Finally, a decision.
Almost a month after it first met to review the issue, U.S. Soccer’s Board of Directors voted Friday to grant provisional Division 2 status to both the North American Soccer League and United Soccer League for the 2017 season.
So, what does this mean for the two soccer leagues, and to the local pro soccer team here in Pittsburgh?
It provides the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and it’s upstart league, USL with the status it has coveted.
The NASL, on the other hand, teetering on the brink of extinction, gets to fight another day.
But both leagues now share the same designation.
While Neither league meets all the U.S. Soccer standards for D2 status, U.S. Soccer said through its statement tonight that it “will work with the leagues on a pathway to full compliance.”
The NASL was in danger of folding after Minnesota United moved to MLS and Tampa Bay and Ottawa joined the USL, leaving the league with 10 teams for 2017. But the three-time champion New York Cosmos, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville and Rayo OKC all have had financial problems.
The USL has increased from 14 teams in 2014 to 30 in 2017 but not all teams meet D2 requirements on such things as the size of their stadiums.
“After an exhaustive process working with both leagues, in the best interest of the sport the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors has decided to grant provisional Division 2 status to the NASL and USL,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati in a statement. “U.S. Soccer will create an internal working group that will work with each league to set a pathway to meet the full requirements for Division II and allow for the larger goal of creating a sustainable future. We look forward to another productive year for professional soccer in this country.”
The decision immediately sparked a lot of confusion, some outrage from many fans, lots of cynical response from soccer media, but also relief to some of the die-hard fans of each entity, particularly to NASL, which gets to live to fight another day.
Stay tuned folks, U.S. Soccer stated thru its release that it will determine the additional requirements and a timeline for completion in the coming weeks.
I’ll have more on this in the coming days and weeks.