There have been some interesting developments in the past 24 hours with regards to the future of North American Soccer League (NASL) — and even potentially Pittsburgh Riverhounds’ league — United Soccer League (USL).
On Tuesday night, it was reported by Empire of Soccer and some other outlets as the NASL Board of Governors came together in Atlanta for scheduled meetings, USL CEO Alec Papadakis was also present.
In addition, we now have also received confirmation that U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati has been attending what has been described as tense meetings — and issued this tweet on Wednesday morning.
If you don’t already know, here’s the deal.
NASL, which is currently recognized as U.S. pro soccer’s second division, is in a tailspin, having lost three members in the past month, one (Minnesota) to MLS, and another two (Ottawa and Tampa Bay) to USL.
On top of that, USL, the third-division league where the Pittsburgh Riverhounds are a member, has plans to start 2017 with 31 teams (including Ottawa and Tampa Bay) — and have applied with U.S. Soccer for Division II status, which NASL currently holds.
The USL also indicated a while back that they would be moving forward with announcing 2017 alignment and schedules, but instead, we are waiting, and maybe we now know why.
This application by the USL is to be reviewed at U.S. Soccer Federation meeting later this week, but developments within the past 24 hours may lead one to believe that NASL and USL may be looking at coming up with some sort of compromise.
NASL currently has 10 teams: Carolina Railhawks, Edmonton FC, NY Cosmos, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, Indy Eleven, Jacksonville Armada, Miami FC, Puerto Rico FC, Rayo OKC and expansion San Francisco Deltas.
During the meetings this week it appeared that NASL’s Board of Governors were supposedly talking about bringing on new teams/investors to join the struggling league.
Instead, there have been reports that even the NASL’s signature franchise, New York Cosmos, were having some internal strife and taking measures to cut budget and payroll after winning the NASL title, and this was one of the concerns among the existing NASL league owners.
Some NASL officials are digging in deep.
With USL’s Division II status application pending and to be reviewed by US Soccer later this week, we may be seeing some deals trying to be brokered and the future of pro soccer’s second and third divisions in the United States may very well begin to look different in the next week — and heading into 2017.
The possibilities of an even more expanded USL, absorbing current NASL franchises, could push the total teams to 36 or 38 teams would make for some interesting scenarios. It could provide for a split or re-aligned conferences,or even prospects of two divisions (say USL 1, USL 2) where promotion/relegation could be implemented in the coming years.
But of course all of this is speculation. NASL may move forward, but lose D II status, and try to make a go as D III league with its remaining membership.
All I can say is — stay tuned. I’m sure there will be more developments coming around soon.