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USSF Approves NASL Bid for Sanctioning of Division II Soccer

2010 November 22
by Brian Quarstad

The North American Soccer League (NASL) announced this morning they have been provisionally approved as U.S. Soccer’s sanctioned 2nd Division league.

The carefully worded statement said: “The provisional nature of the sanctioning is consistent with the USSF’s bylaws which require approval by the National Council of the USSF.  This approval is expected to be forthcoming at the USSF Annual General Meeting in February 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.”

The board met on Sunday morning at the MLS Cup headquarters at the InterContinental Toronto Center. A source who did not want to go on record  said the provisional status is in regard to the proposed San Antonio, Texas team that is scheduled to replace the Montreal Impact in 2011. The Impact will move to Major League Soccer that season.

Businessman Gordon Hartman announced in early October that he would join the NASL in 2012 with his San Antonio team.

The NASL will be sanctioned and like both MLS (Division I) and USL Pro (Division 3) will need to have their sanctioning renewed every year by filing an annual report.  In August the USSF set new tougher Division II standards which they will need to meet. US Soccer spokesperson Neil Beuthe told IMS last summer that the governing body of soccer in the U.S. would also be setting new standards soon for both Division 3 and for WPS.

The NASL will have 8 teams in its first year and will include: Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, FC Edmonton, Miami FC, NSC Minnesota Stars, Montreal Impact, Puerto Rico Islanders and FC Tampa Bay.

“This is a historic day for soccer in North America as we officially launch a new Division II league that will seek to uphold its namesake,” said Aaron Davidson, Chief Executive Officer of the NASL. “We would like to thank the Board of Directors of the Federation for their ongoing support throughout this process.  We look forward to working with Major League Soccer at the first division level and the United Soccer Leagues at the third division level to continue to build on the foundation they have established to grow the beautiful game in North America.”

The NASL also announced their season will kick off on April 9, 2011, when the 2010 USSF D II Pro League finalists Puerto Rico Islanders and the Carolina RailHawks will play each other in Cary, North Carolina to kick off the season.  Other matches will include FC Edmonton at Miami FC, NSC Minnesota Stars at Atlanta Silverbacks, and Montreal Impact at FC Tampa Bay.

The new league also announced all teams will play a 28-game schedule, consisting of 14 home and away games.

With only 8 teams in the league this year, the playoff format will only include 6 teams. The two teams with the most points will gain a bye to the semi-finals and the remaining four teams will play in a single-game playoff to advance to the semi-finals.  The semi-finals and the finals will each consist of a two-game home and home aggregate goal system.

This article was edited at 7:45 ET for errors in content.  An NASL Spokesperson told IMS this morning that the provisional sanctioning is standard procedure and it “is not” a one year provisional deal but is the same sanctioning as any other league. IMS was in error saying it was a one year deal.

Also, IMS stated that USSF wanted to look at San Antonio’s financial papers and that was also incorrect. However, US Soccer does need San Antonio to complete more paperwork for the league before the NASL can be sanctioned at the USSF Annual General Meeting in February .

Because of travel issues today an updated was not able to be done until this evening. IMS apologizes for inaccuracies in this morning’s article.


NASL to Operate as the Division II Men’s Outdoor Professional Soccer League in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico; Opening Weekend April 9, 2011

November 22, 2010 — The North American Soccer League (“NASL”) was provisionally approved as the Division II men’s outdoor professional soccer league by the Board of Directors of the United States Soccer Federation (“USSF”) at its meeting in Toronto, Canada on November 21, 2010.  The provisional nature of the sanctioning is consistent with the USSF’s bylaws which require approval by the National Council of the USSF.  This approval is expected to be forthcoming at the USSF Annual General Meeting in February, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“This is a historic day for soccer in North America as we officially launch a new Division II league that will seek to uphold its namesake,” said Aaron Davidson, Chief Executive Officer of the NASL.  “We would like to thank the Board of Directors of the Federation for their ongoing support throughout this process.  We look forward to working with Major League Soccer at the first division level and the United Soccer Leagues at the third division level to continue to build on the foundation they have established to grow the beautiful game in North America.”

The NASL will play the 2011 season with eight teams in major markets across the United States Canada and Puerto Rico.  A team in San Antonio, Texas will join the league for the 2012 season and a team to be announced will join the league for the 2013 season.  Mr. Davidson added, “We are considering the addition of several expansion teams in the coming months.  Despite the excitement surrounding this announcement, we intend to carefully consider how, when and where to expand to ensure the stability of the NASL and to put the best possible product on the field for our fans.”

