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USL and NASL both D2 for now, Union bits, more news

USL and NASL granted provisional Division 2 status

On Friday, US Soccer announced that both the NASL and the USL would receive provisional Division 2 status for 2017: “While neither league meets all the standards set forth by U.S. Soccer, the board granted provisional Division II status and will work with the leagues on a pathway to full compliance. The board also determined that the leagues will be required to meet additional criteria…U.S. Soccer will determine the additional requirements and a timeline for completion in the coming weeks.”

Reports suggest the some USL teams fall short of meeting the requirements for full Division 2 status in the areas of stadium capacity (as PSP’s Tim Jones has explained), field dimensions, and coaching licenses. In an article at SI we linked to in Friday’s roundup before the announcement, USL president Jake Edwards the league has presented US Soccer with a detailed plan “addressing any non-compliance with the standards.”

For the NASL, the prime issue has been that the league does not meet the minimum number of teams required for Division 2 (the minimum is 12) nor does the league have teams in the three required time zones (a Division 2 league is required to have teams in the Eastern, Central, and Pacific time zones. Expansion side San Francisco is the first team in the league to be located in the Pacific time zone. Edmonton is in the Mountain time zone and Puerto Rico in the Atlantic time zone. The rest of the teams are in the Eastern time zone.)

The retention of Division 2 status by the NASL means the reported purchase of the New York Cosmos by Rocco Commisso will proceed. The club issued a brief statement on Saturday  confirming “full participation in the 2017 North American Soccer League season.”

A brief statement on the NASL website listed the eight teams competing in 2017 as FC Edmonton, Indy Eleven, Jacksonville Armada FC, Miami FC, New York Cosmos, North Carolina FC, Puerto Rico FC, and San Francisco Deltas. (As of this writing, the masthead of the NASL website still includes Fort Lauderdale and Rayo OKC.) Florida Times Union reports Jacksonville Armada, who have been looking for a new owner and are likely to move to new grounds, will be taken over by the NASL: “Armada FC owner Mark Frisch said the owners of the other teams in the league will buy the franchise from him, while looking for a new owner for Jacksonville.” More at First Coast News.

WRAL has an informative Q&A with North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik about the NASL’s problems, which he suggests derive in the league’s past association with Traffic Sports, which was one of the targets of the US Department of Justice’s FIFA corruption probe, as well problems with how the NASL went about expansion (which, reading between the lines, seems to be directed at the the leadership of league commissioner Bill Peterson). Malik says there are no plans for any new teams to be added in 2017 to the roster of eight teams announced by the league, (ESPN reported expansion sides in Atlanta, Orange County and San Diego would be added for the 2017 Fall season), nor is Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who are in search of an owner, expected to rejoin the league in 2017.

At Edmonton Journal, FC Edmonton general manager Jay Ball says his team expected the NASL would survive: “I think the club has always had the perspective that it was going to be a normal off-season. We were always going to have the perspective that we were going to play. It’s been business as usual the last 60 days”. Normal offseason, eh?

SI’s Brian Straus writes,

The Federation had been granting waivers to both leagues in recent years. The NASL, for example, was well short of the 12 clubs required for D2 status. The USL meanwhile, had teams that still weren’t playing on regulation fields. U.S. Soccer was worried additional, permanent passes would rob the standards of their heft. The whole point was to ensure stability and sustainability, and the waivers were sparking the opposite.

Now both leagues have 12 months to get it right.

At ESPN, Jeff Carlisle writes, “Neither league will be happy to have another entity alongside it with the same designation. But ultimately, both leagues got most of what they wanted. The NASL, which had been rumored to be shutting its doors, lives to fight another day, and will begin the 2017 season with eight teams. The USL, which will see 30 teams compete next year, moves up from Division III to Division II, a sanctioning that it has long coveted.”

At Fox Sports, Ryan Rosenblatt writes, “The Federation could have made a decision now, one that would have almost gone USL’s way, but they will instead try to keep as many leagues and teams alive as possible with the hope that there is a future for everyone. Of course, that’s dependent on them making progress towards meeting standards and stability, which puts a lot of the onus on NASL.”

FourFourTwo’s Nipun Chopra says US Soccer “made the best possible decision” in granting provisional status to both leagues: “what is clear is that this was the best option for U.S. Soccer, and that the federation deserves credit for making the decision that provides the best chance for both leagues moving forward.” USL president Jake Edwards says in the article the league had no plans for litigation if the USL did not receive Division 2 status.

