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: