The United Soccer League announced Monday it will have 30 teams playing an expanded 32-game schedule in 2017.
Two days after the American-Statesman reported that the financially troubled Austin Aztex will sit out a second straight season while trying to find a stadium solution, the rapidly growing USL revealed details about its latest season, which will begin March 24 and include two more games per club than the 30-game schedule of 2016.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury FC, defectors from the NASL, join an expansion team, Reno 1868 FC, on the pitch this year. Montreal and Wilmington will not return.
“Our expansive national footprint for this season will showcase teams in 21 of the top 50 U.S. media markets,” said USL president Jake Edwards. “We’ll have 495 games in 19 states.”
The league, which has close ties to Major League Soccer, received a boost over the weekend when it was granted provisional Division II status by U.S. Soccer. The federation had designated the USL as a lower-tier Division III league for 2016.
Two Texas teams — San Antonio FC and Rio Grande Valley FC — return for a second year in the USL’s Western Conference, which also will include Reno.
Tampa Bay and Ottawa, led by former Aztex coach Paul Dalglish, will play in the East, and St. Louis also will switch to the East, giving the USL 15 teams in each conference.
The top eight teams in each conference will advance to the playoffs, which conclude with the USL Cup Final from Nov. 10-12.