The FourFourTwo article also notes, “Edwards also clarified that suggestions that MLS was blocking promotion of USL to D-II were wide of the mark. ‘They’ve been tremendous partners,’ Edwards clarified adding that MLS reserve teams were, ‘fully committed to meeting D2 standards.'” (One thing to look out for is clarification of the status of amateur MLS academy players who are called up to play on MLS-owned or affiliated USL teams. Amateur players were ok to use in Division 3, I’m not sure about Division 2.)

[UPDATE: I took a look at US Soccer’s Policy Manual for 2016 and could find nothing that prohibits amateur players from playing for a professional team, just that such a player can be compensated only for game related expenses such as travel and accommodation costs in order to retain amatuer status (see page 43). The rules section of the USL’s 2016 Media Guide (p. 72) says up to five Academy players can be registered and not count against the Master Roster limit of 30 players; any registered Academy players after that five do count against the roster size limit. More to the point for MLS-affiliated teams like Bethlehem Steel, “Additionally, teams with MLS affiliations [may] use the Academy Players of their MLS affiliate…Academy Players must be registered as an amateur (only) such with the USL team or its formally-recognized MLS affiliate. Teams may make Academy Players active or inactive”. The rules section of the 2016 NASL Media Guide (p. 9) makes no distinction between amateur and professional players. I also could find nothing prohibiting amateur players in the 2016 MLS Roster Rules and Regulations. In other words, based on what I’ve been able to see, the use of amateur players appears to be regulated at league, not federation, level.]

USL CEO Alec Papadakis, who is a member of US Soccer’s board of directors, hailed the decision, which he said “provides further validation about our League’s financial sustainability, national footprint, ownership quality, stadium infrastructure and player development.”

At the USL website, a roundup of statements from several club owners, including City Islanders president Eric Pettis. Sacramento Republic FC President Warren Smith is the most blunt: “In this sport, we are judged by our actions and not just our intentions. We are proud to be a part of a group that fulfills their commitments and does right by their clubs and fans”

Soccer America compares the 2016 attendance averages for the 36 teams competing in USL and the NASL in 2017 (each league has one new expansion side entering in 2017 with no 2016 numbers). Seven of the top 10 are USL teams. Bethlehem comes in at No. 20 (2,573), Harrisburg at No. 28 (1,547). “In only three seasons — the USL First Division in 2008 and NASL in 2014 and 2015 — has a Division 2 league averaged more than 5,000 fans a game.”

Philadelphia Union

Alejandro Bedoya, Chris Pontius, and Keegan Rosenberry spoke to reporters via teleconference on Friday being called up for the USMNT’s January camp. They are all excited. More at Philadelphia Union (audio for Bedoya, Pontius, and Rosenberry), Delco Times, CSN Philly, Philly Voice, Brotherly Game, and Goal.com.

At MLSsoccer.com, Rosenberry is included on a list of uncapped players who will stick around with the USMNT: “He’ll be helped by a paucity of players in his position…US fans should be hopeful of having a lockdown defender on the right for years to come.”

At ASN, a post on possible players to play opposite of Christian Pulisic on the wing says this of Alejandro Bedoya:

The Philadelphia Union midfielder has logged 2,065 minutes with the national team since 2014, many of those in an outside midfield capacity. Bedoya’s statistical tally during this span: one goal and four assists.

That’s not good enough.

Chris Pontius is not included in the winger discussion.

More on the signing of Giliano Wijnaldum at MLSsoccer.com and SBIAt Brotherly Game, John Adair wonders who will start at left back, Fabinho or Wijnaldum. Also, who are the Union’s options to replace Tranquillo Barnetta.

Tech.Mic notes the signing of Giliano Wijnaldum: “That raises an important question for FIFA 17 fans: “When will Wijnaldum be available in the video game, and what can we expect from him in the way of ratings?”

At Brotherly Game, Eugene Rupinski reviews the Union depth chart as it now stands.

Philly Sports Nation notes the Kolbeinn Sigthórsson rumors.

Noting the Union don’t pick in this week’s SuperDraft until the 33rd, 42nd, 55th, 77th and 82nd picks (barring any deals), Brotherly Game’s Matt Ralph looks at successful late picks.

At MLSsoccer.com, a review of each MLS team’s best SuperDraft pick — “players who had a massive impact with the clubs that drafted them” — says the Union’s is Amobi Okugo.

