Recently the USL announced rule changes and a brand switch for their official match ball. I break down the pros and cons of all the new things to expect if your team switched to the USL or you’re new to soccer.


A team will now submit a 23 man roster two days prior to a game. On the day of a match, only five out of eighteen dressed players can be on USL Academy contracts.

Pro: On paper games will be more competitive as teams cannot use a full roster of academy players.

Con: The roster has been reduced from 27 to 23, giving players less of an opportunity to develop. Teams cannot give as much experience to younger players.


This year the USL will be switching from Nike to Select as their official league ball.

Pro: Compared to other soccer balls Select’s are more durable, last longer, balanced, and cheaper.

Con: Nike is a more recognizable brand. Most soccer fans have not heard of Select.


Most soccer leagues from amateur to professional state that a match is confirmed official after the first half is completed. So if Mother Nature or a something bizarre happens during halftime or at the beginning of the second half the game can be called. Now the USL is moving that declaration of official to the 70th minute for regular season games. Playoff matches will still be played in there entirety.

Pro: Teams will still have to consider how to approach the game if a game is stopped or postponed knowing they have to play until the 70th minute mark.

Con: Fans will may have to stick around longer. Coaches have to worry about their player’s health if they have to wait long periods between playing.


During the regular season, USL teams will only be permitted to use three subs during a game. But in a single elimination playoff match, each team will have the opportunity to use an additional fourth sub. The sub can be used at any point in extra time (overtime) prior to the final whistle. However, a team cannot use their fourth sub during the final whistle and penalty kicks.

Pro: Teams will be able to give their team a spark, risk a little more, and tell a player to push harder knowing they will be subbed off at some point in extra time. It will add to the drama and intensity of a match and give a distinct advantage to a team with the greater depth.

Con: Go against traditionalist. Disadvantage to a team that has little to no depth.


The USL and NASL are only permitted seven international roster spots. This is in place to allow players in the United States and Canada to grow and develop to ultimately feed those National teams. Now USL teams will be able to sell or trade those coveted international spots for the entire duration of one season. Once the season has concluded those international roster spots will be rest at seven for each team.

Pro: More like MLS. This rule could be the difference between a club missing the playoffs, making the playoffs, and winning a championship.

Con: More like MLS. Less playing time, development, and exposure to domestic soccer players. This rule change only lasts for one year and teams will have to risk more to for only a short term gain. Teams already find ways around this if a player has permanent status (green card) or special circumstances.


Starting this year each USL team will be given one injured reserved spot for the season. In the past USL teams suffered because they had to carry a player that suffered a season long injury on their 23 man roster. Now teams can place a player on the IR and it will not count against their roster.

Pro: Helps a team that have been bitten by the injury bug. Gives a player(s) an opportunity he wouldn’t otherwise have.

Con: I’m sure one soccer snob out there will complain that having an IR resembles too much like other sports.



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