USL, NASL strike deal

The U.S. Soccer Federation has brokered a deal for a single Division 2 soccer league to operate this year.

USSF officials announced the deal Thursday as a one-year compromise between the United Soccer Leagues and the breakaway teams that moved to form their own league, the North American Soccer League.

“This agreement allows us to continue to develop the professional game in many important markets around the country, while at the same time working towards the long-term stability of Division 2 professional soccer,” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said.

The league will operate with two six-team conferences, one dubbed the USL Conference and the other named the NASL Conference. The Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact, Carolina RailHawks, Crystal Palace Baltimore, Miami FC and Carolina Railhawks will play in the NASL Conference. The USL Conference will include the Portland Timbers, Puerto Rico Islanders, Austin Aztex FC, Rochester Rhinos, Tampa Bay Rowdies and and unnamed Minnesota team to replace the Minnesota Thunder.

Two of those cities – Vancouver and Portland – are due to Major League Soccer in 2011 and 2012, respectively, so they won’t last long in this setup. Montreal could join them.

Thursday’s announcement by the USSF comes just a few days after the national soccer federation refused to sanction either the USL or the breakaway NASL.

Nine of these 12 teams were set to split off from the USL, due to their objection to a single-entity ownership. Only Puerto Rico, Austin and Portland were planning to stay with the USL. The NASL had planned for a team in Atlanta, where the Atlanta Silverbacks last played in USL’s first division in 2008, but Atlanta is not part of this equation.

This league will be a stopgap, however. The warring sides are expected to continue talks this year to determine how a single Division 2 league would function in the future. USSF will oversee the league.

What do you think about this setup? Smart move, or a prelude to more chaos? Could it lead to promotion and relegation with Major League Soccer, or do you think that’s a long way off?

For background information on the rift in the second division of US soccer, see our three-part series “That USL, TOA, NASL Thing.” You can use the links below:

Part One Part Two Part Three


  1. Ed Farnsworth says:

    Does this mean the end of the USL lawsuit against Rochester, Tampa Bay and Crystal Palace because, if so, this seems to be, given the USL’s long history and the apparent momentum generated by the NASL, the best that could be hoped for in the short term. Stating the obvious, it will be interesting to see how this will pan out for the next season. For example, where is St. Louis in the equation?

    Now, if the USSF can do something about the MLS v Players Union dispute, we can all relax.

  2. Ed Farnsworth says:

    Whoops – just read the link – the lawsuit is dropped.

  3. Anything that ensures a critical mass of teams can play in a sanctioned league for next season is a good thing in my book. They clearly need to work some things out, though. And I have to say, while I’m in favor of MLS expansion, per se, it won’t be a good thing if it bleeds second division soccer of all its teams. Why doesn’t Atlanta have a team, for instance?

  4. Well thats a step in the right direction. but what about all the rest of the lower divisions?, I would love to see the ussf make a 4 or 5 division league like in england where they have league 3,league 2, league 1 and the championship league and the premier league. but instead get rid of the championship league. for example have league 3 as the lowest division ,2nd league and league 1 being one level below MLS. that way young players have time to develop. you would then have players playing in little league soccer , high school soccer ,collage soccer a developmental league, then league 3 all the way up to MLS, or any other league of their choosing. because the way things are going in MLS players are going to be locked out and thats going to force them to look elsewhere for employment. MLS should allow the teams to deal with their own players instead of it being a one entity league. I respect the MLS comish, but he really needs to take his head out of his butt and smell the fresh air and adopt the same schedule as the rest of the world if we want to even be mentioned in the same sentence as Barcelona, Manchester united, Real madrid, or AC milan. and by combineing USL and NASL is atleast progress.

  5. One more thing I forgot to mention, it is imperative that they instill a promotion and relegation system, that way the leagues remain competive and the teams in the lower divisions have someting worth fighting for…..the fear of being relegated and the excitment of being promoted. and as far as crowning champions, I would say crown the regular season team with the best record be league champions which is the way it should be. beacuse first of all this is not american football where you have playoffs to decide your champion,… thats why you have the MLS cup and or the US open cup. having an relegation and promotion system keeps things fresh. But the problem with the MLS owners is being greedy they want to controll everything and it shouldnt be that way. either way money is going to be spent. why should a foreigner like say…. beckham be paid millions of dollars and our own home grown player the league minimum? thats crap. if MLS wants to be competetive and wants to rule the roost, well stop being tight wads and let club owners do their thing. cause frankly I’m sick and tired of hearing how we”ll never be as good as the rest of the world, let alone “THE MEXICAN LEAGUE”.

  6. Ed Farnsworth says:

    I agree that the survival of a second division in US soccer is questionable given MLS expansion and the absence of relegation. But Michael’s desire to have a pyramid system in the US as in England (and just about everywhere else in the world) does in fact already exist here.

    USL-1, before the challenge from the new NASL, was the US second division, comparable in terms of a soccer pyramid structure to the Championship in England. (It can get confusing referring to England, because, depending on what time period one is referring to, what was League 1 is now the Premiership, what was League 2 is now the Championship, what was League 3 is now League 1, and so on.) USL-2 was the third division in the pyramid structure and the PDL, or Premier Development League, was the fourth division. (Reading United, formerly known as the Reading Rage, with whom the Union recently announced a partnership, play in the PDL.) Beneath that are various regional amateur associations.

    All of these lower divisions in the US – whether they are in the USL or some future league entity – face grave economic difficulties due to poor attendance, the fact that many teams don’t own their own grounds, lack of media coverage, difficulties securing sponsorships and, importantly, the very high travel costs associated with playing teams in a country as large as the US. It’s one thing to travel from the north of England to play a game in the south of England. It’s something else entirely to travel from the East Coast of the US to play a match on the West Coast.

  7. The key thing to remember is that this is a stopgap. It’s a short-term solution to prevent an absolutely disastrous 2010 season. With MLS labor problems already in play, the one thing U.S. soccer can’t have right now is a battle at the second division level that would eventually cannibalize probably everyone involved (USL, NASL, etc.). They needed this problem off the table for now.

    USSF couldn’t sanction NASL over USL, not now, because the collapse of USL’s top division could affect all the lower divisions. And USSF can’t support the breakaway owners’ key argument, that being their objection to a single ownership entity, because if they do, then one could logically turn that argument against MLS, which controls players’ rights as a single entity. That is the heart of the single biggest issue of the current MLS labor strife.

    As for switching to a European soccer schedule … Maybe you haven’t been shoveling as much snow at the rest of us, eh Michael? 😉

  8. Thanks for the operate. Post aided me a whole lot

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