The USSF has rejected the NASL’s efforts to maintain its second division status, according to multiple sources. The seven-year-old league will likely have to drop down to the third division along with the brand new USL D-3 and National Independent Soccer Association (NISA).
At the beginning of 2017, the USSF granted both the USL and NASL provisional rights to joint second division status. At the time, both leagues submitted elaborate plans for meeting all the criteria for D-2 status.
While it is not clear why the USSF has rejected the NASL’s application, the league has struggled to grow its geographic footprint amidst the constant churn of clubs moving to other leagues. In the last year Minnesota United FC (MLS), Tampa Bay Rowdies (USL), and Ottawa Fury (USL) decamped the NASL for other leagues. Meanwhile, Rayo OKC folded after just one season and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers folded as well.
Losing five clubs in a year almost took the league under, but after a chaotic winter, the remaining owners emerged with a much clearer vision and a “spirit of cooperation.” The San Francisco Deltas joined for the 2017 season and two other Californian clubs, California United FC and one in San Diego are slated for 2018. However, the Deltas are already struggling financially and reports from inside the club say that there is a real chance that the club could fold after one season.
An uncertain future
What this news means for the NASL or its clubs is still very unclear. When reached, NASL and club owners offered no comment.
A source informed FiftyFive.One that several clubs are either in talks or working through the logistics of decamping to the USL. North Carolina FC, sources say, is in advanced talks while Indy Eleven and the two new California clubs are at least exploring the possibility.
USSF made this decision early, a source tells FiftyFive.One, in part to help leagues come up with “creative” solutions for next season. In 2009, USSF forced the newly formed NASL and USL into a temporary merger as the two leagues sorted out their futures.
The uncertainty also surrounds the new era of division three that will begin next season. NISA is slated to launch next season in the third division, while USL will debut its new D3 league in 2019. If NASL were forced to drop down as well, a club like the New York Cosmos would be ostensibly playing on the same level as Chattanooga FC, currently of the NPSL.
Correction: the original article stated that USL D3 would launch in 2018.
Brian Quarstad and Soc Takes‘ Nipun Chopra contributed to the reporting of this article.
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