NASL Finally Gets Division Two Sanctioning, But With A Price

It has been a strange couple of months for the new version of the North American Soccer League, as it started with getting their provisional sanctioning at MLS Cup in Toronto. Then out of the blue they lost it towards the end of January as Selby Wellman and his family gave up their rights owning the club to the NASL as well as giving financial help to the Atlanta Silverbacks as a part owner and the NSC Minnesota Stars. Many have been critical against the NASL.

So this past weekend on Saturday, February 12th the NASL flew to Las Vegas where US Soccer was having their Annual General Meetings to make an attempt to regain their provisional sanctioning for Division two and, with a very narrow margin of victory, the thirteen member panel with US Soccer President and Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber abstaining their votes, the NASL won in favor of six votes to five. This was a big victory for those who believe and support this new second division league, and for those who support the continued growth of the game in the USA.

Sadly however it came with a price. It’s the one thing that is, in my mind, a very important tournament that US Soccer hasn’t taken seriously. And strangely they made this decision on the five American clubs that won’t get a chance to face any other sides in all divisions of US club soccer. Earning their provisional sanctioning back, the NASL lost the right to participate in the 2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. There was a press conference on Valentine’s Day to describe the situation when Neil Morris of the Independent who covers the Railhawks in Cary, Durham & Raleigh, asked the question and US Soccer President Sunil Gulati answered the question. “No, because it’s simply too late to include them. The timing doesn’t work. There is no place in the structure; they’re not going to be included.”

No place in the Structure to include them? Really now Mr. Gulati. This so called structure you say is really not that complicated. First round will have Thirty-two sides, sixteen amateur sides (8 in PDL and 8 in USASA) facing supposedly sixteen lower division professional sides (11 in USL Pro & 5 in NASL). Second round will be sixteen round 1 winners and the third round will have eight MLS sides facing eight round 2 winners. How hard is it really to add those five sides into the structure of the 2011 US Open Cup? Honestly it’s not that hard at all.

So as of right now you will have five spots open to those that might be from the NPSL, or this US Club Soccer league, but the most important thing here is that the NASL is getting punished for trying to create a brand new stable second division league in the country.  For US Soccer it’s two steps back as once again they keep showing disrespect to the grand championship of all US club soccer, the Open Cup, and I feel it’s disgusting.

45 thoughts on “NASL Finally Gets Division Two Sanctioning, But With A Price”

  1. I think everyone understands the importance of discipline and holding fast to the standards a governing body enacts in order to protect the sport and its entities in this country.

    With all that said, somehow it leaves the taste of impropriety on the part of USSF. When the President of the USSF speaks cryptically and in half-truths, it gives me the impression that there’s something shady happening behind the scenes. Maybe it’s that I’m used to FIFA’s shtick, and when you have a global governing body as corrupt as FIFA, it only stands to reason that the shit flows downhill.

    At a time in our soccer history where we could use as much cooperation as possible between the governing body and our leagues, hopefully USSF can pull its head out of its rectum long enough to assist the building rather than hasten the dismantling.

  2. This is disgusting. Frankly, I’m getting fed up with non-soccer people running the federation and the league. Guluti has never played the sport professionally, Garber is an ex-NFL-Europe drop out and the list goes on. The owners of D-2 teams should sue US Soccer to allow them in Open Cup OR acquire USL-Pro and create a pyramid and appeal to FIFA for D-1 status.

    1. “ex-NFL-Europe drop out”

      Now that’s funny. That’s delusion at its finest. Go ahead and apply for Division I status. They can barely get a second division league together. What a joke.

      1. Seems like MLS can’t get a league together as Division 1 either. Have you seen the tv ratings? If a ball is kicked into a goal and no one is watching does the goal actually count?

          1. It’s division 2 and doesn’t have the luxury of prime time slots like MLS. Kind of a slap in the face for MLS who can’t garner an audience for its league title match that was shown on ESPN.

          1. Please note you have just posted the FOX numbers, not regular season numbers for say ESPN or the local broadcaster.

            Additionally where are the NHL numbers?

    2. Can you please show me an organization successfully run by “sport people”?

      Then I want you to name some “soccer people” to run MLS

  3. I will heartily agree that the USSF should put more oomph behind the Open Cup, but I don’t think keeping a league which can’t get its act together on the sidelines means they don’t take it seriously. It means they take it more seriously than I believed to me.

