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January 6, 2017
U.S. Soccer grants both NASL, USL D-2 standing

By Michael Lewis Editor

Both the North American Soccer League and United Soccer League have a year to get their respective houses in order.

After having exhausted several solutions to figure out which league deserved D-2 status, the U.S. Soccer board of directors Friday made a Solomonic decision, granting both leagues Division II status for the 2017 season.

If that is the case, then the Cosmos are expected to have a new majority owner in cable company magnate Rocco B. Commisso, who has been negotiating to purchase the ailing NASL franchise.

The inclusion of the Cosmos gave the NASL eight teams for 2017, with plans of expanding to 18 or 20 teams for 2018. The minimum teams needed for a D-2 league in the United States is 12, the number the NASL had in its 2016 fall season.

According to U.S. Soccer, the 14-member voting board considered the applications of each league. Neither league met all the D-2 standards, so provisional Division II status has been granted to both. The organization will work with the leagues to find a route to full compliance. The board also determined that both leagues will be required to meet additional criteria.

Exactly what the criteria was not announced by U.S. Soccer.

"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," U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "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."

Over the next few weeks, U.S. Soccer will determine the additional requirements and a timeline for completion.

Representatives from both leagues sounded as they were happy with the decision.

"We would like to thank U.S. Soccer for taking the time to work through this process and provide us with provisional sanctioning for Division II in 2017," USL CEO Alec Papadakis said in a statement. "We welcome the opportunity to work closely with U.S. Soccer to meet all the Division II standards in the near future and continue to be part of the impressive growth of the sport in the United States."

Since 2014, the USL has more than doubled in size. Ottawa Fury FC and Tampa Bay Rowdies, who jumped from the NASL to the new league, and Reno 1868 FC join as new clubs for this season while Nashville SC will begin play in 2018. There is further expansion on the horizon, the league said.

“The USL is honored to receive provisional U.S. Soccer Federation Division 2 status, which provides further validation about our League’s financial sustainability, national footprint, ownership quality, stadium infrastructure and player development,” Papadakis said.

“Our teams have invested more than $100 million into stadium development in the last year to enhance the experience for the 1.5 million passionate fans that attended games in 2016, the 1,000-plus players and nearly 100 coaches that have positioned our league as a highly sophisticated competition model that cultivates strong regional rivalries.”

There was no immediate comment from the Cosmos.

"The NASL board of governors and I support U.S. Soccer's decision to grant the league provisional Division II status," North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik said in a statement. "We're excited about beginning play in April, and we look forward to the continued growth of our league and soccer in the U.S."

No NASL official from the league office had comments.

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