You will recall the video of nine-year-old Ethan Chambers reaction when he received Union tickets for Christmas. Chambers was shown around the Union training facility by Keegan Rosenberry on Friday. More on the visit at Philadelphia Union, CSN Philly, Union Tally, and Brotherly Game


Ocean City Nor’easters star Nathan Regis is among six players who have been given late invites to the MLS Players Combine.


The 2017 Players Combine is underway. Observations on the first day at MLSsoccer.com and Soccer AmericaAmerican Soccer Analysis has a crash course on the players participating.

Official: Salt Lake have signed midfielder Albert Rusnák as a Young Designated Player.

Chicago have signed Uruguayan goalkeeper Jorge Rodrigo Bava as a Discovery Player on “a one-year deal with club options for 2018 and 2019.”

San Jose have signed Panamanian center back Harold Cummings “to a multi-year contract.”

NYCFC has re-signed RJ Allen and Tommy McNamara.

Orlando have re-signed Servando Carrasco (“to a new two-year deal”), and Kevin Alston (“to a one-year deal”), and Seb Hines (“to a three-year deal with team renewal options in 2018 and 2019”).

Dallas have announced Trabzonspor “has permanently acquired” Fabian Castillo, who joined the Turkish club on loan last August.

Kansas City have signed 20-year-old Ghanaian winger Latif Blessing “through 2019 with an option for 2020.”

Colorado have signed academy products Kortne Ford and Ricardo Perez as Homegrown Players.

The league has announced the addition of University of Akron freshman Jonathan Lewis to the 2017 Generation adidas class.

Colorado vice president of soccer operations and technical director Paul Bravo has stepped down from the club.


ESPN has 17 goals for the USMNT in 2017.


Ian Harkes, son of John Harkes, is the 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy winner. Kadeisha Buchanan won the women’s Hermann Trophy. The Washington Post reports Harkes “is weighing a contract offer from D.C. United, which owns his homegrown rights because he is a former member of its youth academy.”


From the AP:

FIFA President Gianni Infantino hopes his ruling council will agree on Tuesday to expand the 2026 World Cup to 48 nations, playing in 16 groups of three teams.

A decision could be delayed if some council members demand to know exactly how many qualifying places each continent will get before agreeing to scrap the 32-team format.


  1. The Realist Brian says:

    Who is our next HG signing? I would love for the Union to wait until the very last moment to sign Colton Storm and Maloney at the stroke of midnight so asshole teams like KC can’t argue the claim (which they have zero grounds with this claim on Josh Sargeant-a U17 goal scoring machine- who has NEVER played for their club and lives over 3.5 hours away in St. Louis. So laughable and the Union should challenge it for the Rosenberry shenanigans last year).
    We will eventually get to promotion/relegation. I am completely convinced. It will take a maverick owner that says “enough with these bullshit rules” to get it done. It will be a brave act. More importantly is a regionalized system for the lower leagues so travel expenses don’t kill them. That and size of stadiums key components to growing the game at the Division I level for the smaller teams. This is how Germany does it,
    Speaking of Germany, not that he is super local, but Gedion Zelalem is making a move to BVB. Will be great to see him link up with Pulisic. I would dare to say we have a golden generation of Americans over in Germany and Spain developing away from the US game with Pulisic, Gedion (soon), Haji Wright (his brother is going to and the kid is legit- Hanif Wright), Gaines, Weston Mckennie, Akale Mukwelle, Nick Taitague and Perez (in Italy). All very good ballers and will be exciting to see. I hope US coaches doen’t screw it up for the U23s or with Arena.
    Does anyone really care about the combine? I saw some funny tweets about vertical jumps this week. So on the money. Give me a team of slow, technical wizards with high football IQs like Ineista and Xavi any day of the week vs. the athletes that come out of combine that fall into the “bigger, stronger, faster” mold that MLS coaches love. I would win 9 out of 10 games by 3-4 goals, if not more.
    I can’t wait for the day that Drafts go the way of the dinosaurs. Would love for all US Sports to go this direction.
    A very good friend in soccer provided a list of YouTube ballers from U6 thru teenagers. Thank you and you know who you are! What a profound effect it has on little guys that they see what their contemporaries are doing around the world. One of the best comes out of Holland at the Joga Bonita website (http://jogabonito.nl/videogalerie-joga-bonito). Look up Illyas Zaiden (Dutch/ Moroccan) who is an unbelievably talented 8 year old who worked hard at his game and is documented on this website.. For coaches and parents of future players, check it out. Ed- it would be awesome if you had a skills page on PSP for coaches and players. (Hint, hint).

