by JAKE NUTTING
The patience of supporters of NASL and USL teams will continue to be tested as the U.S. Soccer Federation has again delayed a final decision on the question of which league will be sanctioned as the second division.
A spokesperson for USSF confirmed to Matt Glenesk of Indy Star on Tuesday that talks between the federation and the two leagues are likely to continue through the end of the year. USSF had initially announced in a statement on December 6 that it had hoped to have a decision in the next 7-10 days.
— Matt Glenesk (@MattGlenesk) December 20, 2016
Maintaining second division status appears to be the deciding factor for the future of the NASL. The NASL’s hopes of continuing on as the second division looked to be in doubt two weeks ago, but the extension of a final decision could suggest the league’s odds have since improved. Despite the confirmed loss of Minnesota United FC, Ottawa Fury FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies, as well as uncertain futures for the New York Cosmos, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Rayo OKC, and the Jacksonville Armada FC, a core group of owners have been rallying to stop the bleeding and push through expansion groups.
Meanwhile, the USL’s prospect of moving up from the third to the second division could be dwindling. The ambitious league was confident in its bid to receiving an upgrade in sanctioning this offseason, but USSF is said to be hesitant to move the league up given the large number of MLS reserve teams in its ranks.
While the USL has nearly three times as many teams as the NASL, a significant number of the USL’s teams do not meet the current standards set by USSF for the second division. Both leagues would need waivers to receive sanctioning for the second division, but the federation’s preference is said to be maintaining the status quo for the time being.
The hold up in sanctioning likely means that neither the NASL nor USL will be able to finalize their schedules or start building their roster in earnest until the new year..