers, Kansas City, MO
Tulsa Roughnecks FC,  Tulsa, OK
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, Vancouver, BC

North American Soccer League (NASL)
The North American Soccer League is a professional men’s soccer league with eight teams – six in the United States, one in Canada and one in Puerto Rico.The NASL recently lost D2 status and will most likely be designated as D3 in 2018

FC Edmonton, Edmonton, AB
Indy Eleven, Indianapolis, IN
Jacksonville Armada FC, Jacksonville, FL
Miami FC, Miami, FL
New York Cosmos, Brooklyn, NY
North Carolina FC, Cary, NC
Puerto Rico FC, Bayamón, PR
San Francisco Deltas, San Francisco, CA

Expansion clubs
California United FC, Fullerton, CA (2018)
San Diego, San Diego, CA (2018)

Other Men’s Leagues

The National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) is officially affiliated to the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) and qualifies for the U.S. Open Cup. The league is generally considered to be at the fourth tier of competition in the United States soccer pyramid, and roughly equal with the Premier Development League (PDL). There are currently 80 teams in the NPSL

The Premier Development League (PDL) is a development league sponsored by United Soccer Leagues in the United States and Canada. The league has 72 teams competing in four conferences, split into ten regional divisions.

The American Soccer League (ASL) is a professional league sanctioned by the United States Adult Soccer Association. The league footprint is in the northeastern United States and there are currently 9 teams.


Women’s Professional League

National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL)
The National Women’s Soccer League is the highest level professional women’s soccer league, sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation.

Boston Breakers, Boston, MA
Chicago Red Stars, Bridgeview, IL
FC Kansas City, Kansas City, MO
Houston Dash, Houston, TX
North Carolina Courage, Cary, NC
Orlando Pride, Orlando, FL
Portland Thorns FC, Portland, OR
Seattle Reign FC, Seattle, WA
Sky Blue FC, Piscataway, NJ
Washington Spirit, Boyds, MD


Other Women’s Leagues

The Women’s Premier Soccer League, and United Women’s Soccer are both regarded as second division women’s leagues and are sanctioned by the United States Adult Soccer Association. Both leagues have professional and amateur teams – an organization has to choose to be one or the other due to NCAA regulations since collegiate players cannot play on pro teams. 

The Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) has 112 teams in 17 conferences in the United States and Puerto Rico.

United Women’s Soccer (UWS) has 21 teams in 3 conferences throughout the United States.


College Soccer
In the U.S., college soccer is not governed by FIFA/CONCACAF/U.S. SOCCER. Rather it is regulated by one of the sports regulatory body for major universities – the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).

NCAA MEN’S DIVISION 1: 201 universities have Division 1 Men’s soccer teams.

NCAA MEN’S DIVISION 2: 184 universities have Division 2 Men’s soccer teams.

NCAA MEN’s DIVISION 3: 412 universities have NCAA Division 3 Men’s soccer teams.

NCAA WOMEN’S DIVISION 1: 315 universities have Division 1 Women’s soccer teams.

NCAA WOMEN’s DIVISION 2: 235 universities have Division 2 Women’s soccer teams.

NCAA WOMEN’s DIVISION 3: 435 universities have NCAA Division 3 Women’s soccer teams.

NAIA MEN’S: 200 NAIA universities have Men’s soccer teams.

NAIA WOMEN’S: 200 NAIA universities have Women’s soccer teams.

MEN’S JUNIOR COLLEGE: 231 Junior Colleges have Men’s Soccer Teams

WOMEN’S JUNIOR COLLEGE: 217 Junior Colleges have Women’s Soccer Teams

NATIONAL CHRISTIAN COLLEGE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION: There are 94 independent schools competing in the NCCAA.


Youth Soccer

The United States Youth Soccer Association (U.S. Youth Soccer or USYSA) is the largest youth affiliate member of US Soccer. US Youth Soccer registers over 3,000,000 boys and girls in 55 state youth soccer associations – one per state except for California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas, which each have two state associations.

The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) is the second largest youth affiliate member of US Soccer. AYSO claims membership of over 50,000 teams, with over 630,000 players.The organization is run primarily by volunteers at its constituent local levels, with approximately 60 paid employees at its national headquarters.

US Club Soccer is the most recent and currently third largest youth affiliate member of US Soccer. US Club currently registers over 450,000 players each year.

Soccer Association for Youth (SAY) is a predominantly recreational youth organization with around 100,000 registered players.