Soccer

US Soccer issues provisional D2 sanctioning to NASL, USL

Posted January 6
Updated January 7

— In a Solomon-esque decision, the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors voted Friday to provisionally sanction both the North American Soccer League (NASL) and United Soccer League (USL) as Division 2 professional men’s leagues for 2017. The decision concludes weeks, if not months of negotiations, speculation, and generalized angst over the fate of both leagues.

The provisional sanctioning means that both leagues must return to U.S. Soccer next year for review of their D2 status. It’s entirely possible that USSF will determine the sole D2 league upon separate review next year.

Now playing as North Carolina FC, the Carolina RailHawks were a charter member of the neo-NASL

"The NASL and I support U.S. Soccer's decision to to grant the [NASL] provisional Division II status," said NCFC owner Steve Malik in a statement. "We're excited about beginning play in April, and we look forward to the continued growth of our league and soccer in the U.S."

The NASL, which has been the lone American D2 men’s pro league since 2011, was clinging to its status against a current of club defections and financial woes. Details have not yet been publicly announced, but per a league source, the NASL will proceed with a minimum of eight teams for its 2017 campaign: North Carolina FC, Indy Eleven, FC Edmonton, Miami FC, Puerto Rico FC, the Jacksonville Armada, the San Francisco Deltas, and the New York Cosmos.

While the NASL’s overall attendance decreased last year from 2015, its league-wide average per match attendance was 4,736, as compared to 3,439 for the USL.

The USL regains independent D2 sanctioning for the first time since 2009, albeit on a provisional basis. Despite reported concerns that U.S. Soccer had about the USL’s D2 qualifications, the board clearly took into account the demonstrable gains the league has made over the past several years in the quantity and quality of its operations, owners, and facilities.

Indeed, the only lower division men’s teams to average over 10,000 fans per match last year were USL clubs—Sacramento Republic FC and FC Cincinnati.

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