American soccer writing, history & data.
The USISL had gone through a regular rotation of names since its founding in 1986. But, in the offseason before the 1999, the organization changed its name to the United Soccer Leagues. That name would stick as the organization continues to call itself to this day. The Premier Development Soccer League would get a slight name change becoming simply the Premier Development League.
The USL PDL would grow from 37 to 42 teams from the 1998 to 1999 seasons. The growth was due to both the addition of expansion franchises as well as teams moving down from the USL D3 Pro League. Chief among those was the Chicago Sockers. That team had won the 1998 D3 Pro League as the Chicago Stingers. The Stingers accepted the option to promoted to the USL A-League but postponed that move for a season. In the interim, the club dropped down to the PDL as the Sockers to get ready for play in the A-League in 2000.
The USL PDL was split into three conferences with two divisions in each conference. Teams would play a 16-game schedule with playoffs to follow. The defending champion Jackson Chargers continued as the best team in the east. The Mid Michigan Bucks and Twin Cities Tornado were the best teams in the Central Conference (with the Chicago Sockers close behind). And the Willamette Valley Firebirds (returned from a two-year hiatus) and San Fernando Valley Heroes (formerly the Valley Golden Eagles of the D3 Pro League) the best teams in the west.
The Central Conference had a number of tough teams and the playoffs proved that. The Sioux City Breeze upset host Mid Michigan 2-1 in the conference semifinals and the Chicago Sockers upset the Twin Cities Tornado in the other conference semifinal. The Sockers went on to beat the Breeze to win the Central Conference.
The Spokane Shadow hosted the Final Four playoffs. The Shadow upset the Willamentte Valley Firebirds 2-1 in one semifinal and the Chicago Sockers beat the top team in the east, the New York Freedom, 1-0 in the other semifinal. A year after winning the D3 Pro League as the Stingers, the Chicago Sockers won the 1999 USL PDL championship by beating the host Spokane Shadow 3-1 before 3843 at Joe Albi Stadium.
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