The United States Soccer Federation (USSF), the governing body for soccer in the US, has denied the North American Soccer League (NASL) second-tier status for the 2018 campaign.
Now in its seventh season, the NASL was founded in 2009, and first became active in 2011 with division two status. Earlier this year, however, the USSF promoted the United Soccer League (USL) from the third-tier category to second, and granted both the NASL and USL provisional division two status for 2017.
At the time, the USSF stated that neither league met all of its standards, which dictate the minimum requirements needed to operate at each level, including the number of teams, the geographic distributions of the clubs, the size of the markets for participating franchises and the minimum financial requirements of team owners.
The primary issue is that the minimum requirements for second-tier status call for 12 teams in each league and the NASL lost four of its participants in 2016, leaving only eight clubs to compete. Although San Diego and Orange County, California have been announced as new franchises for the 2018 season, it still leaves the league two teams short. The USL, on the other hand, will have no such problem meeting the minimum membership requirement, having expanded from 14 teams in 2014 to 30 in 2017, with at least three more to feature next season.
The decision could also have implications for the future of the NASL, which faced the possibility of folding last year before its major draw, the New York Cosmos, found new ownership. However, Rocco B Commisso’s acquisition of the club was reportedly dependent on the NASL keeping its second-tier status, which has now been revoked.
A statement from the NASL on Tuesday read: ‘The NASL is disappointed with the decision and does not believe that the federation acted in the best interest of the sport. US Soccer’s decision negatively affects many stakeholders in soccer: fans, players, coaches, referees, business partners, and the NASL club owners who have invested tens of millions of dollars promoting the sport. The decision also jeopardises the thousands of jobs created by the NASL and its member clubs.
‘While the last several days have seen some unfortunate results for US soccer, both on and off the pitch, the NASL remains committed to growing the game and is exploring multiple options as it continues planning for the future. The beautiful game is bigger than any decision, result, person, league, division or federation. The NASL will continue its work to ensure that brighter days are ahead for soccer in the US.’