At 9 p.m. on Friday night, US Soccer dropped a bombshell by granting a shared Division 2 status between the USL and NASL leagues. In 2016, the NASL played under the U.S. Soccer Federation’s (USSF) Division 2 status while the USL was recognized as Division 3, or third tier, in the US Soccer “Pyramid”. The move by the USSF will potentially allow 38-40 clubs to play under a Division 2 status in 2017, up from 12 in 2016. This does not mean that the leagues will combine, but that they are both independently representing the 2nd tier of soccer in the U.S.
Here is an excerpt from the US Soccer release. “The board carefully considered the applications of each league. While neither league meets all the standards set forth by U.S. Soccer, the board granted provisional Division II status and will work with the leagues on a pathway to full compliance. The board also determined that the leagues will be required to meet additional criteria.”
While little specific details were shared on what this actually means for the leagues and their member clubs at present date, we would like to elaborate on how it can be a positive thing for FC Cincinnati.
- FC Cincinnati first and foremost will now be able to tell players that they will be signing for a quality team that plays in a league one level below MLS. This may not be an impact to American players who are familiar with the club and league, but could mean more to potential foreign signings.
- USL and FC Cincinnati can sell their new level to prospective sponsors and investors. Even though the majority of league members haven’t changed (Ottawa Fury, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Reno), the league may have language in their contracts that could escalate values leading to more money for each member of the league.
- FC Cincinnati can now claim that they are in the second best league in the United States. How many times have the club, the supporters, or media have to explain that the USL was compared to “AA baseball”? Now, they can claim a higher level and could get better recognition from their markets and media outlets.
- We get to move on towards the 2017 season. Did this sanctioning delay hold the leagues from sending out schedules, making player signings or hiring employees? Since the USSF did rule on our league sanctioning, all division 2 clubs can move ahead in their planning.
There will be more details released in the coming weeks on how either the USL or NASL will be able to keep their Division 2 status for the 2018 season. Additional guidelines such as average stadium size, salary thresholds, or owner net worth could all be included for a future permanent division status.
What we can focus on however is that FC Cincinnati will now get to compete for a Division 2 title in the USL for 2017. This saga is far from over, and we might even see several teams from the NASL cross over to USL in the future. But at least this decision will bring some closure to a topic that has polarized many fan bases and soccer communities.
Make sure to stay tuned to Cincinnati Soccer Talk as we hope to have former Indy Eleven President and current Chicago NASL CEO Peter Wilt on the show. Peter could give great insight into how the USSF came to this decision.
Tune in to the latest Cincinnati Soccer Talk podcast on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. and look for our new podcast on your favorite podcast network each week!