The United Soccer Leagues First Division (often referred to as simply, USL-1) is a professional men's soccer league in North America. It is the second tier of soccer in the United States and Canada league pyramid behind Major League Soccer. It is managed by the United Soccer Leagues (USL). It was known as the A-League until 2004, having formed from teams from the original A-League.
Unlike most other nations, there is currently no system of merit-based promotion and relegation in the American and Canadian pyramids, meaning that the champions of USL-1 cannot move up to Major League Soccer and, similarly, the worst teams in MLS are not in danger of being demoted to USL-1. However, some USL-1 teams have in the past chosen to take voluntary relegation to a lower level of the USL system, often to reduce operating costs, while teams have also decided to move up to USL-1 after finding success at the lower levels.
In 1996, the United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues established the new Select League consisting of its strongest teams from its professional FIFA Division 3 sanctioned Pro League and its amateur Premier League in hopes of gaining FIFA Division 2 sanctioning. The next season, the Select League and the independent Division 2 A-League merged to form a new A-League under the USISL umbrella. In 1999 the umbrella USISL changed its name to the United Soccer Leagues and in 2005 the league took its current name as the USL First Division.
As announced on February 22, 2007, the USL-1 will now be doing live Videocasts through a partnership with Turner Broadcasting. The matches, of which not all can be found on traditional broadcast or cable television distribution, will be available on the new broadband channel USL Live at www.USLLive.com, which launched early April 2007. The league also has a television deal with Fox Soccer Channel in the US and Canada, showing a "Game of the Week" from USL-1.
In 1998, the A-League consisted of 28 teams. By 2006, only 12 remained in the USL First Division. For the most part, the teams that left dropped down to lower classifications, such as the USL Second Division and Premier Development League. These teams generally dropped down to rid themselves of the high costs of travel and player payrolls.
There is some speculation that several First Division clubs are waiting for the top-tier Major League Soccer to expand, in hopes that they will be given the opportunity move up. The First Division does not have the promotion/relegation system common in most countries' football pyramids, although teams theoretically could move up if they meet MLS' criteria for expansion franchises. The costs of moving to a higher division are usually not recouped with higher attendance at the First Division level.
On January 26, 2006, the USL announced that it was expanding USL First Division in 2007 to include a new team in Cary, North Carolina. The Cary franchise, since named the Carolina RailHawks, hosted an exhibition schedule in 2006 in advance of its first full league schedule in 2007. On May 16, 2006, it was also announced that the USL would place a team in Northern California under the ownership of Dmitry Piterman, chairman of Spanish team Deportivo Alavés. The Northern Californian team, the California Victory, folded after the end of the 2007 season, playing only one season. Other possible cities mentioned for future campaigns include Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Syracuse, New York. Syracuse had had a highly-attended team from 2002–2004, but it folded due to stadium issues, having ground-shared with the local baseball team. Ft. Lauderdale also has a history of teams from the NASL, ASL, and USL First Division. There is also discussion that Argentinian team River Plate is interested in putting a second USL team in Puerto Rico.
On March 30, 2007 the Virginia Beach Mariners team folded just prior to the start of the 2007 season due to an ownership dispute which left the team without financing.
The Seattle Sounders will be cut from the 2009 season due to the entrance of the MLS team Seattle Sounders FC. In November 2008, the Atlanta Silverbacks announced that they would sit out the 2009 season to "reassess the landscape," and would possibly return at a future date.  Also, the Cleveland City Stars, who won the USL Second Division title in 2008, are voluntarily moving up to USL-1 for the 2009 season. 
On June 19, 2008, an announcement was made that an expansion franchise had been awarded to Tampa Bay, Florida. The plan is for the club to join the league in 2010 and be named the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The main investors are Andrew Nestor (CEO) and Hinds Howard (Chairman) of Citrus Ventures.
On December 17, 2008, Tony Glavin, the owner and head coach of the USL Premier Development League franchise St. Louis Lions announced his intention for the team to turn professional and join the USL First Division in time for the 2010 season. . There are also rumors, particularly in Spanish-language media in Mexico, that Orlando, Florida, may receive a USL team, sponsored by Mexican First Division side C.F. Pachuca, in 2010.  An official announcement from the USL on either matter has yet to be made.
|Austin Aztex||2008||Red, White, Blue||Nelson Field||Austin, Texas|
|Carolina RailHawks||2006||Blue, Orange||WakeMed Soccer Park||The Triangle, North Carolina|
|Charleston Battery||1993||Yellow, Black||Blackbaud Stadium||Charleston, South Carolina|
|Cleveland City Stars||2007||Green, White, Black||Krenzler Field||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Miami FC||2005||Blue, Orange||Tropical Park Stadium||Miami, Florida|
|Minnesota Thunder||1990||Navy Blue, Light Blue, Silver, White||National Sports Center||Minneapolis-St. Paul|
|Montreal Impact||1993||Blue, White, Black||Saputo Stadium||Quebec (whole)|
|Portland Timbers||2001||Green, White, Yellow||PGE Park||Portland, Oregon|
|Puerto Rico Islanders||2003||Orange, White, Green||Estadio Juan Ramón Loubriel||Puerto Rico (whole)|
|Rochester Rhinos||1996||Green, Black, Gold||PAETEC Park||Western New York|
|Vancouver Whitecaps||1986||White, Blue||Swangard Stadium||British Columbia (whole)|
In 2008, the top seven teams will advance to the playoff tournament, with the Commissioner’s Cup winner (regular season champion) receiving a bye into the semi-finals.
The first round, which should be played September 26 and 28, will involve the #2 - #7 seeds competing in two-leg aggregate score series, with the three winners advancing to semi-finals, and the #1 seed pitted against the lowest remaining seed.
