TAMPA, Fla. – United Soccer Leagues announced Wednesday details for the Portland Timbers’ 2008 USL First Division season as determined at the 2007 Annual General Meeting. Among the specifics unveiled were the league alignment, schedule format and playoff structure for the North American professional league.
With the return of the defending-champion Seattle Sounders and the absence of the California Victory, there will be 11 teams competing in the USL First Division in 2008.
“The USL First Division continues to evolve into a viable, alternative league model for professional soccer in North America, featuring the strength of the USL developmental pyramid with an increasing focus on international relationships,” said USL Executive Vice President and COO Tim Holt. “All 11 returning USL-1 franchises enter 2008 with a realistic goal of competing for trophies and are collectively stronger as businesses than ever before. Driven by the opening of the new stadium in Montreal this upcoming spring and buoyed by ambitious new ownership groups in Portland and Minnesota, this season represents an exciting new chapter in the league’s growth.”
Including the Timbers, all 11 teams in the USL First Division will be making history in 2008 as they play a 30-game, regular-season schedule after playing a 28-game schedule in 10 of the past 11 seasons. Each club will play each opponent a total of three times during the regular season.
The top seven teams will advance to the playoff tournament, with the Commissioner’s Cup winner (regular-season champion) receiving a first-round bye. The first round will involve the #2 - #7 seeds competing in a two-leg, aggregate-score series with the three winners advancing to the semifinals with the #1 seed pitted against the lowest remaining seed.
With a new 30-game schedule, the 2008 USL First Division schedule will begin no earlier than April 11 and end on Sept. 21, making the regular season two weeks longer than the 2007 season.
“Although disappointed the Victory will not be a part of our 2008 competition, we continue to make progress towards bringing USL-1 soccer back to San Francisco with a new ownership group, conceivably to be introduced prior to even the commencement of the 2008 season,” Holt added. “However, as a reflection of our confidence in and respect for the long-term health of the league, the importance of providing adequate preparation time to ensure the success of any new ownership group was prioritized above all else. Considering we are also in advanced stage dialogue with prospective franchise ownership groups in several major markets within the states of California, Texas and Florida, the 2009 season is shaping up to be a key expansion year for USL-1.”
Further information on the 2008 playoffs and championship is projected to be released in conjunction with the official 2008 USL First Division league schedule in January 2008. For more information, visit www.uslsoccer.com.