The inaugural NASL season will open on April 9, 2011, highlighted by the rematch of the 2010 finalists between the Puerto Rico Islanders and the Carolina Railhawks in Cary, North Carolina.  Other matches include FC Edmonton at Miami FC, NSC Minnesota Stars at Atlanta Silverbacks, and Montreal Impact at FC Tampa Bay.  The NASL’s teams will play a 28 game schedule, consisting of 14 home and 14 away games against each opponent.

The NASL’s playoff format will consist of the top six teams, with the first two teams receiving a bye until the semi-final round and the remaining four teams playing in a single-game playoff to advance to the semi-finals.  The semi-finals and the finals will each consist of a two-game home and home aggregate goal system.

The NASL will undertake an extensive marketing campaign in the months leading up to its inaugural weekend.

35 Responses
  1. Bring back the Shootout permalink
    November 22, 2010

    i’ll be curious to see what happens next as far as teams surviving… there are still struggling teams out there that have not yet secured financing for next year .. I can name at least 3

  2. November 22, 2010

    This should not be a surprise as USSF & MLS are one in the same…Montreal needs a place to play next year. That item alone was enough to get the going. Why set standards if a few months later you give exceptions.

  3. Strikers Return permalink
    November 22, 2010

    @DC – Outside of the 75% US rule, which the release mentions specifically with regards to it having a planned resolution with San Antonio coming in to replcae Montreal in 2012, show me some information that any of the other standards set out by the USSF were not being met? Are you accusing the USSF of setting what are by all accounts, very rigorous standards, and are granting sanctioing and ignoring them? That’s a pretty serious charge to level, so I’m sure you’re going to provide us with some factual evidence to back that up as well. This league wasn’t sanctioned so Montreal would have a place to play, that was an incredibly stupid thing to say….

    All of the lines are drawn, all parties have put down stakes in the appropriate places. MLS is D1, NASL is D2, and USL is D3 and D4. What it is time for now, is exactly what NASL said in their release – everyone working together for the betterment of the game in North America, and the US imparticular.

    I for one am looking forward to a successful 2011 for all four divisions of soccer, and hope they can all continue to grow and build toward a future where we have the level of play in all divisions that is respected by the other nations of the world.

    On a side note, I am also VERY interested to see how the NASL moves forward on that last statement in the release regarding the “extensive marketing campaign.” To me this has been one of the biggest issues with D2, zero marketing. You can have the best team on the field, and even a decent facility to play in, but if no one know you’re there because you don’t market your product, you’re going to see disappointing attendance figures. I sure hope Traffic will be following through on Davidson’s words and marketing the hell out of the Strikers.

  4. Bart permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Well, BQ, you have Minnesota back as a team next season!!

  5. USL Pro? permalink
    November 22, 2010

    What about the USL-PRO? aren’t they D2?
    Everyone mentions the USL D3 and D4, but no one is talking about USL-Pro

  6. November 22, 2010

    I presume you mean the 2012 season in regards to San Antonio.

  7. November 22, 2010

    USL Pro is the combined USL1 & USL2 and are Division 3.

  8. Tom permalink
    November 22, 2010

    @ USL Pro? – here is the proposed 2011 US soccer heirarchy:
    MLS – Div 1
    NASL – Div 2 (pending final sactioning)
    USL PRO – Div 3
    PDL – Div 4

    As stated before, I hope every level of soccer here in the US has success in the upcoming year(s)!!

  9. fotbalist permalink
    November 22, 2010

    I’m very happy with the announcement and I like the ‘provisional’ decision. It’s only fair that there be a probationary period, during which the administration of the NASL and the respective team owners would prove themselves.

    @ Tom
    MLS – D1
    NASL – D2
    USL Pro – I haven’t heard that they have officially applied for/been sanctioned as D3. Having said that, I also believe that they will be the de facto D3.
    PDL & NPSL – D4 (I think the NPSL is going to develop further and it is a good option for those who can produce good soccer but don’t have the finances or want to spend exorbitantly to get into the USL system.

    I’m still curious if we will hear anything else about the attempt at a Western Soccer Conference.

  10. Ultra permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Well, with 6 out of 8 teams making it in, the Strikers(Miami FC) might actually make the playoffs next season lol.

    Glad to hear they are basically good to go.

  11. Soccer Boy permalink
    November 22, 2010

    In addition to having a pro team in MN, I also want all teams to have stability. With the lose of Vancouver and Portland to MLS, and possible loss of St. Louis due to finances, it is going to be hard for MN to start something. Personally, there is more motivation to draw fans to a match when you are playing against that team that everyone loves to hate.

    Any chance in the near future of D2 soccer coming back to Milwaukee?

  12. Strikers Return permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Other than saying the Ottawa backing of the Stars rumor was not true in that CSA moratorium article, I don’t think we’ve heard much of anything regarding the ownership situation for Minnesota. Didn’t the league say they were waiting for the sanctioning decision to come down before discussing it?