  4. This is good for the sport as a whole with the NASL working under the MLS at a D2 status but I wonder if that will ever flip. Just looking from the outside it seems to me that the people building back the NASL really know what they are doing in terms of growth and time. It would not surprise me at all if in ten years the NASL is back as the top league in soccer. Either way it is good to see this develop.

      1. I don’t think the MLS is the issue. The issue is the NASL is back. This could play out to be much like it is in Europe where the top two in the D2 move up to MLS or D1 and the bottom 2 in MLS move down to the NASL. I think in time you will see the league as a whole under the NASL banner with the teams from MLS a part of this two division league here in the US.

        The very fact that the NASL is back like it is today sends a good message that expansion and new opportunities are there for soccer.

        MLS has done a great job but this second level NASL revival is going to be very interesting. I can tell you that if Dallas got a team in the Cotton Bowl they would out draw FC Dallas just because of the location. I would not be surprised if the Tornados makes a come back here in Dallas.

        1. I think the trouble is that there’s this bitterness that seems to run throughout the top three flights of soccer in this country. MLS, NASL, and USL-Pro really need to accept their roles in the pyramid, and work together to enhance the collective product. Right now it seems like it’s a pissing match. I agree that pro/rel should be considered a necessary element in the not-too-distant future.

    1. That is funny, at first I thought you were serious.

      As someone that was a huge NASL supporter the first time they folded, they are on the verge now. Hopefully their costs are low enough and they survive.

  5. Something smells fishy about this one.

    The NASL has been pretty quiet on this one. Is it possible that they may actually be happy with this?

    1. It is way too early to talk about pro/rel. We need a 20 team MLS and NASL first, and good TV deals for both.

      This sucks for NASL. The US Open cup should be taken more seriously. I wish the NASL the best. Now hopefully they start branching out west too.

    2. Give it about 15 might be the earliest.
      1. NASL needs to catch up to MLS teams wise.
      2. NASL and MLS teams need to all need to be in their own stadiums.
      3. D2 needs to get stable.
      4. The Demand would have to be their.

      1. Exactly. Not sure why we are worried about pro/rel just yet. NASL still needs more teams, needs to be nationwide, needs bigger and better stadiums, needs to be on TV, and needs to be stable. Then people can start thinking about pro/rel. Until then, we should focus on what is possible and start supporting US Soccer while voicing our dissatisfaction on things that are realistic at this point in time, like NASL not getting US Open Cup slots.

  6. I agree something smells fishy, we pull the Div II status, then give it back, then say too late for US Open Cup.
    Maybe they didn’t want to be part of it. Can’t see why, but maybe.

    I just don’t get why USSF would label them Div II or Div III ( USL ) in the first place.
    Why ?
    There, much to the pain of people who like that sort of thing, is no Pro/Rel. There never will be.

    Why do you label a Division on them ?
    To get less people to watch ?

    I really don’t get it and every time I ask, no one answers, leading me to believe no one else gets it either. Along the same lines, USSF isn’t going to sanction a soccer league ? USL moved “down” on purpose rather than be pressured to follow the guideleines.

    They should be begging for investors in soccer leagues. I don’t get it.

  7. “Then out of the blue they lost it towards the end of January as Selby Wellman and his family gave up their rights owning the club to the NASL as well as giving financial help to the Atlanta Silverbacks as a part owner and the NSC Minnesota Stars.”

    What in the Hell does this sentence say. Does the author speak English? Clearly (s)he doesn’t write it.

  8. Sunil Gulatis, the head of the USSF, is the intelectual creator of the “single entity” concept. Instead of looking after what is good for the sport in north america, the USSF is TOTALLY in bed with MLS!

    I think it is a case of conflicting interests.

    Have anybody listen to any of our “leadership” figues make coments about plans to develop any kind of soccer structure for the whole nation?

    What ideas do they have to integrate all of the many markets that are just left out?

    Any initiative to integrate the existing leagues into some kind of structure, alliance, cooperation , for the good of the sport , the players and the fans?

    Would you guys agree that if the USSF is the entity wich responsability is to nurture and grow our game in north america, they kind of should have done something like that on the last 16 years ????

    Get your heads out of the sand guys! The USSF is the rooth of the problem. It is polluted by a group of lawyers and sports speculators with too many links to the american sports stablishment. To spect that our game could have any kind of meaningfull development under this “leadership” is just to disconect from reality.

    I will say it one more time. Our first step is to find a way to take the USSF back!