The semi-final series should take place October 3 and 5, and the championship final will be played Saturday October 11, 2008.
Stars indicate derby titles won
Note: The point systems used throughout the league's history has changed. The league first started using the standard points system (3 points for a win, 1 for a draw) in 2003.
|Season||Winner||Record (W-L-T)||Points||Playoff||Results (W-L-T)||Runners-Up||Record (W-L-T)||Points|
|2008 USL D-1||Puerto Rico Islanders||15-6-9||54||Lost in final||0-0-0||Vancouver Whitecaps||15-7-8||53|
|2007 USL D-1||Seattle Sounders||16-6-6||54||Won Championship||4-1-0||Portland Timbers||14-5-9||51|
|2006 USL D-1||Montreal Impact||14-5-9||51||Lost in semifinal series||0-1-1||Rochester Raging Rhinos||13-4-11||50|
|2005 USL D-1||Montreal Impact||18-3-7||61||Lost in semifinal series||0-1-1||Rochester Raging Rhinos||15-7-6||51|
|2004 A-League||Portland Timbers||18-7-3||57||Lost in conference semifinal series overtime||1-1-0||Montreal Impact||17-6-5||56|
|2003 A-League||Milwaukee Wave United||18-10-0||54||Lost in division final series overtime||1-1-0||Montreal Impact||16-6-6||54|
|2002 A-League||Seattle Sounders||23-4-1||107||Lost in conference semifinal series||0-2-0||Charleston Battery||19-3-6||89|
|2001 A-League||Richmond Kickers||16-7-3||76||Lost in quarterfinal series||0-2-0||Hershey Wildcats||16-7-3||75|
|2000 A-League||Minnesota Thunder||20-4-4||99||Lost in final||4-2-0||Milwaukee Rampage||18-9-1||89|
|1999 A-League||Rochester Raging Rhinos||22-6||92||Lost in final||5-3||San Diego Flash||20-8||90|
|1998 A-League||Rochester Raging Rhinos||24-4||70||Won Championship||6-0||San Diego Flash||21-7||61|
|1997 A-League||Montreal Impact||21-7||61||Lost in conference final series||3-2||Hershey Wildcats||19-9||55|
|1996 APSL||Montreal Impact||21-6||55||Lost in semifinal||0-1||Colorado Foxes||16-11||44|
|1995 APSL||Montreal Impact||17-7||51||Lost in semifinal series||1-2||Seattle Sounders||18-6||51|
|1994 APSL||Seattle Sounders||14-6||121||Lost in semifinal series||1-2||Los Angeles Salsa||12-8||106|
|1993 APSL||Vancouver 86ers||15-9||126||Lost in semifinals in shootout||0-1||Colorado Foxes||15-9||121|
|1992 APSL||Colorado Foxes||11-5||89||Won Championship||2-0||Tampa Bay Rowdies||10-6||87|
|1991 APSL||Maryland Bays||19-2||158||Lost in semifinal series||1-2||San Francisco Bay Blackhawks||17-4||126|
|1990 APSL||Different point systems used in each conference|
|1985 - 1989 :||Two independent leagues|
|2008 USL D-1||Vancouver Whitecaps||2-1||Puerto Rico Islanders||Alex Afonso||Miami FC||15|
|2007 USL D-1||Seattle Sounders||4-0||Atlanta Silverbacks||Sébastien Le Toux and Charles Gbeke||Seattle Sounders and Montreal Impact||10|
|2006 USL D-1||Vancouver Whitecaps||3-0||Rochester Raging Rhinos||Romário De Souza-Faria and Cam Weaver||Miami FC and Seattle Sounders||18|
|2005 USL D-1||Seattle Sounders||1-1 (PK)||Richmond Kickers||Jason Jordan||Vancouver Whitecaps||17|
|2004 A-League||Montreal Impact||2-0||Seattle Sounders||Alan Gordon and Dante Washington||Portland Timbers and Virginia Beach Mariners||17|
|2003 A-League||Charleston Battery||3-0||Minnesota Thunder||Thiago Martins||Pittsburgh Riverhounds||22|
|2002 A-League||Milwaukee Rampage||2-1 (2OT)||Richmond Kickers||Fadi Afash, Eduardo Sebrango, and McKinley Tennyson||Portland Timbers, Montreal Impact, and Portland Timbers||18|
|2001 A-League||Rochester Raging Rhinos||2-0||Hershey Wildcats||Paul Conway||Charleston Battery||22|
|2000 A-League||Rochester Raging Rhinos||3-1||Minnesota Thunder||Paul Conway, Greg Howes, and Johnny Menyongar||Charleston Battery, Seattle Sounders, and Minnesota Thunder||17|
|1999 A-League||Minnesota Thunder||2-1||Rochester Raging Rhinos||Mark Baena and Niall Thompson||Seattle Sounders and Vancouver 86ers||20|
|1998 A-League||Rochester Raging Rhinos||3-1||Minnesota Thunder||Mark Baena||Seattle Sounders||24|
|1997 A-League||Milwaukee Rampage||1-1 (SO)||Carolina Dynamo||Doug Miller||Rochester Raging Rhinos||23|
|1996 APSL||Seattle Sounders||2-0||Rochester Raging Rhinos||Doug Miller||Rochester Raging Rhinos||18|
|1995 APSL||Seattle Sounders||2-1 (SO)||Atlanta Ruckus||Peter Hattrup||Seattle Sounders||11|
|1994 APSL||Montreal Impact||1-0||Colorado Foxes||Paul Wright||Los Angeles Salsa||12|
|Club||Championships||Runners-up||Regular Season Championships|
|Puerto Rico Islanders||0||1||1|
|Milwaukee Wave United||0||0||1|