    • …keep it light and moving I am doing no harm”
      Totally agree about the ‘best’ US players at the moment building a bridge to potential greatness….Also highly recommend a Podcast featuring Albert Capellas a FC Barcelona youth technical director from a few years ago –MyPersonalFootballCoach.com that posted late last week.
      Very very intriguing listen….best 1 hour of learning in my week — and that includes the 60 minutes prior to Messi free kick yesterday—- “oh no no no we never considered size and physical traits.”
      Just Insight and technique. The ability to think quickly.
      Play the simple pass early.

    • But in the end, physical capability always wins out. If soccer and basketball were reversed right now, basketball would be filled with dirk nowitizskis and ginoblis…while both are very good players you can’t limit yourself to them because they’ve had success while being less athletic. There are still LeBrons and Westbrooks out there that are even better. One day we’ll get there in soccer.

    • “Give me a team of slow, technical wizards with high football IQs like Ineista and Xavi any day of the week vs. the athletes that come out of combine that fall into the “bigger, stronger, faster” mold that MLS coaches love. I would win 9 out of 10 games by 3-4 goals, if not more.”

      I think that you’re discounting the physical abilities of both of those world class players. They have/had the ability to go past someone as well as evade pressure by using their quickness. If they didn’t have that, they wouldn’t be at Barcelona. So they are not unathletic per se, they just don’t depend solely on their physical skills to excel.

      • I think we both know what I mean…yes?

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Didn’t The Realist Brian write that or is that another nom de plume of yours? 😉

        Yes, I understood his and your point, but let’s not pretend that Xavi and Iniesta are Three-toed Sloths with no athletic ability.

      • The Realist Brian is much smarter than I.

      • So far there are only 3 people posting comments on all of psp including myself that i am pretty certain aren’t el pachy posting under different names.
        And maybe el pachy is really ed farnsworth?
        The real UnionGoal at least i think so

      • Pretty much each time you see a new handle its I Am Citizen Insane… once again, linking Radiohead song lyrics to content.
        Its the off season… just having some fun making different connections.

      • The Realist Brian says:

        Let me put it this way: they would both not have made it in the US or England. They are not quick because of athleticism, they are quick because they’re technically wizards on the ball that can move with it and with the speed of mind to invade players. That’s not a physicality piece, that’s a technical piece. Which you can train for with fast footwork drills. But pace/power are more difficult to improve with what you are born with genetically.
        Another way to look at it is if Usain Bolt, Ochocinco, or Kevin Garnett (all fledgling soccer players) played soccer against Xavi/Iniesta, they would physically destroy them in terms of speed, size and strength. But Xavi/Iniesta would possess the ball 90% of the time if they were to play 1v1. And crush those guys.
        Johann Cruyff famously said : ” what is speed? The sports press often confuses speed with insight. See, if I start running slightly earlier than someone else, I seem faster.”

      • Here’s the thing though, in terms of his respective sport, do you know how technically gifted and deft ochocinco is? His footwork was almost unmatched in his prime. What I’m saying is we can’t just ignore physical players because like in essentially every sport, physical talent separates the street ballers from the pro players. To suggest physical players are incapable of honing their talents so that they are just as skilled as a xavi is absurd. However I agree we should take notice of smaller and more technical players to some extent.

      • the point is that “we” need to stop using physical tools and birth month as primary determining factors in our player selection… which still happens at ALL age groups. This is the point… of Mr. Capellas argument. Iniesta was fast i agree. He’s also one of greatest players ever. This should NOT be our metric…. world class is one thing- greatest ever is another altogether.
        I urge you to listen to the podcast before you begin telling me I’m smart or what I do and do not know. You are uniformed based on the context of the discussion. Simple.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Cruyff is an attacker, not a defender and not a two-way player.
        I do not for one second challenge his claim.
        When the possession is lost UNexpectedly, “UNanticipatedly,” no amount of insight can run the enemy down from behind.
        Insight must be supported by a possession game as close to perfect as humanly possible, and a high pressing recovery system of comparable quality.
        Insight is wonderfully effective on a world class technical side with no weaknesses. It is less reliable for lesser teams, because breakdowns are not anticipated or predictable, unless you are playing bunker and counter.

  2. Was hoping there’d be a combination of top NASL and USL teams to form a decent 2nd division. Guess it’s business as usual. Going to be tough to get anyone interested in an 8-team league, I think. I suppose it’s quite a bit better than losing some of those clubs, though.

