American soccer writing, history & data.
In mid-1996, the USISL incorporated in Florida as USISL, Inc. which led to a merger between the USISL and the Division II American Professional Soccer League (aka the A-League) which was completed in October of 1996. The new A-League would be a division of the USISL beginning with the 1997 season. The USISL A-League was sanctioned by the USSF as a Division II professional league and was the highest level of professional soccer in Canada.
Following the merger, the other leagues under the USISL umbrella were renamed and the names "APSL" and "Select League" disappeared following the 1996 season. The amateur USWISL was renamed the USISL W-League.
USISL founder and owner, Francisco Marcos, was the CEO of USISL, Inc. and commissioner of the new USISL A-League. He had the power to name commissioners for the other USISL leagues. USISL, Inc. was led by a board of directors comprised of five people.
Umbro was a major sponsor of both the USISL and the APSL and brought the two leagues together in negotiation. As part of the merger, Umbro and the USISL completed an agreement where Umbro became a 60% equity partner of USISL. The USISL, Inc. board of directors was formed from three representatives from Umbro, Francisco Marcos, and one person designated by Marcos.
Prior to the 1997 season, the W-League had its most stable offseason to date. Ten expansion teams ere added while only two teams did not return. This meant that the W-League had 32 teams split into five divisions.
The schedule began in May and ran through July. Teams played 10 league games plus two or three non-leaguie games which would count in the standings if a league game had to be canceled. In mid-July, the Dallas Lightning and California Storm met in the U.S. Women's Open Cup Final in Portland, Ore. Dallas would win the match 4-2 to take home their second straight USWOC title.
The W-League National Championship Tournament would be held August 1st through 3rd at SUNY Brockport outside of Rochester, N.Y. As hosts, the Rochester Ravens received an automatic bid to the tournament. The other five slots would be awarded to the divisional playoff winners. The California Storm, Chicago Cobras, Long Island Lady Riders, Maryland Pride, and Atlanta Classics would win their divisional playoff games and take part in the tournament.
The six teams would be split into two groups of three. Each group would play a round robin stage with the top team from each group making it to the final. Long Island and Chicago would qualify out of their groups. On August 3, the Long Island Lady Riders would win the 1997 W-League National Championship Tournament final over the Chicago Cobras 2-1 in a shootout.
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