To paraphrase Mark Twain, “The reports of NASL’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”
In an interesting but somewhat expected move, the U.S. Soccer Federation has granted provisional Division II status to both NASL and USL. That means the 2017 season will see two leagues sharing the second-highest sanctioning in the U.S.
"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 II status to the NASL and USL," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. "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."
NASL was Division II sanctioned last season but faced a growing list of questions about its solvency as the offseason wore on. Several teams left NASL, including Minnesota United who moved up to MLS. This left the league with fewer teams than required to compete in Division II, per U.S. Soccer’s sanctioning guidelines.
USL, on the other hand, is a league on the rise. After absorbing the Ottawa Fury and Tampa Bay Rowdies over the offseason, USL is set to field a whopping 30 teams in 2017. Meanwhile, ESPN is reporting that NASL will play at least its spring season with only eight teams.
Rumors continue to swirl about NASL trying to recruit new owners as it heads toward regular season kickoff. Time will tell if efforts on that front are successful.
Now that USSF has ruled on sanctioning, the two leagues can get to work scheduling games.
If anything, it’s going to be an interesting season for the U.S. Soccer Pyramid.