ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (November 15, 2016) — With the Tampa Bay Rowdies set to make their debut in the United Soccer League in 2017, there will be an adjustment period for fans as new teams play at Al Lang Stadium and new rules come into effect.
To help with that transition, here’s a hopefully helpful guide to some of the similarities and differences between the NASL and USL. The information below are based on the 2016 USL League Manual, unless otherwise noted, and is subject to change in 2017.
The biggest differences come in the league format and scheduling departments. The USL is split into Eastern and Western Conferences, rather than a single table. The Rowdies will no longer play split Spring and Fall Seasons to determine playoff berths with an additional Combined Standings table. Tampa Bay’s 2017 schedule will be a single 32-game slate (up from 30 in 2016) to qualify for a postseason berth. There will no longer be a summer break in the Rowdies’ schedule.
The postseason format is different as well, with eight teams each from the Eastern and Western Conferences advancing to a single-legged, single-elimination playoff tournament lasting four weeks. The 2016 USL Cup was won by New York Red Bulls II over the Western Conference’s Swope Park Rangers.
Tampa Bay’s 32-game schedule figures to primarily feature Eastern Conference opponents, which we’ll be introducing to you in the coming days. The Rowdies will visit each Eastern Conference opponent once and host each Eastern Conference opponent once for a total of 30 games. The remaining four games can be against any team from either conference, provided the Rowdies do not play any team more than three times in the regular season.
But there are similarities.
A rule change coming into effect for the 2017 USL season will see the league allow up to three substitutions per team in each match, down from five allowable substitutions in past seasons.
Roster composition in the USL is the same, with the Rowdies allowed a roster of up to 30 players, including up to seven international players.
For season tickets for our exciting first season in the United Soccer League, call (727) 222-2000.