We all know about Major League Soccer (MLS), the North American Soccer League (NASL), and USL Professional Division (USL Pro). These leagues are sanctioned as professional circuits by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF, U.S. Soccer). But what about the murky depths below these professional leagues?
U.S. Soccer does not sanction amateur leagues directly; that responsibility falls to the United States Adult Soccer Association. The USASA governs amateur soccer through state level associations split into four geographical regions. A handful of large states are split into two bodies: California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
United Soccer Leagues is an important partner of the USASA. The Premier Development League, W-League, Super-20 League, and W-20 are all USL operated leagues that USASA administers. PDL runs a short season of 14 matches during the summer months to accommodate collegiate players, its main source of talent.
The National Premier Soccer League is another amateur men’s league that also runs a short season during the summer. NPSL is governed by its existing teams and, as such, expansion bids and other important matters are voted on by a committee of its member clubs. Its website, which is echoed on the USASA site, claims: “The NPSL is sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), the governing body of soccer in the United States.”
USASA also sanctions the Women’s Premier Soccer League, an independent national women’s league that contains clubs affiliated to MLS clubs, PDL clubs, and ECNL girls’ youth clubs.
USASA oversees 11 local/regional “Elite Amateur Leagues,” some of which boast clubs and competitions with impressive history.
“Coast Soccer League” in Southern California
“Cosmopolitan Soccer League” around New York City
“Long Island Soccer Football League”
“Maryland Major Soccer League”
“Michigan Premier Soccer League”
“Rochester District Soccer League” in Western New York [that’s me!]
“San Francisco Soccer Football League” in Northern California
“United Soccer League of Pennsylvania”
“United Premier Soccer League” in Southern California
“Washington Premier League” in the DMV (Metropolitan D.C., Maryland, Virginia area)
“Evergreen Premier League” in Washington (which you should check out)
The odd names of “Soccer Football League” hearken back over a hundred years when these leagues were founded. You read that right, some of these leagues have been active for over a hundred years and were a staple of American soccer throughout the rise and fall of countless professional leagues.
These “elite” leagues hold a special designation among local or regional amateur leagues but are still often a lower quality of play than NPSL or PDL. That is not to say the players in these leagues are hacks; the simple difference is that USASA-sanctioned “premier” leagues PDL and NPSL are primarily devoted to developing college-aged players.
The country’s 55 member associations are divided into four regions; Northeast/Mid-Atlantic, Mid-West, South, and West Coast. In case you were wondering, the 50 states plus an extra in each of CA, NY, OH, PA, and TX add to up the 55 total. Each association governs amateur leagues within its territory. For example, New York West oversees men’s leagues in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and the Southern Tier.
The four regions hold qualifying tournaments for clubs that are interested in potentially participating in the U.S. Open Cup. Because of the expanded field in the cup, USASA teams had 10 berths in the tournament in 2014. Each of the four regions had two entrants and two additional clubs qualified as USASA wildcards: NY Greek-Americans, Icon FC, Des Moines Menace (the PDL powerhouse qualified through an amateur “reserve” side), Schwaben AC, Red Force, NTX Rayados, Cal FC, PSA Elite, Mass Premier Soccer, RWB Adria.
USASA is a mainstay of American soccer and provides a valuable place in the organization of the sport. Amateur soccer at the highest level, whether developmental or recreational, runs through the United States Adult Soccer Association.