    1. I actually sort of agree with Roger.

      (Of course underlying his rant is the fact that he wants to shape US soccer to look like the joke big leagues, which for very obvious reasons I am VERY much against )

      I don’t get USSF assigning them Div II status and barely giving it to them. They are another league, like MLS. Why are they deemed second class ?

      To throw rules up that USL can’t meet/doesn’t want to meet, so they “move down” to Div III is just….I don’t even know….dumb ? pointless ? rediculous ? all of that and more ?

      The US soccer leagues are NOT the same as Euro leagues. You can love that ( like me ) you can hate that ( like the MLS haters on this site ), but the FACT is they never will be.

      So why does USSF say, your teams CANT be the best in the nation, because we rule your league inferior ? In Europe maybe it makes sense to not let most of the teams win…maybe. You CAN move up and someday you can be.
      In the US ?

      Well in the US, you CAN’T move up and USSF decides which league is the best league.
      For those not old enough to remember, the NFL was formed with a merger of sort with competing leagues.

      1. @ Roger,

        You make excellent points. USSF has to be taken back from these “single entity” guys.

        Lets keep things in persepective and remember that these men in Div II & III make a meager living playing in these leagues. If these leagues fold, due to corrupt economics, USSF is directly responsible for taking away their lively hood.

      2. Like some once-in-a-lifetime alignment of the planets, I also agree with you Charles (and by extension, Roger), although I often disagree with you both.

        I don’t see the significance of labelling one league a “Div 1” league, and another “Div 2” or “Div 3” unless there is some actual ladder between the leagues (i.e. pro/rel, not that I advocate this as a good idea). What the USSF has done is really just create arbitrary labels for the leagues based on bizarre criteria relating to facilities and local populations. I think it would make a lot more sense to have MLS, NASL and USL simply as three seperate, individual leagues, with no “Div 1/2/3” distinction, just as the old NFC and AFC were in American Football. Then perhaps at the end of the season there could be a play-off between the champions of each league, which was the orginal purpose of the Superbowl.

      3. believe it or not i agree with you too Charles on the point that , if there is not promotion and relegation, the labels D1, D2 and D3 are baseless. Such leagues should either be sanction or not, they are all D1 within their structures.

        Disagreements aside, it is obvious that something is very wrong with this USSF. If we were not in the US, and we where in a “soccer country” ( Italy, Brasil, Argentina, Germany…..), having the USSF presided by the guy that designed “single entity” , the system in practice by our D1, would be such a scandall, the pressure by the media and the fans would be so BIG, he would have no chance but to resign very very quick.

        I also agree with Robert. Instead of promoting growth at our lower levels , MLS have been cherry picking the best USL and NASL franchises. Therefore weakening our lower divisions. That puts in evidence their lack of vision, they dont have a plan for the whole nation, they have a plan for their league and their small group of owners.

        The rules in place gives a small group of interests almost total control of our game. That is in total oposition to the practice of inclusion and open doors that have made our game , the most popular on the planet. T.P. Mazembe from Congo is linked to world club structure and made it all the way to the Fifa Clubs World Cup and faced european powerhouse Inter Milan; but Tampa and Carolina are in soccer limbo?! Ridiculous!

        1. @Roger,

          Got to agree with you. The reason why i love soccer is because its truly a sport with zero boundaries. Clubs play each other internationally, free movement of players that are able to seek a better wages, and endless amount of success along with punishment for over leveraging ones finances.

          I am bored with US traditonal sports. Teams remain cellar dwellers for decades at a time and parity in the NFL is a complete sham. MLS is slowly going down this path. USA is big enough for multiple team markets with pro/relegation. MLs has taken 10 steps back with the added 10 team playoff format. The regular season is pointless now and MLS Cup has proven that its system is screwy.

          1. The problem is we need a stable second division with more than 8 teams for that to work. While I don’t think every team needs to be equal, one of the things I hate about La Liga and EPL is that if Man U or Barcelona don’t win the title then Chelsea or Real Madrid will win it. I don’t want a system like that anymore than the one we got. There needs to be more competitiveness.

  9. I feel its got to do more with the friends of Marco of USL then it does with the MLS guys. I mean if Garber did not want NASL to survive why would he tell the Miami Ultras to Support their NASL team. Seriously, why Would Garber want to kill the best way to find future Expansion teams.

  10. “This was a big victory for those who believe and support this new second division league, and for those who support the continued growth of the game in the USA.”

