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An expansion boom led the United State Interregional Soccer League to nearly double in size for the 1993 outdoor season. The league added 24 expansion franchises bringing the total to 43 teams. The USISL made its way up the East Coast adding a nine-team Atlantic Division that included teams from South Carolina all the way up to Connecticut. The USISL also awarded a number of new franchises in 1993 for teams that would begin play in 1994. These included the Boston Storm, Cape Cod Crusaders, Melbourne Crush, Milwaukee Rampage, Minnesota Thunder, and Philadelphia Freedom.
In November of 1992, the USISL voted to pursue an application with the USSF become a Division III league in the Professional Division. This would official make it the nation's entry-level professional league. Ultimately, commissioner Francisco Marcos decided to petition the USSF for Division III status for the next season. As such, for the 1993 season, the USISL remained classified as a regional amateur league affiliated with Region III and Region IV of the USSF.
But, the USISL was not a fully amateur organization. The USISL was looking to evolve into a two-tier system over the next two seasons with leagues for both professional and amateur/semi-professional teams. While the majority of teams in the USISL were amateur clubs, in the 1993 season a number of them played as professional sides.
The USISL made an agreement with the NCAA to be considered an "experimental" league containing a mix of professional and amateur teams. As such, college players could participate in the league without losing their NCAA eligibility as long as they played on an entirely amateur team. This led to a wide range of budgets for the 1993 season. On the high side, teams such as the Dallas Rockets (who paid players between $300 and $500 per game) and Connecticut Wolves had $300,000 budgets. On the low side some teams had $50,000 budgets. The Palo Alto Firebirds only had a $20,000 budget when they won the 1992 title but upped its budget to nearly $50,000 for the 1993 season.
Teams such as the Baltimore Bays, Dallas Rockets, El Paso Patriots, Greensboro Dynamo, and Orlando Lions were professional clubs during the 1993 USISL season. For the 1994 season, Marcos planned to ask the USSF to intercede in talks with the NCAA in hopes of continuing the league's status as an "experimental" league then break into two separate divisions in 1995 = one professional and one amateur.
With so many franchises, the USISL broke into five divisions of seven to nine teams each. Four teams from the Deep South (Birmingham Grasshoppers, Jacksonville Fury, Montgomery Capitals, and New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers) were originally slotted in to those divisions but ended up playing a shortened season in a separate Southern Challenge Cup division. The games against teams in other divisions counted in the overall standings but the Southern Challenge Cup teams could not take part in the league playoffs. New Orleans won the Southern Challenge Cup final.
As with prior years, a very small number of teams competed in the National Open Cup which took place during the early part of the regular season. These included the Orlando Lions, Dallas Rockets and Tyler Lightning. The Rockets went the farthest of the USISL clubs falling the Region IV Final on May 22, 1993.
The 1993 USISL playoffs were an expansive affair with four to five teams taking part in each division's playoffs to determine which franchises would make it to the Sizzlin' Six stage. An obscure rule in the USISL constitution led to an odd playoff match. According to that rule, if a 5th-place team finished within nine points of a 4th-place team, the 5th-place team could challenge the fourth-place team to a midweek match for the last division playoff berth. The Charleston Battery used that rule to force a play-in game for the Atlantic Division playoffs. But the fourth-place Richmond Kickers ended up beating the Battery 2-0.
As host, Southeast Division winners Orlando Lions received a berth in the Sizzlin' Six. The runner-up Atlanta Lasers won that division's playoffs to also make it into the Sizzlin' Six. The Dallas Rockets pulled a mild upset winning the South Central Division playoff after finishing the regular season in third place. Three other division winners also advanced out of their playoffs to the Sizzlin' Six: Greensboro Dynamo; San Jose Hawks; and East Los Angeles Cobras. The latter two clubs had connections to professional Division II teams in the American Professional Soccer League.
The San Jose Hawks were formerly the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks. That team's owner, Dan Van Voorhis, left the APSL after the 1992 season. Van Vorhis felt the APSL was not doing enough to position itself to become the nation's Division I league and eventually landed in the USISL while waiting for the professional landscape to settle down. The East Los Angeles Cobras was the reserve team for the Los Angeles Salsa. The Salsa was an APSL expansion franchise starting in the 1993 season.
Four of the Sizzlin' Six were professional sides. That and the group format meant the Dallas Rockets had to face two professionals teams while Greensboro got to match up with the two amateur teams. That discrepancy showed as the Greensboro Dynamo dominated its amateur opponents beating East Los Angeles 4-0 and Atlanta 9-0 while the Rockets were bounced out after losing to San Jose and Orlando.
Orlando and San Jose also won both of their matches. But Greensboro and Orlando made it to the USISL final due to goal differential: Greensboro with +13; Orlando with +6; and San Jose missed out with +5. On August 15, Greensboro Dynamo beat the Orlando Lions 2-1 to win the 1993 USISL outdoor season.
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