CHICAGO – For the third time this week, the National Independent Soccer Association Friday has affiliated with an amateur league.

On Friday, it was with the Eastern Premier Soccer League.

It follows partnership agreements with the Gulf Coast Premier League and the Midwest Premier League.

“This affiliation allows both organizations a chance to strengthen our positions as champions of player and game development,” NISA executive vice president of expansion Josh Prutch said in a statement. “The EPSL is visibly just as dedicated as we are to growing independent soccer through the open system where advancement is decided on the pitch.”

As with the other recent agreements, NISA will allow EPSL at least two merit-based spots in the annual NISA Independent Cup tournament. EPSL also will be an active participant on the NISA Alliance Board, which manages the interconnectedness of the growing number of affiliates.

The EPSL, jointly headquartered in Fairview, N.J., and Towson, Md., is a league aligned with NISA’s focus on advancement through sporting merit. Last July, EPSL announced agreements with the Cosmopolitan Soccer League in the New York metropolitan area and the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. to establish the first regional based, multi-league promotion and relegation system in the United States. The EPSL is in active discussions to partner with other elite local leagues as feeder leagues.

“It is our mission to serve our players and clubs by finding the best alliances and opportunities to grow,” EPSL president Bill George said in a statement. “Our clubs include some of the best amateur teams in the country including national champions and clubs that have qualified for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The EPSL’s affiliation with NISA enhances what we are building. Now local clubs from the Cosmopolitan Soccer League and Maryland Majors not only have the opportunity to promote to regional league in the EPSL, but now they have a clear path to professional soccer and the opportunities and exposure that come with competing in the NISA Independent Cup.”

The EPSL has 16 teams from across New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania (the Metropolitan Conference), and Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia (the Mid-Atlantic Conference) areas.

It’s teams include: Metropolitan Conference: Cedar Stars Academy, Doxa SC, KidSuper Samba AC, Lansdowne Yonkers FC, NY Athletic Club, NY Greek Americans, NY Pancyprian Freedoms, Philadelphia Lone Star FC, Seft FC, Sporting Astoria SC, and Zum Schneider 03 and the Mid-Atlantic Conference: AC Commonwealth, Maryland Bobcats FC, Northern Virginia FC, Steel Pulse FC, and VA United .

“EPSL has made a big splash in a relatively short period of time and are true believers in the open system,” NISA commissioner John Prutch said in a statement. “We’re truly becoming an association of independent leagues and clubs with a shared vision. EPSL’s great leadership will add significantly to our unified voice in the future of soccer in this country.”