    • Give it a year. That is the inevitable conclusion to this process.

      • Agreed. Either NASL will make a miraculous recovery (highly unlikely IMHO) or USL/MLS will grind them into submission. This ruling is USSF letting the natural selection process play out.

      • I think that’s right. It’s another year of natural selection.

    • Many of the USL teams seem to really like the reduced travel costs. Not only that, they can get away with spending a lot less money since they are playing a fraction of their games against reserve teams that see winning as secondary to player development. I’m not a very big USL fan for this reason long term. It encourages the owners to be cheap, which may be good to get some teams off the ground. But long term, we need to see more investment from the independent USL clubs to drive the game forward IMO.

      • The USL clubs will be bankrolled (to a limited degree) by their MLS owners in a few years. USL and NASL will combine into a single league, acting as a minor league for MLS.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Learn what you can about the third type of MLS-USL affiliation that is emerging in addition to “independent” and “wholly-owned.” Journalists are calling it “hybrid.”
        Several of the wholly owned ones compete directly with their MLS club for ticket revenue. Same exact market, e.g., Los Dos, NYRB2. Would you buy that ticket?
        The hybrid gives technical control to the affiliated MLS club, and I am guessing responsibility for technical side salaries, players and coaches and medics, as well. The rest of the business is locally owned and run. How profits would be divided is probably still theoretical. I would expect that the technical parent is eating the losses for player development purposes, and that the hybrid allows them to alienate their business costs. The local ownership gets the chance to try to make money out of the local market. Being able to say D2 will help.
        I am guessing that the hybrid form will be the wave of the future.
        I do not see how the affiliates that compete directly with the first team for ticket sales will ever break even. Who will buy their tickets until the first team is a guaranteed sellout and the D2 team season ticket gives you priority towards newly available first team ones. MLS is not close to that level of demand yet, by and large.

      • Just please be effing original with team names.
        Seriously rb2, galaxy2, etc.
        Stupid. Bothers me almost as much as bimbo on the kits.

  3. It's whatever you say it is... says:

    ….Split Infinite.
    From someone else’s bright idea- ‘well~~~~ precedent now set for two Division I.’

  4. Wouldn’t Blake or Rosenberry be our top draft pick at this point? I recognize they haven’t been around forever, but come on now.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Blake, not Rosenberry, because no one is yet anticipating Rosenbeery’s sell-on to Europe for huge bucks. They will be if all goes well, but Blake is there right now.
      Thanks, to John Harkes and his staff.

  5. Any word on when the full schedule will be released? If memory serves, it is due out before the draft.

  6. By making the USL and the NASL both D2 they…punted.

  7. I think there is fair logic to making both NASL and USL D2 leagues. They are basically saying, “You have a year… show us what you can do.” Whichever league fails to upgrade enough to meet the standards can then be demoted to D3, and they’d have little to complain about. I assume that this is prelude to making USL the sole D2 league, but I guess we’ll see.

    • pragmatist says:

      I don’t think anyone will be demoted. This is a cage match now. Only one will survive.

      • Not unless both want it bad enough as to prove both are eligible to remain.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Yes, but they are allowing the game to survive in some places where it is succeeding. That is probably a good thing.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Critical will be whatever the outcome of the discussions about restructuring finances indirectly alluded to By Peter Wilt in an article a day or two ago projecting optimism about NASL’s survival.
        They have to create financial stability and predictability. If they can do that, they may survive and their competition will drag USL forward because it will have to match he competition.
        Two equal entities competing hen discussed at the theoretical level is supposed to improve both. See, Earnie Stewart on Fabinho and Giuliano Wijnaldum.

  8. John O'Donnell Jr says:

    I can’t imagine either league going back to being D3. USL looks like they are trying to meet the standards already by upgrading stadiums or finding new venues for teams under the 5,000 seat capacity. NASL Is all about expansion to 12 teams & one has to be in the central time zone. I can’t imagine them getting four new teams with the owners signing off on going down to D3 if it doesn’t work out.

    But as bad as it looks, this is just a part of our glorious soccer history here in the US. Fifteen years ago today MLS was on the brink of collapse when they contacted two Florida teams. How did that work out?

  9. In a response last summer to a question about Zero Dollar Contracts, when I had said that to me the word contract implied professional, steel FC head coach Brendan Burke listed various authorities that had jurisdiction over the amateur status of soccer players at YSC Academy. USL, USSF, NCAA, and FIFA.

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