    Come on, are you joking? NASL is almost owned by Traffic, that is a well known company in terms of getting money out of soccer contracts, but not in terms of trying to make the game/league better or consistent.

  11. @Alan. You said:

    “The problem is we need a stable second division with more than 8 teams for that to work. While I don’t think every team needs to be equal, one of the things I hate about La Liga and EPL is that if Man U or Barcelona don’t win the title then Chelsea or Real Madrid will win it. I don’t want a system like that anymore than the one we got. There needs to be more competitiveness.”

    Point#1. there is no better way to stabilize second division than promotion and relegatiion, wich openly and clearly sets what criteria needs to be met in order for clubs to be label either D1, D2 etc. What we have now is confusion, nobody knows wich one would be franchise # 20. Nobody really knows what criteria, influences, interests, personal relationships are playing on closed doors to decide who is the “choosen ” one.

    Point #2. One of Charles favorits, is more manipulation. Soccer reflects reality all around the world. There are more than 40 leagues in Europe, some have more parity than others, depending on the reality of the diferent countries. So they take a couple of the biggest leagues ( specially the Premiership and La Liga ), in which a smal number of “superclubs” have been dominating, and say: “you see, that would kill our league”. NOT TRUE! We should look at the effect of promotion and relegation and open market ( the soccer way) in a serious and global way, not in this manipulaitve , closed-minded, small sample way in wich they do it to justify at all cost their “MLS until I die” actitude.

    Point #3. ” There needs to be more competitiveness.”
    Can ANYBODY come up with a better way to incentivate competitiveness than promotion and relegation?

    1. You’re assuming that I am advocating the MLS way. Both systems are broken. I don’t want the problems that we have, but even a lot of people in Europe (soccer countries and soccer people) acknowledge that buying championships is a problem there. Once again, before anyone puts words in my mouth, I am not advocating the status quo. I am advocating that we do what works without recreating the same problems as EPL and La Liga have.

  12. @Alex
    When you say “I don’t want a system like that anymore than the one we got” , you are creating a false perception that, if we implement such a system we are going to experience such disparity that the league would loose atracction.
    What system do they practice in France? Did you notice how tight is the race for the tile there? There are 5 clubs (real c lubs) within 7 points after more than half of the seasson!
    Italy. Fifth place is within 9 point of AC Milan. On Germany and Portugal Dortmund and Porto have decent leads. On Netherland 2 clubs are tied and the fourth is within 6 points of the leader.

    My point: On every country soccer reflects a very specific reality, society, economy. The system doesn’t create disparity, it shows disparity where disparity exists. Soccer reflects reality, that is the magic; to artificially alter that quality ( MLS) , is to go against its essence!

    another thought: the disparity on some of the bigger european leagues have more to do with the relaxation of the rules relating to the number of foreign players alloud per club , that with the promotion and relegation practice.

    To pick up just the leagues wich reality help you to make a specific point, without looking at the bigger picture, is just an example of the many types of manipulation we are submitted when it comes to promotion and relegation.

    * Remember the old NASL!
    *Disparity will kill the league
    * Second division not stable enough to do it now. Better latter!
    * Stadiums. Teams need their SSS before we even consider
    * maybe in 20 years
    * etc

    NONE of the arguments used against promotion and relegation can stand a serious debate. It is just smoke thrown on our faces!

    1. Number 1, who’s Alex?

      Number 2, how many years did Lyon, Bayern, and Inter win their leagues?

      Number 3, have you looked at the disparity that exists in our country in general?

      Number 4, I am not arguing against pro/rel, so your whole argument is meaningless anyways.

      I will repeat it again: there are issues here in MLS, NASL, USL, US Soccer, etc. I don’t think single-entity is a great long-term option, nor do I think that it even has to exist. I don’t think that the guys running things are doing a great job. But, having a system without some kind of a cap that prevents the same team from winning most every year is not going to fly. Imagine LA Galaxy or any other team winning 90 percent of the league championships every year. Nobody is going to care about that league here.

      This myth that you have to have it the way that we have it or else have it EXACTLY like EPL has it is ridiculous. If it ends up being closer to the European system, that’s fine, but rushing things into a complete European system where we don’t even have stable 2nd or 3rd tiers is silly. My post had nothing to do with pro/rel. Never once did I bring it up. Am I open to seeing it come about? Sure, eventually. I just think you love bringing it up any chance you get. I said we need more than 8 teams for it to work. What are we going to do? Have the 3 top teams of the 8 get promoted and the 3 bottom teams get relegated and the 2 middle teams be the only 2 that stay in the league?

