USL Shuffle: Could SAFC move to the Eastern Conference?

There has been a lot of change in the USL Championship since the end of the end the 2020 season. While we see the expansion team Oakland Roots come up from the NISA, we have also seen the withdrawal of five clubs. What does it mean for the USL Championship moving forward? Could it affect San Antonio FC?

First things first….

The USL Championship is a league in flux. Since it’s inception; the USL has been been growing and reacting clubs. No following season has began the way it ended with the number of clubs or same conference alignment. This year, five clubs have departed the USL Championship and added one. The USL Championship now stands at 31 clubs.

The Dearly Departed….

North Carolina FC announced the approval of a new of a new 20,000 seat downtown stadium, a$1.9 billion dollar project, back in December 2020, then just three weeks later North Carolina FC announced it would move down to the USL League One.

Philadelphia Union II was part of a mini MLS2 team exodus from the USL Championship. They are still active as they have signed a handful of player for the 2021 season, although it’s still unclear in what league they will play. Speculation is that the MLS will remove all MLS2 clubs and form it’s own reserve league by 2022.

Portland Timbers 2 announced it was going on hiatus for 2021 and looking to return in 2022 but not in the USL. Business Operations ran by Hillsboro Hops will still be active while the club is in hiatus.

Reno 1868 FC finished the 2020 season with the most points in the USL Championship and just weeks later announced they had ceased operations and were folding to financial reasons.

St. Louis FC with one of the more popular supporter groups with the St. Louligans also folded this year, a club that bounced around conferences on a yearly basis was struggling financially and folded with the MLS St. Louis City SC coming in 2023.

The New Kid on the Block….

Oakland Roots, a former NISA club that has been popular in the bay area since day one is making the move to the USL Championship. The played Detroit City in the 2020 NISA final, losing 2-1 and before the pandemic they averaged over 5,500 fans per home match for the third division side.

How the Conferences currently shape up….

As it stands today, the USL Championship Eastern Conference sits with only 14 teams and the Western Conference has 17 teams. The USL will have a decision to make and it will likely look to balance the league. Either one or max two clubs could make the switch to the Eastern Conference. It would be temporary change as Queensboro and a Rhode Island based club will enter in 2022.

Who are the likely to switch?

Geographically there are five clubs to select the one or two that sit in the middle of country that would make sense to make the switch; FC Tulsa, Oklahoma City Energy, Austin Bold, San Antonio FC and RGV Toros FC.

Here the least likely to most likely to make the change….

5. RGV Toros – The club is still affiliated with the Houston Dynamo who play in the MLS Western Conference and would only make sense to keep the Toros geographically aligned with the Dynamo and the club sits the furthest from the closest Eastern Conference team.

4. Austin Bold – plays in the second largest population area of the five clubs and would be intriguing to see Austin make the move, it would not make much sense.

3. San Antonio FC – is affiliated with New York City FC and the jump would see SAFC making a road trip to the NYC Tri-State area when they play Red Bulls II, it would make it easier for the NYCFC front office see some SAFC players in person and possibly have a player like Joe Gallegos or Ollie Wright get noticed and make the move up to NYCFC. But with SAFC right between RGV and Austin Bold, a move seems unlikely but possible.

2. Oklahoma City Energy – if two clubs were to make the jump, OKC would certain make the move and follow….

  1. FC Tulsa – is the most logical choice to make the jump to the Eastern Conference for the 2021 season. They are less than a four hour drive to Kansas City, where the closet Eastern Conference club Sporting KC II play.

The USL Championship has yet to announce its schedule or conference alignment but is looking for a March 2021 start. For the latest on SAFC news, keep your tab open on soysaf.com

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