Nothing beats a 9:00 p.m. Friday night news dump...
The U.S. Soccer Federation announced late last night that it was granting “provision Division II status” to the NASL and the USL for 2017. The Federation will create a working group to “set a pathway” for each league to meet all D2 requirements. Neither league currently meets the standards for a D2 league.
Personally, I think U.S. Soccer acted in the best interests of the game and its clubs with this decision. The NASL is clearly struggling, but removing its D2 status could create a scenario where clubs disappear from the landscape. That has been avoided and now the league has more time to try to find a path to success. The USL has stepped up its level since its reorganization in 2011 and has been rewarded for doing so.
However, neither league met the full D2 standards. Reportedly, merger talks went nowhere and the USL was not interested in an internal split between the D2 compliant clubs and the ones that are not there yet. With no other solutions on the horizon that would ensure the maximum number of clubs have the opportunity to survive and grow, U.S. Soccer did the only thing it could to give as many clubs a chance to succeed as possible.
The hard work is only beginning for the Federation and the leagues themselves. High standards for Second Division leagues was a key factor in the formation of the NASL, which started as a breakaway group of clubs from the USL. Those owners wanted more control over the league after seeing large number of teams admitted into a league without the resources or plan to survive. The turnover rate in the USL in the 2000’s was extremely high. Do you remember the Calgary Storm, Syracuse Salty Dogs, Edmonton Aviators, or the California Victory?
Upon its 2011 launch, the NASL was given waivers for the D2 standards that it fought for but was unable to meet. They were never fully able to meet the standards and after a 2016 season filled with financial uncertainty revolving around a number of its teams, the league has been teetering on the brink of collapse since the final whistle of its championship game.
The USL previously had D2 status before the NASL, and began to rebuild itself after losing a majority of its strongest clubs. The partnership with MLS breathed new life into the league, along with successful new clubs like Sacramento and Cincinnati. Even with its impressive growth, the league does not meet the D2 standards either.
That brings us to today. U.S. Soccer took an awkward route forward, allowing for two D2 leagues. In the long run, this is not sustainable and by all accounts, this is not a long term solution. For now, it is the best way to give both leagues and all of their clubs a chance to survive and continue developing. It is now down to the teams and leagues to get to work, grow the game, and meet the standards that should ensure long term survival and success.
The road map, for at least 2017, is now set for the lower divisions. Their actions in the coming weeks and months ahead of kickoff will be critical. Now that they both have the D2 status they fought for, it is up to the NASL and the USL to live up to it.
NASL and USL both receive provisional D2 status (WRAL Sportsfan)
Seeing double at D2 (The 11)
Report that includes Atlanta as a new NASL club for fall 2017 (ESPN)
I am not sure what provisional status means for takeovers of Cosmos and Strikers.— Bob Williams (@WilliamsBob75) January 7, 2017
Jan 12 has been scheduled for Strikers takeover.
Albert Rusnak wants to bring trophies to Salt Lake (Deseret News)
David Beckham running out of time in Miami (Daily Mail)
Thoughts on the USMNT roster announcement (Stars and Stripes FC)
Chinese Super League considering a spending cap (Business Insider)
Some of the best early round FA Cup stories (SB Nation)