USL First Division
Countries: Canada, United States and Puerto Rico
Confederation: Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF)
The United Soccer Leagues First Division, commonly known as USL-1, was a professional men's soccer league for Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico from 2005 to 2010. Together with the North American Soccer League it formed the second tier of the United States and Canada soccer league pyramid. (Major League Soccer, MLS, is the top tier.) Operated by the United Soccer Leagues (USL), USL-1 was the successor of the old A-Legue (founded in 1997, folded in 2004). In 2010, USL-1 was replaced by the USL Professional League.
Founding of the USL-1
When the United Soccer Leagues First Division was formed back in 2005, it consisted of the following twelve teams:
Puerto Rico Islanders
Rochester Raging Rhinos
Virginia Beach Mariners
Calgary Mustangs, Edmonton Aviators and Syracuse Salty Dogs all competed in the A-League season of 2004, but they folded during the offseason and was not included in the new USL-1.
Inaugural USL-1 Championship
The very first USL-1 Championship was won by Seattle Sounders, who beat Richmond Kickers on penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie.
Once the regular USL-1 season was over, the playoffs would commence during the following week and the final would typically take place in mid-October. The top seven teams of USL-1 would proceed to the playoff tournament. The Commissioner's Cup winner (regular season champion) would receive a bye into the semi-final. Each round was comprised of two parts. First, the lower seeded team would host a match, and then the higher seeded team would host a return. Until 2009, the final consisted of a single match hosted by the higher seeded team.
Promotion and relegation
Unlike most other soccer playing nations, the American and Canadian soccer pyramids do not have any merit-based system of promotion and relegation between the leagues. The winner of USL-1 would therefore not be moved up to Major League Soccer, and the teams that finished at the bottom of the USL-1 did not risk being relegated. Also, the USL-1 would not be used for relegating teams from Major League Soccer.
However, some USL-1 teams did, on their own accord, decide to move down a level in the USL system and leave USL-1. These decisions were usually financially motivated and served to cut operation costs for the teams.