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NASL to lose Division II sanctioning, questions arise for Southern California expansion teams

No conclusions today, but certainly uncertainty.

Courtesy of San Diego NASL

FiftyFiveOne reported on Tuesday morning that the NASL has not been given Division II sanctioning from U.S. Soccer for next year. This is significant because the NASL has been a Division II league (that is, the league considered second tier to Division I MLS) since it was re-formed in 2011, and last year, after the league appeared to nearly fold, they were given Division II sanctioning on a provisional basis for 2017 to get their house in order, while USL was given provisional sanctioning for Division II for the first time.

At the time of the previous sanctioning decision, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Rayo OKC folded, the Ottawa Fury and Tampa Bay Rowdies moved to the USL, Minnesota United moved to MLS, the Jacksonville Armada were on the market, being owned temporarily by NASL (they’ve since been sold to a businessman) and the New York Cosmos were sold at the 11th hour to help keep the league from going under.

In the meantime, the San Francisco Deltas launched this year as an expansion team, but several weeks ago their co-owner wrote a blog post where he effectively begged people to come out to games to keep the team afloat, and Tuesday’s report revived the rumors about the future of NASL.

It’s worth noting that the FiftyFiveOne report did not say NASL would necessarily have to move to Division III, which would reverse its position vis a vis USL from 2011-16 in the American soccer pyramid, although that’s the implication. Of course, the alternative could be oblivion for the league, although the league’s statement on Tuesday confirming the original report did not indicate that.

Since taking the pitch in 2011, the NASL has been working diligently to advance the growth of soccer by creating an entrepreneurial league where dynamic clubs bring the excitement of professional soccer to fans across North America. Despite the progress made by the NASL, U.S. Soccer has taken a decision to refrain from sanctioning the league as Division 2 for the 2018 season. The NASL is disappointed with the decision and does not believe that the federation acted in the best interest of the sport. U.S. Soccer’s decision negatively affects many stakeholders in soccer: fans, players, coaches, referees, business partners, and the NASL club owners who have invested tens of millions of dollars promoting the sport. The decision also jeopardizes the thousands of jobs created by the NASL and its member clubs.

While the last several days have seen some unfortunate results for U.S. Soccer, both on and off the pitch, the NASL remains committed to growing the game and is exploring multiple options as it continues planning for the future. The NASL knows that its fans will continue to show undying support for their clubs, and the league looks forward to the home stretch of the 2017 season and beyond. The beautiful game is bigger than any decision, result, person, league, division or federation. The NASL will continue its work to ensure that brighter days are ahead for soccer in the U.S.

Into all of this comes the two expansion teams announced for 2018, California United FC in Orange County and an as-yet-unnamed San Diego team. Will the owners stay committed if NASL moves to Div. III? Will they just not launch? Will they possibly look to join another league?

The FiftyFiveOne report said that unnamed sources are “at least exploring the possibility” of either or both of the Southern California expansion teams to join USL instead.

Freelance reporter Bob Williams received a statement from California United on the news on Tuesday:

I couldn’t find any statement from San Diego’s NASL team so far on the development.

So we’ll see. The possibilities right now are: NASL somehow figures out a way to come out of this stronger for 2018; NASL moves to Division III and the SoCal teams launch with the league next year; NASL folds; Regardless of what happens to NASL, one or both of the Southern California expansion teams (which have already started hiring staff) wait beyond 2018 to launch or never launch at all; Either or both of the Southern California teams joins USL or another league.

In other words, there’s a lot of uncertainty and there is certain to be a plethora of reports in the months to come. Stay tuned.

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