The genetic diversity and frequent emergence of novel genetic variants of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus type-2 (PRRSV) hinders control efforts, yet drivers of macro-evolutionary patterns of PRRSV remain poorly documented. Utilizing a comprehensive database of >20,000 orf5 sequences, our objective was to classify variants according to the phylogenetic structure of PRRSV co-circulating in the U.S., quantify evolutionary dynamics of sub-lineageemergence, and describe potential antigenic differences among sub-lineages. We subdivided the most prevalent lineage (Lineage 1, accounting for approximately 60% of available sequences) into eight sub-lineages. Bayesian coalescent SkyGrid models were used to estimate each sub-lineage’s effective population size over time. We show that a new sub-lineage emerged every 1 to 4 years and that the time between emergence and peak population size was 4.5 years on average (range: 2–8 years). A pattern of sequential dominance of different sub-lineages was identified, with a new dominant sub-lineage replacing its predecessor approximately every 3 years. Consensus amino acid sequences for each sub-lineage differed in key GP5 sites related to host immunity, suggesting that sub-lineage turnover may be linked to immune-mediated competition. This has important implications for understanding drivers of genetic diversity and emergence of new PRRSV variants in the U.S.