The United Soccer League announced plans Thursday for an expanded 2018 season that will feature two new teams, but for the third year in a row, an Austin franchise won’t take the pitch.
The Austin Aztex made their USL debut in 2015, playing at high school football stadiums and suffering substantial financial losses. Team owners told the American-Statesman the Aztex would not return to competition until they had a soccer-specific stadium that would allow them to control the franchise’s revenue streams.
USL officials said that in 2018 Nashville and Fresno will become the 31st and 32nd teams in the rapidly growing league. Since the Aztex suspended operations, the U.S. Soccer Federation has elevated the USL from Division III to Division II status, making it the top feeder league for Major League Soccer.
The USL’s 2018 season will stretch from 29 to 31 weeks, running from mid-March to mid-October. The schedule has expanded from 32 to 34 games, and the 2018 USL Cup playoffs will kick off Oct. 19, with the USL Cup final taking place the weekend of Nov. 9-11.
The league said it will keep its two-conference structure, with a revised alignment to be announced at a future date.
There are two active USL teams in Texas: San Antonio FC and Rio Grande Valley.
Kris Tyrpak, a former Aztex winger and a two-time All-Central Texas player of the year while at Dripping Springs, has four goals this season for San Antonio, tying him for second on the team. A little more than halfway through the 2017 season, San Antonio FC (11-1-7) sits in second in the USL’s Western Conference.