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USL to expand to 34-game regular season in 2018

League to retain two-conference format next year.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Columbus Crew SC at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

USL announced on Thursday the approval of a 34-game regular season schedule for the 2018 season, following approval of the plan at the league’s midseason meetings.

The season, tabbed to start in mid-March, will last 31 weeks, ending in mid-October. This expansion will make USL’s season its longest yet, with two additional games on the docket compared to this season’s schedule, but that’s little surprise considering the league is bigger than it has even been, too.

Additionally, while there had been rumors USL would go to a three-conference set-up, with the number of teams presumably going over 30 next year, the league announced they would remain in a two-conference format next year, with 16 teams (presumably eight from each conference) reaching the USL Cup Playoffs, with the final coming the weekend of November 9-11, 2018.

The league’s release on the news noted three new teams will enter the league next season, with Nashville and Fresno already announced and Las Vegas expected to be the third team.

But it must be noted that the league, while expanding rapidly the past few years, has also experienced surprise teams, like NASL defectors Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury, jumping over at the 11th hour, or teams like the Wilimington Hammerheads and FC Montreal, dropping down a division or folding altogether, respectively. Perhaps in all of those prior cases, USL knew these changes were going to happen well in advance, but given the recent track record, don’t be surprised if the current projection of 33 teams for 2018 grows or shrinks ahead of March 2018.

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