As the United Soccer League continues to grow, the third-tier league's schedule will grow with it – and so could the number of conferences.
At last week's mid-year meeting in San Jose, California, the USL Board of Governors approved a regular-season schedule of 32 games over not more than 30 weeks beginning in 2017. The current schedule is 30 games over 27 weeks.
The league expanded by six teams this year, to 29, and will add Reno 1868 FC next year and Nashville FC in 2018. It is currently divided into two conferences, but the plan is to divide into three.
The expanded schedule will allow each team to play every other team in its conference at least twice, home and away. The remainder of the schedule will allow for additional regional rivalry matches, but teams will not play more than three times during the regular season. As with this season's format, the 2017 playoffs will include the top eight teams in each conference.
"After evaluating a number of proposals the League and its Competition Committee agreed on several changes that we felt would deliver value to our clubs through the extra home match," USL president Jake Edwards said in Monday's annoncement.
"Also, lengthening the season gives us greater flexibility to create a more balanced schedule with less midweek matches. We will continue to build our national footprint with a focus on regional rivalries and a roadmap to a three-conference alignment in the very near future."