We talked about making history, right? And what are you going to do to change history? When it’s your turn to make a tackle, are you going to make that tackle? Are you going to score the goal? Are you going to make the save and throw a few miracles for us?
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TAMPA, Fla. – Ten minutes until kickoff. You’re in your locker room, and your pulse is beginning to rise.
You look around at your teammates, as full of nervous energy as you. And then, your coach gives you his final words before you head into the tunnel and start to feel the murmur of the crowd, sitting in anticipation of the 90 minutes to come.
Can you feel it? The new season – and all the opportunity it brings – is here.
The USL Championship kicks off its 10th season on Friday night with 35 teams set for 595 regular-season contests over the next 33 weeks to determine which clubs will get the chance to compete for a place at the 2020 USL Championship Final this November.
There are new venues, new teams, and plenty of new faces set to make their mark this year. At the forefront is U.S. soccer legend Landon Donovan, who leads San Diego Loyal SC into its inaugural season as its Head Coach, opening a new chapter in a sport he’s become synonymous with in the United States. Another big name will take the field in the Championship in 2020, too, with former U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Tim Howard set to suit up for Memphis 901 FC.
There are the perennial contenders, with title-holder Real Monarchs SLC back to defend its crown after previously claiming the 2017 Regular Season Title. Louisville City FC is ready to take aim at its third star as it moves into the newest soccer-specific stadium in the United States, the 11,700-seat Lynn Family Stadium. And Phoenix Rising FC is back for another run at its first league title after rewriting the Championship’s regular season record book in 2019.
There are the challengers, with Championship newcomer The Miami FC adding to a loaded top of the Eastern Conference that will see established clubs including Indy Eleven, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and North Carolina FC all vying for the top spot.
In the Western Conference, meanwhile, the California duo of Orange County SC and Sacramento Republic FC have both reloaded, while New Mexico United, El Paso Locomotive FC and Austin Bold FC will all look to build on outstanding inaugural seasons that saw them make a serious impact on and off the field.
The successful rise of the USL Championship to become the largest professional Men’s Second Division in world soccer has been a remarkable story spanning the past decade.
In 2011, the Championship regular season contained only 108 games, running from the first weekend of April to the first week of September
As we reach 2020, there has been more than a five-fold increase in the number of games (595) and the extension of the season by three months from the beginning of March to the middle of November
Now made up of 35 teams across two conferences, the Championship has tripled in size since its inaugural season, giving the league a broad national following
In 2011, the first game in the Championship’s history – a 2-0 win by the Richmond Kickers over Orlando City SC that saw Stanley Nyazamba score the first goal in league history – was not broadcasted live
In 2020, every game of the Championship’s regular season and postseason will air on ESPN linear networks or ESPN+ as the league begins a new three-year agreement with the biggest broadcasting name in sports
Under the new agreement, 20 regular season games will appear on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, and ESPNews throughout the 2020 campaign in addition to the 2020 USL Championship Final
Since being introduced fully in partnership with Vista Worldlink for the 2016 season, USL Productions has made the USL one of the largest distributors of live soccer content in North America
Ahead of the 2020 Championship season, more than 80 countries are currently represented across the league’s rosters, making the Championship the most diverse league in North America
Those countries range from among the biggest soccer nations in the world, including Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Ghana, Nigeria and Spain to a wide array within Concacaf, including Bermuda, Canada, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago and Turks & Caicos
In the 2019 calendar year, 65 players competing in the Championship earned selection to their senior national teams, including 26 players that were selected for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup
The USL Championship has surpassed 7.5 million fans in attendance over its past three seasons, and the league’s attendance has grown by at least 30 percent year-over-year since 2015.
With the arrival of Louisville City FC’s Lynn Family Stadium, 20 of the Championship’s independent clubs will be playing in soccer-specific venues during the 2020 season
The launch of the official USL App for the 2020 season will allow fans across the world to connect directly with the Championship, League One and their clubs
Having reached its 10th season, the future of the USL Championship – and professional soccer in North America – has never been brighter. The coming years will see continued growth in both the Championship and USL League One, led by major infrastructure projects that will give fans an authentic stadium experience and provide clubs a strong platform to become embedded in their communities.
In 2021, both Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and the Charlotte Independence will move into downtown venues currently under construction. Beyond that, proposed projects for current and future Championship clubs are taking shape in East Bay, California; Indianapolis, Indiana; Raleigh, North Carolina; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Des Moines, Iowa; Pawtucket, Rhode Island; and Tacoma, Washington, with more announcements anticipated in 2020.
As the countdown to the 2026 FIFA World Cup to be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico begins in earnest, the USL Championship is ready to bring the world’s game to fans across the country, connecting clubs to their communities as it builds a lasting legacy for soccer in the United States.
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