Local soccer is about to have a new league in town. The United Premier Soccer League has indicated it plans to expand to Colorado beginning in March of 2017.
Colorado sides FC Boulder, Colorado Rush, Colorado Springs FC and Indios Denver SC have all agreed to join the league. Boulder and Rush offer adult and youth soccer from top amateurs down to the U6 level. Currently, their top teams play in the Colorado Amateur Soccer League, which just held its Fall Championship last weekend. Indios Denver FC have youth teams from U12 to U19 and play their home games in the Athmar Park neighborhood of Denver. Colorado Springs FC are new to regional soccer, and are still in the process of formation.
In perhaps the most exciting development, the UPSL also announced that it intends to institute promotion and relegation in its league, beginning as soon as Spring 2017. The league, which currently has 40 teams, will split into two divisions: a lower ‘Championship’ division, and a higher ‘Pro-Premier’ division. The exact details of the split and the process for pro/rel have not been revealed.
Regarding their jump to a new league, Colorado Rush released a statement, saying, “This will be a great opportunity for the Youth, Senior, and Adult/Alumni Rush players that are looking to take that step towards the Pro-development path with more chances to train and play like a pro.”
The UPSL was created in 2011 and has a strong footprint predominantly in Southern California. It is affiliated with the United States Amateur Soccer Association, which might reasonably be called the fourth or fifth tier of the US soccer pyramid. The USASA received 10 spots in the first round of the 2016 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Two UPSL clubs have been especially strong in the Open Cup over the past three years, as PSA Elite and La Maquina have both advanced farther in the preliminary rounds than many other amateur teams. La Maquina nearly knocked off the LA Galaxy last year in the fourth round, before the Galaxy scored a controversial goal from a quick restart off of an injury stoppage.
The introduction of UPSL to Colorado adds to the already robust soccer pyramid which already exists in Colorado. The Colorado Rapids belong to US Soccer’s first tier league of MLS, while the Colorado Springs Switchbacks of the USL represent the 3rd tier. USL and the NASL are currently in talks with US Soccer over redefining their status. UPSL would occupy a spot in the fourth tier on the pyramid, either parallel to or above CASL. The only major absence in the local Colorado soccer scene remains the absence of a professional womens side.
More soccer and more structural support for local soccer can certainly be seen as a good thing. But questions will certainly be raised about the nature of promotion and relegation, the impact of a league based in California coming to Colorado, the impact on the already existing CASL league, and the overall financial viability of the new UPSL league. You can color me both a bit skeptical and fairly excited about this latest development in the local soccer scene.