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USL League One introduces new in-season cup competition

By Staff, 12/12/23, 2:30PM EST


World Cup-style format will emphasize regional rivalries, unique match experiences

TAMPA, Fla. – USL League One today announced the introduction of an in-season cup competition that will provide a platform for new fan experiences and lay the foundation for potential future competition innovations such as promotion and relegation.

The yet-to-be-named cup competition will integrate with a newly developed balanced schedule for the USL League One regular season that aligns with leagues around the world.

"USL League One is always looking to provide unique experiences for players and fans, and this new cup competition falls right in line with that," USL League One President Lee O'Neill said. "The cup matches will be dramatic and competitive, emphasizing the passionate rivalries in the league and providing our fans with new reasons to support their club all year long. Importantly, the cup competition and the balanced regular-season schedule together open up more possibilities for the competitive structure going forward."

Built for fun

Similar to a traditional World Cup-style format, the cup competition includes a group stage and a knockout round that creates additional matches of consequence in the annual calendar.

It also includes non-traditional modifications that encourage attacking soccer and provide entertaining moments for fans. These include:

  • An emphasis on goals: Goals scored will be the first tiebreaker in group standings and will determine one of the four spots in the knockout round. The three group winners will advance to the knockout rounds, and the fourth playoff spot will be awarded to the non-group winners with the most goals scored in group play.
  • Shootout drama: Matches that finish tied at the end of regulation time will go directly to a penalty-kick shootout, with the shootout winners earning an extra point. Shootout losers will still earn one point for the draw in regulation time.

The three groups consist of four clubs each and are built to emphasize regional rivalries. The schedule includes:

  • In group play, each club will play eight matches – four home and four away.
  • Each club will play twice against every other club in the group plus two matches against clubs from another group, based on geographic proximity, to complete the eight-game group play.
West Group Central Group East Group

Central Valley Fuego FC

Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC

Union Omaha

Spokane Velocity FC

Chattanooga Red Wolves SC

One Knoxville SC

Lexington SC

Forward Madison FC

Charlotte Independence

Greenville Triumph SC

Richmond Kickers

South Georgia Tormenta FC

The cup-winning club will earn prize money and a new trophy to be unveiled ahead of the cup competition's first matchday.

Dedicated cup matchdays will be integrated throughout the USL League One schedule. In 2024, the group stage will kick off the weekend of April 27 and finish the weekend of Aug. 31. The cup final will be held on Sept. 28 or 29, with no other USL League One matches taking place that weekend.

Built for the Future

In year one, the cup competition will establish a new, unique platform for USL League One clubs to compete for multiple trophies. But it is designed to evolve quickly.

Over the next few years, the USL aims to grow the cup competition, including the integration of other leagues and the exploration of additional innovations geared toward the fan experience.

"The cup is a scalable platform," O'Neill said. "Our ambition is to include clubs from other leagues in the future. There are so many strong clubs across our country and our region, and we believe this competition can be a catalyst to bring many of them together to grow the game and create a unique and amazing experience for players and fans everywhere."

More information about the cup competition, including the official name and logo, will be shared in the coming weeks.

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