This is what happens when you try to make any sort of list with the UPSL.
I wanted to do something similar to my USL2 and NPSL expansion lists, ranking each expansion team in said league for the 2020 season and explaining my excitement, or lack thereof (looking at you, Valeo), for their entrance onto the scene.
However, the UPSL is, as you may already know, enormous. There’s no way I could hold your attention for that long of a post with blurbs on every club that’s joining and give them all equal time in the spotlight.
So what I’ve decided to do instead is combine all the major national lower leagues into one newbie ranking.
In other words, it’s still going to be enormous.
Many clubs will just be listed as joining their new league and some will get honorable mention, but only the top seven will receive a number ranking.
Also, between past rankings and this one, my opinions may have changed based on what I’ve learned about certain clubs or my interactions with them on socials, so that would explain any discrepancy in ranking from previous posts on individual leagues.
For sake of clarity, here are the leagues that are being considered: NISA, NPSL, USL League One, USL League Two, and UPSL.
Another thing – women’s clubs weren’t included here simply because the UPSL bogged down the number of clubs enough as it was and the WPSL was the only league I would have considered. If you’re interested in a ranking for just the WPSL, let me know and I’ll do that as well!
Without further ado, let’s see who tops the list!
First, we have a list of clubs expanding, but not quite deserving of an honorable mention. No particular order here.
Hold your breath. They are many. Prepare yourself. Seriously, make sure you’re sitting with refreshments in close proximity. Here they are.
- Side 92 FC (UPSL)
- Laredo Heat 2 (UPSL)
- TFA Willamette (USL League Two)
- New England Revolution II (USL League One)
- East Atlanta FC (USL League Two)
- Austin United FC (NPSL)
- Sporting Detroit FC (UPSL)
- City Soccer Club (UPSL)
- USL1 Miami (USL League One)
- Greater Binghamton FC (UPSL)
- Grand Rapids FC (USL League Two)
- Wayne County Sporting (UPSL)
- West Chester United (USL League Two)
- Valeo FC (NPSL)
- Las Vegas Legends (NPSL)
- Inter Empire Republic FC (UPSL)
- Union Omaha (USL League One)
- Diaspora United Community Club (UPSL)
- North Alabama SC (NPSL)
- Florida Fusion SC (UPSL)
- Rebels FC (UPSL)
- SC Trojans FC (UPSL)
- Phliadelphia Lone Star (USL League Two)
- Monterey County SC (UPSL)
- Maplebrook 58ers (UPSL)
- Michigan Stars FC (NISA)
- IE United FC (UPSL)
- SSA Kings (USL League Two)
- Moros FC (UPSL)
- Maryland Bobcats (NPSL)
- Grand Haven Admirals (UPSL)
- Danbury Patriots (UPSL)
- New Mexico United U23 (USL League Two)
- Colo Colo Soccer USA (UPSL)
- Red River FC (UPSL)
- Louisville City U23 (USL League Two)
- Twin Cities United (UPSL)
- Peoria City(USL League Two)
- Royal Palms SC (UPSL)
- Adrestia FC (UPSL)
- Muskegon Risers (NPSL)
- Orlando Rovers FC (UPSL)
- Colorado Rush (USL League Two)
- Monterrey Rayados Irving (UPSL)
- Tacoma Stars (NPSL)
- Cruizers FC (UPSL)
- Tampa Bay Rowdies U23 (USL League Two)
- Mount Vernon FC (UPSL)
Now for the well-deserved honorable mentions. Again, no particular order:
- Pensacola FC, NPSL: Surging men’s side to a team that’s absolutely obliterated the women’s game. Should be interesting to see if the men can follow suit.
- Carpathia FC, NPSL: Strong German heritage, community-friendly, and no cost of admission in their first NPSL season.
- Port City FC, NPSL: Fun community focus in a cool location for lower-league soccer, and a positive history in the GCPL to boot.
- Fort Wayne FC, NPSL: Beautiful branding and nice community focus. Doesn’t get much better than that!
- South Bend Lions FC, USL League Two: Quietly building one of the cooler new clubs in the land this year. Plenty of interest in the city surrounding the team, and they also have a Chief Happiness Officer, so yeah.
- First State Midnight Riders FC, NPSL: Nice social media presence and a fun, unique name. Good combo to start off NPSL life with.
- Asheville City SC, USL League Two: Awesome support group in a great location for lower-league soccer. Pretty solid results in NPSL as well, so should be intriguing to watch their level of success in USL2.
- Inter Detroit FC, UPSL: Pretty strong social media game for the UPSL, and an intentional focus on diversity that sets them apart from other expansion clubs.
- Davis Legacy SC, UPSL: Cool overarching goals for this club that are pretty unique, especially within their youth system. Hopefully their UPSL provides them with even more high-level opportunities.
