ST. PETERSBURG - The Tampa Bay Rowdies announced today that the club will be joining the United Soccer League (USL) for the 2017 season.

“We are excited to join the United Soccer League in 2017,” said chairman and CEO Bill Edwards. “I have said from the day I acquired controlling interest in this club that I wanted to make it one of the most successful teams in North America..

“The USL is a vibrant league, and this move is a necessary and positive step toward reaching the long-term goals and objectives of the club.”

Alec Papadakis, CEO of the USL, said the league saw adding the Rowdies as a strategic move.

“This allows us to expand our footprint into the Southeast with a storied soccer brand while meeting our key tenets of market size, committed local ownership and stadium development.”

Bill Peterson, commissioner of the Rowdies' former league, the North American Soccer League, released a statement saying, "As a league in North America, the NASL operates in an environment where owners are free to take their clubs wherever they choose. All we can do is acknowledge that reality and move forward with our business, which is exactly what we're doing right now."

The USL welcomed six new teams in 2016 and will add Reno 1868 FC in 2017 and Nashville SC for 2018. The league’s teams are divided into two conferences - Eastern and Western - with each team playing 32 regular season games for the 2017 season that kicks-off on the weekend of March 24-26.

The Rowdies are expected to be placed in the Eastern Conference.