Following an announcement from the North American Soccer League (NASL) that the league was cancelling its 2018 season, 1904 FC issued a statement on Tuesday that the club was “finalizing an agreement” with the United Soccer League (USL) to begin playing in the USL’s 2019 season. “The USL has grown tremendously over the past few years to become one of the most competitive leagues in our country”, 1904 FC said in the statement. “We believe joining them is the best decision to bring professional football to our fans.”
1904 FC was originally slated to play as an expansion team in the NASL, but the NASL has begun to collapse following the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) decision to revoke the league’s Division II status in September of last year.
The NASL filed for a preliminary injunction against the USSF to challenge the decision, but the injunction was denied by the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday.
The league change brings something 1904 FC fans have had little of since the club’s creation: certainty. The USL provides stability that a new club needs to succeed, so now fans can look forward to opening day knowing that there will, in fact, be one. The USL has grown rapidly over the past few years, thanks to an aggressive expansion program. Many teams see the USL as a stepping stone to Major League Soccer, and when the USSF revoked the NASL’s second-division status in September, the USL was named the new second division in US Soccer.
1904 FC will become the 36th team in the USL, joining Birmingham Legion FC and a currently un-named team in Austin, TX as expansion teams for the 2019 season. North Carolina FC and Indy Eleven left the NASL to compete in the USL beginning in the 2018 season. 1904 FC may be joined by other current NASL teams in the coming days.
With 1904 FC’s competitive debut just over a year away, the club still has plenty of work to do before kickoff. The club said they will “continue to work hand-in-hand with the USL during this year to optimize our community engagement and club development.” If everything goes according to plan, the club’s stadium in Oceanside will be ready for the team’s inaugural match, as opposed to the club having to temporarily play at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium. Also, the club now has a full twelve months, including both the summer and winter international transfer windows, to put together a coaching staff and a team of players.
In their statement, the club also thanked fans for supporting the club during the uncertainty of the past months. “We truly appreciate the unwavering support from our community”, the club said. “Our club would not be possible without all of you.”
In the USL, 1904 FC will likely join the Western Conference, home to potential rivals LA Galaxy II, Las Vegas Lights FC, Orange County SC, and Phoenix Rising FC. Phoenix Rising is owned by Didier Drogba, a former Chelsea teammate of 1904 FC co-owner Eden Hazard.
The USL has yet to comment on 1904 FC’s statement, and the agreement has not yet been finalized.