USSF Denies NASL Division II Status For '18; League's Future Could Now Be In Doubt
The USSF has "denied" the NASL Division II status for '18, a move that "threatens the league's future," according to the AP. The NASL "started play" in '11 with second-tier status. The USSF in January raised the USL "from the third tier to the second and gave both the NASL and USL provisional" D-II status for '17. The requirements for D-II "call for 12 teams, but the NASL lost four clubs" after its '16 fall season. And though it is "playing this year with eight, two more have been announced" for '18 in San Diego and Orange County, Calif. The USSF has "granted numerous waivers to the NASL to meet requirements in the past." The league "faced the possibility of closing its doors last year before its flagship team, the New York Cosmos, found new ownership." Mediacom Communications Founder & CEO Rocco Commisso's purchase of the Cosmos was "reportedly contingent on the NASL keeping its place" in D-II, a status which has now been "revoked less than a year later." NASL's "strategy to exist as an alternative" to MLS has also been hampered by the D-I league's "plans to expand" (AP, 9/5).
ON THE RISE? In Jacksonville, Clayton Freeman notes the NASL "nearly collapsed in December and January." But since then the league had "shown signs of stabilization." Mortgage lender Robert Palmer purchased the Jacksonville Armada in July, and the league has "several other prospective groups under consideration" for new franchises. However, Freeman also notes the first-year S.F. Deltas have "drawn average crowds of just above 2,400." Deltas CEO Brian Helmick "issued an open letter to fans in July, saying the Deltas 'can’t survive if we don’t increase attendance.'" Palmer indicated that he would be "willing to fund multiple franchises" if necessary (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 9/6).
NOT OVER YET: In San Diego, Mark Zeigler writes the issue is "far from settled." The NASL could "appeal the designation or re-apply before next season." Or, making good on "previous threats, it could file an anti-trust lawsuit" against the USSF. Or it could "try to make a go of it" as a D-III league. The NASL, planning to play with 10 teams in '18, "could shrink, though, if FC Edmonton joins a new Canadian pro league as expected." North Carolina FC has been "strongly linked" with the USL, and several other clubs are "said to be investigating that route as well." Jacksonville, Puerto Rico and S.F. reportedly are in "financial peril." Zeigler notes Miami FC Owner and MP & Silva Founder & President Riccardo Silva earlier this year "pitched MLS on a lucrative TV rights deal if the league agreed to the system of promotion and relegation used in the rest of the soccer world." The offer was declined and some will "view the move by U.S. Soccer, which has a cozy relationship with MLS and by extension USL, as a way to protect its closed-market system." MLS Commissioner Don Garber "sits on U.S. Soccer’s Board of Directors." And MLS franchises "own or have affiliations with 22 of the USL’s 30 clubs" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/6).