USL Championship

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USOC wrap: Saint Louis, New Mexico knock out MLS sides (video)

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USL sides delivered the drama on Wednesday night and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup got five more quarterfinalists to join Atlanta United and Minnesota United.

Still to come Thursday, LAFC and San Jose will decide the eighth slot and a date with Portland Timbers.

[ MORE: VAR will not review GKs on PKs in PL ]


DC United 1-2 New York City FC

Wayne Rooney‘s 32nd minute goal gave the hosts a lead which would only last six minutes, as Alexandru Mitrita and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi made it 2-1 before halftime on the way to an away win at Audi Field.

Portland Timbers 4-0 LA Galaxy

Three goals in nine first half minutes helped spring Portland to an easy win over disinterested LA. Guillermo Barros Schelotto didn’t bring the majority of his first choice stars to Oregon, and the Timbers routed their Western Conference opposition to the tune of a 19-7 edge in shots.

Saint Louis FC 1-0 FC Cincinnati

They won’t be forgetting this any time soon; Saint Louis got a stoppage time goal from Sam Fink against their old USL rivals to book a place in the USOC quarterfinals.

Orlando City 2-1 New England Revolution

What began with stars on the bench and a 0-0 score line through 90 minutes really escalated quickly in extra time. Benji Michel and Tesho Akindele gave Orlando a 2-0 lead through 15 minutes of extra time, but Carles Gil set up Justin Rennecks early in the second frame to up the drama. Ultimately, Nani‘s men had enough despite New England’s 22 shots.

FC Dallas 1-2 New Mexico United

FC Dallas took the lead through U-20 World Cup star Brandon Servania, but Kevaughn Frater scored again, and ex-Colorado Rapids draft pick Sam Hamilton added the match winner.

Landon Donovan to lead new San Diego USL franchise

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Landon Donovan will be the leading man as the USL launch a new franchise in San Diego.

The owner of the team will be Warren Smith, who has been involved in minor league baseball teams and founded Sacramento Republic FC who have been one of the most successful lower-league teams in recent history and are now serious contenders to become one of the next MLS expansion franchises with their new ownership structure in place. 

Donovan, 37, will be the executive vice president of soccer operations as well as a minority investor, as San Diego will begin play at Torero Stadium at the University of San Diego in either the 2020 or 2021 season in the USL Championship, the division directly below Major League Soccer.

Speaking to Sports Illustrated about the new team, Donovan revealed why being a big part of something from scratch in San Diego is so important to him.

“San Diego is my new home. I don’t anticipate ever leaving, and I want to do something in this community around soccer that’s special,” Donovan said. “So why wouldn’t I want to do something with someone who clearly knows what they’re doing, who has a track record of success, of doing things with quality, and who’s as passionate as I am? Once I sat and thought about it and was able to let go of the disappointment of the previous two years, this was an absolute no-brainer.”

Donovan’s ties with San Diego has seen him involved in an ownership group which tried to bring an MLS franchise to the Californian city in recent years, but their SoccerCity plan failed to gain backing from local government and is pretty much done and dusted.

The MLS and USMNT legend moved to San Diego to be closer to his in-laws while he and his wife can bring up their family, and he is eager to do all he can to develop soccer in the area.

Donovan has made multiple comebacks in his playing career, most recently with Club Leon in Mexico and the San Diego Sockers of the Major Indoor Soccer League, and that came after heading back to the LA Galaxy after his first retirement in 2016.

But now it seems he is fully focused on matters off the pitch and on developing a focused, successful USL club to San Diego.

Smith’s expertise from Sacramento will be invaluable to building the club from the bottom up, while Donovan will be tasked with creating the structure of the team and everything on the pitch.

San Diego has a rich soccer culture and if TV audiences are anything to go by, there is huge potential for a USL team to gather serious momentum quickly which will turn heads at MLS HQ.

U.S. Open Cup draw for Round of 16 after New Mexico surprises Colorado

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A minimum of one lower league side will feature in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s Round of 16.

New Mexico United got a helping hand from a red card, defeating Colorado Rapids in dramatic fashion on Wednesday night.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule announced ]

Devon Sandoval gave the USL visitors a stunning lead, but Diego Rubio and Nicolas Mezquida scored on either side of halftime to restore order to the MLS hosts.

Then Axel Sjoberg was shown a 72nd minute red card, and Kevaughn Frater pushed an equalizer over the line deep into stoppage time to set up penalty kicks.

A second team could join New Mexico, but that would require a surprising win by Charleston Battery on Thursday versus Atlanta United.

A non-MLS club has won the USOC since the Rochester Rhinos in 1999.

Round of 16 schedule

Columbus Crew v. Atlanta United/Charleston Battery (USL)
Saint Louis FC v. FC Cincinnati
Orlando City v. New England Revolution
DC United v. NYCFC
LAFC v. San Jose Earthquakes
Portland Timbers v. LA Galaxy
Houston Dynamo v. Minnesota United
FC Dallas v. New Mexico United (USL)

WATCH: Asprilla scores terrific bicycle kick on USL cameo

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Portland Timbers forward Dairon Asprilla has had to spend some time in the USL Championship this season, and the second tier would probably like to see Gio Savarese keep the Colombian in Major League Soccer.

[ REPORT: Liverpool to sell Keita? ]

Asprilla scored twice and added an assists on Saturday night in a defeat of Eric Wynalda’s Las Vegas Lights, and he put up a near picture perfect bicycle kick on the highlight reel.

Watch as he sets himself up, willingly or not, for the endeavor before splashing a shot in the side panel for an amazing aesthetic.

USL rebrands divisions as Championship, League One, League Two

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The United Soccer Leagues have rebranded all three of its divisions with a very English feel under the United Soccer League banner.

The USL’s D-2 side is now the USL Championship, USL D-3 is now USL League One, and the Premier Development League is USL League Two.

[ MORE: U.S. Open Cup Final preview ]

If you’re thinking the structure melds itself nicely to the idea of promotion and relegation in American soccer, the USL has a handy FAQ for you:

Currently the United Soccer League is focused on establishing a successful new third division in USL League One to help fill out the professional U.S. soccer structure, which is a necessary precursor to any implementation of a promotion and relegation system. That said, the new structure does lend itself well to some form of promotion and relegation in the future.

That’s not a no, though USL would still not be an open system and it’s hard to see how the PDL (now League Two) could make that jump considering the majority of its current players are bound by the current NCAA window.

The naming of the divisions along the Football League model met with some derision online, but it’s a familiar tune for soccer fans around the globe.

“We are repositioning the competition under MLS with a new strategy, new names and logos,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. “As we look to the future, the USL is ready to put its fingerprints on U.S. Soccer’s drive toward becoming the best in the world, and its pursuit of winning a FIFA Men’s World Cup.”