- Central FL Mix, UPSL: A basketball club starting a soccer team? It’s 2020, why the heck not. Cool concept and a team that could really succeed right off the bat.
- United Serbian SC, UPSL: It’s just wicked cool to see a lower-league soccer club Tweeting in English and Serbian at the same time. Probably the only place in lower-league US soccer you’ll see that.
- MPLS City II, UPSL: Because you know anything the Crows do is gonna be good.
- Project 51O, NPSL: Because you know anything Oakland Roots does is gonna be good (also they’ve got an awesome plan laid out for the club’s community impact as Oakland’s second team).
- FC Bascome Bermuda, USL League Two: They’re from Bermuda, so that’s already pretty cool, and they get to give the island nation another shot at an American lower-league after a former team there folded.
And finally, the moment you’ve been reading for hours on end to get to: the top seven expansion clubs in the entire country for the 2020 season! These ones are in order for a change.
#7: AFC Ann Arbor – Ann Arbor, MI | USL League Two:
As they’re affectionately known, the Mighty Oak has an excellent track record both on and off the field from NPSL, so I expect nothing less in their new league home. That’s saying nothing about the wonderful job the club has done with branding and gear. They’ve got some of the most beautiful kits in lower-league soccer, and a squad quality and club mentality that make the kit worth wearing with pride. Ann Arbor is a high-level club that should compete immediately in a strong 2020 USL2 season this summer.
#6: River City SC – San Marcos, TX | UPSL
There are so many cool quirks to this club. It’s a father-son duo that operates the team, first of all. The father is a seasoned firefighter and the son served in the US Army. Their main purpose of existence is to make high-level soccer available to everyone in their community of San Marcos, Texas. As a result, River City is fully funded and totally free of charge for players, which is truly special thing at this level of soccer. And San Marcos? Perfect place for a UPSL club. Fun town with a good international culture and ripe for a small soccer team to support. I’m fully on board and SmallWorld is officially #ForgedByTheWater! Well done across the board, River City SC.
#5: AFC Mobile – Mobile, AL | NPSL
Last time, we really gave Mobile the short end of the stick in SmallWorld’s NPSL expansion post. Since then, I’ve discovered a lot about the club’s high-quality community efforts, ambitious expectations on the field, and fantastic support. It’s a great area to bring NPSL soccer to, and a great club to bring it to them. I could see them succeeding right away in their new league and becoming a new Chattanooga or Detroit City sometime down the road. Expecting big things from Mobile!
#4: Tallahassee SC – Tallahassee, FL | NPSL
Since the previously-mentioned NPSL expansion post, nothing has changed in Tallahasse. I can’t think of a better way to rephrase what I’ve already said about the club previously since it still holds true now. So I’ll just plaigarize my own work, I guess. Tallahassee SC is a legit member of the lower-league soccer community that could build a fantastic following and a worthy on-field product. They have a pervasive community feel, a cool stadium with history, and a leader who’s pretty relateable. Then there’s their supporters group, the Olde Fields Battalion, and the history behind their motto, #ToTheGoal. I love it all and I can hardly contain my interest and excitement in the on-field product as well as the off-field impact that Tallahassee will have on its surrounding area.
#3: Oakland County FC – Clawson, MI | USL League Two
This is the type of club that could come into a league for the first time and instantly become the class of that league. I think they’re poised to do so already, at least from an off-field perspective. Their presence is fantastic on socials, they’ve built up a good following, their branding, marketing, and presentation are absolutely brilliant, and I love the community involvement I’m seeing from the club already, three months before they even play a match. Top three material for certain.
#2: Chattanooga FC – Chattanooga, TN | NISA
Some of the most passionate fans in the country belong to the boys in blue, and that’s for very good reason. It’s a community-focused club through and through with one of the best matchday atmospheres on offer in lower-league soccer, and the small army Chattanooga has amassed on social media makes its presence felt strongly in the US grassroots soccer arena. They’ve gained attention from across the world, and deservedly so; Chattanooga could well be described as the gold standard of what American soccer should be.
#1: Detroit City FC – Detroit, Michigan | NISA
What is there to say? Not much compares to the Northern Guard in the grassroots supporter sphere. The team itself has been nothing if not successful on the field, consistently proving its merit as a team that’s at the quality level of D3-sanctioned NISA. More than all that, the club represents its locale, its mission of diversity and growth of the game, and has one of the edgiest, most individual personalities of any club in the world. Impossible to put anyone in front of them.
Well, that about does it for one of the longer-winded efforts SmallWorld has ever seen! Hope you enjoyed it, and if you did, make sure to let me know on SmallWorld Social!
And given that the nature of this post is quite competitive, I’d also love to hear your personal thoughts on what the ranking should have looked like. Who didn’t make it in the top seven that should have? Who should have been #1?
Thanks as always for reading and for supporting lower-league soccer. And always remember:
Support local soccer, unify those around you, and seek out diversity!