      So, I say again, find a way to create a TAD more equality in competition, and get back to me.

      Bayern Munich – 9 out of the past 14 championships.
      Lyon – 7 out of 9 past championships.
      Manchester United – 11 out of 18 past championships.
      Inter – the past 5 championships.
      Barcelona & Real Madrid – 17 out of 21 past championships between them.

      These leagues have 20 teams competing. I am not saying all teams should be equal. I am saying there should be some way to prevent 1 or 2 teams from owning the championship all the time. How can anybody argue with that?

      1. @Alan
        Sorry I wrote the wrong name on my previous post.

        I know there are soccer dinasties in some countries, it would be absurd to deny that.

        Of course I am aware of our country’s disparity.

        Even though you where not arguing against pro/rel, you used an analogy used frequentrly against such a system. I know that your position is not similar to mine but neither are you on Charle’s world (MLS until I die attitude ).

        The effects of implementing a “european system” (world soccer system would be more accurate) would be huge if we ever do. To seriously debate it we should put the positive results and the negative ones in consideration, and balance them out. My point is that even though there is validity to your point about the potential creation of soccer dynasties; there is also the choice to give fans on literally thousands of cities the oportunity to be linked to the world club soccer structure. And there is much more to consider.

        We dont have to implement any kind of soccer structure just because that is the way they do it anywhere, not even here; but we should have and open serious debate about it. A debate that would include all the essential parts of the soccer family, fans, players , owners, investors.
        Not too long ago there was an article titled “If you where the commisioner, what changes will you implement?” Have any body seen a follow up, about the results of the poll within that article?……….nada,nothing……..under the carpet it goes!

        I have to keep bringing promotion and relegation up because i think it is the key issue for north american club soccer to suceed.

        Promotion and relegation is adjusted to whatever makes sense. If there were only 8 clubs x div, I would not pro/rel 3, maybe promote 1 automatically, and have a play-off (7th club 1st div) vs ( 2nd club 2nd div).
        Look at how the Japanese J-League planed their growth, on diferent steps. Compare the structure they created with what we have in the US. They are biulding up their 3rd div to 22 clubs, as soon as they have 22 clubs they will automatically implenent pro/rel between 2nd and 3rd div. That is what we are lacking, smart planning, transparency.

        Just because I advocate for pro/rel doesn’t mean we should jut implement it next year. It should be done on diferent steps. It should take in consideration:
        *our economy
        * the actual condition of our lower div clubs
        *our geografy

        Our system could be customfitted, while also respecting the essence and universality of our game.

    2. Actually Roger, I feel that every club needs their own stadium to control the revenue’s they are earning. Not saying they have to be 20,000 seat stadiums, but if the San Antonio Scorpions do build their own stadium that is 5,400 capacity with paying no rent at all.

      That’s what I would like to see. Because I feel that if the lower division sides are going to be promoted and if they reach MLS, the landowners are going to demand a higher amount of rent money. If they get relegated, the rent money won’t be lowered and the death clock speeds up.

      It not so much what’s the right structure for the game here in the USA, it’s also the right situation. I honestly believe more needs to be done. If we rush to change everything like Europe or a different system then it all goes down hill quickly.

      But I do agree that there needs to be some change and it has to be done slowly.

      1. @Roger and @Daniel

        I would agree it has a lot to do with the situation. Implementing it now would be death. We should focus on what we can control. I am glad to see a more sensible discussion on pro/rel starting to take shape.

        The only thing I would disagree on is about “soccer dynasties”. A dynasty is one thing, but they practically own winning by outspending. Anyways, taking it slowly can lead to a pro/rel type system down the road while not creating this mess that EPL and La Liga have in the process. I think that the point to labeling division 1/2/3 is for stability later down the road. There are a lot more important things to be fixed than pro/rel, but with a stable system it will probably come. That is why it is important to support soccer in America at all levels, even if you don’t support Garber. I believe that voices will be heard when the time is right.

    1. Keep supporting your team Patrick. My opinion is don’t get wrapped up in the single entity versus individual ownership garbage.
      The Sounder’s games were great when they played in NASL, A-League, USL and whatever else they called the non-MLS league, AND MLS.

      Good luck to your team.

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