by JAKE NUTTING
The North American Soccer League and United Soccer League fought bitterly to beat the other out for divsion two sanctioning. Now both will have to settle for sharing it in 2017 and work toward proving they deserve to keep it.
After over a month of delays, drama and speculation, the U.S. Soccer Federation has elected to provisionally sanction both the NASL and USL in 2017. The decision gives each league time to sort out their respective issues that kept each from fully meeting second division standards.
“After an exhaustive process working with both leagues, in the best interest of the sport the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors has decided to grant provisional Division II status to the NASL and USL,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. “U.S. Soccer will create an internal working group that will work with each league to set a pathway to meet the full requirements for Division II and allow for the larger goal of creating a sustainable future. We look forward to another productive year for professional soccer in this country.”
With several teams voluntarily leaving the NASL and others facing financial uncertainty, the provisional sanctioning allows the league to maintain its place in the pyramid as it works to stabilize and forge a new path forward. Only six teams have committed ownership in place to compete in the league at the moment, but it has been reported that the league will step in to run Jacksonville Armada FC and the New York Cosmos could also return if their sale to Rocco Commisso goes through. Commissio would only commit to buying the Cosmos if they remained in the NASL and the league stayed in the second division.
The USL gets what it wanted all along by moving up from the country’s third-tier after an exhaustive application process, but it will not have the status outright and still has work to accomplish if it hopes to keep it. Hesitancy on the part of MLS to see its USL reserve teams move up to the second division, as well as a significant portion of the league’s teams not meeting several crucial standards threatened the USL’s chances at the second division. Now, like the NASL, the USL has more time to resolve the concerns raised by the federation during the application process.
“We would like to thank U.S. Soccer for taking the time to work through this process and provide us with provisional sanctioning for Division II in 2017,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. “We welcome the opportunity to work closely with U.S. Soccer to meet all the Division II standards in the near future and continue to be part of the impressive growth of the sport in the United States.”
U.S. Soccer is now expected to work closely with both leagues throughout the year to establish goals for each league to meet in order to remain in the second division. The exact details of those benchmarks have yet to be determined.