The United Soccer League (USL), one of the most prominent Division II professional leagues in the world, officially announced Wednesday that the 2018 season will feature a handful of new rules which were vetted by the various Competition Subcommittees and subsequently approved by the full Technical Committee meeting at the annual meetings in Orlando earlier this month/last month.
“We are pleased to continue the evolution of the USL’s rules to bring our league in line with top domestic and international competition, and offer greater roster flexibility to our clubs,” said USL President Jake Edwards. “The changes the league’s rules have undergone over recent seasons have occurred thanks to close collaboration with our clubs and will deliver the highest level of competition on the pitch for our fans.”
On the field, USL regular-season games will now be considered official only upon reaching the 70th minute of the contest, with the rule having previously allowed games to be declared official after the completion of the first half. All games in the USL Cup Playoffs will continue to be played to conclusion.
Contests in the USL Cup Playoffs will now allow a fourth substitute to be used in extra time. The fourth substitution must occur prior to the final whistle in extra time and will not be permitted in the break between the end of the contest and a penalty shootout.
Off the field, teams will now be permitted to trade or sell international roster spots within the league for the duration of a season. Following the conclusion of the season, all rosters will reset to seven international roster spots per team.
The league has also introduced an Injured Reserve position to its rosters, allowing clubs to retain a player who has suffered a medically-verified season-ending injury without using a roster position. Each club will have one available IR spot for the season.
In gameday rules, teams will now submit a 23-player squad at least 48 hours before kickoff of each game, reduced from 27 players a season ago. Additionally, a team’s 18-player gameday roster may now contain a maximum of five players signed to USL Academy contracts.