    What are the odds that we will see some activity on the St. Louis deal now as well? Could the new ownership have just been waiting for the sanctioning to come through before deciding to proceed? Having St. Louis back in the fold would be good for the league I think.

    Anyone with any guesses about the mystery 13th franchise TBA? Awhile back I threw out Hamilton is my #1 guess, with Ottawa as a close #1A. Maybe Phoenix? Maybe an existing PDL team?

    Anyone heard anything new on whether FC Tampa Bay is going to try and make a move to get the Rowdies name after losing the legal battle on it? Now that the sanctioning wait is over, I’m ready for all the looking ahead to next year to begin!

  13. Strikers Return permalink
    November 22, 2010

    2013 franchise I meant to say….

  14. drebin permalink
    November 22, 2010

    This is good news! I particularly like the comment made by Mr. Davidson about actively working alongside MLS and USL to build a firm foundation for soccer across North America. To my knowledge, that’s probably the first acknowledgement by a leading exec from either side to start putting the past behind us and start working in partnership.

  15. sylvain permalink
    November 22, 2010

    wonder how Rochester fan gone react knowing that they are now in D3…..

  16. Paul permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Now how about an announcement regard promotion/relegation for 2015 or something?? I would love to see philly union get relegated to NASL

  17. Garrett permalink
    November 22, 2010


    Considering the guys on Kick This were complaining about the NASL and the prospects of Rochester being D3 instead of D2 a few weeks ago, I’m sure they’re livid. I’m also going to assume that they’re going to continue using unreliable/fake sources in attempting to discredit the NASL like “Soccer Sam” did when he reported FC Tampa Bay was going through financial difficulties (he since retracted the statement).

    My sources still say that “Soccer Sam’s” pizza tastes like shit.

  18. Strikers Return permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Yeah, you gotta feel bad for Rochester fans who have seen their owner side with a group who’s strategy all along was, well, we’re going to drop down to D3, pretend we’re not by never saying “D3” and wish upon a star (and throw whatever monkey wrenches into the works we can too) that NASL falls flat, so that we’ll then be “the highest level of pro soccer outside of MLS!” So much for that plan…..

    But really, Rhinos’ fans lose out because their team self-relegates, and Austin fans not only had their team self-relegate as well, but then they snuck out of town too. The NASL could be looking at a really nice foundation if those two clubs had stayed/joined. But they found a way to get the floor in place anyway, and hopefully they can build upon it, little by little, each year. Good luck to Rhinos fans. Maybe someday Clark will realize his mistake.

    But bottom line is, everything that’s in the past needs to stay there, and D1 – D4 working together toward the success and improvement of soccer in North America shouldn’t be just lip-service, it should be what all three organizations are actually doing. I’m sure it’ll take time for some hard feelings to subside, but eventually everyone needs to be going in the same direction so soccer at all levels in this country will be taken seriously by the rest of the world and not seen as a joke.

  19. Leroy permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Strikers Return:

    Clark should recognize what mistake? The fact that D2 got “provisionally” sanctioned, and that a formal announcement of approval may be coming in February by USSF?

    USSF realizes that NASL is on shaky ground, but are giving it a small breath of life if, as BQ has stated, can satisfy certain items USSF wants from NASL. While I am pretty certain that NASL is smart enough to pass this threshold item, if it cannot, then there may not be a formal February announcement. More smoke and mirrors.

    The fundamentals have not changed at all. Each year, with the exception of Montreal, these D2 teams will lose approximately $1,000,000. That is a mistake that Clark is running from?

    If this league folds, and undoubtedly it will if Traffic pulls the plug, then we have certainly shown the world that soccer exists in the limelight in the good ole USofA. The only way this league will continue to exist, with all of its 3,000 fans at a game, is if the player contract situation improves dramatically and to such an extent, it will fill the coffers, much like SUM does for MLS (although in a much smarter way).

    The Rhino’s fans lose out why? Because they still have professional soccer in the City? The difference between D3 and D2 soccer play is insignificant for the most part.

    The US has a long way to go before we are truly on the world soccer scene in a really strong way.

    I seriously doubt that Davidson’s release has anything to do with reality, and much more about the continual BS that eminates from his organization.

  20. tampa rowdie permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Great news! Finally! and all that. Now let’s get this show on the road. The NASL now has an actual brand to market and the participating teams have no excuse not to roll out extensive marketing campaigns, as opposed to last year’s shoe string efforts around the league.

    What is the over/under on Rochester flip flopping yet again back to the NASL after a season or two?

  21. Bob Evans permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Was it announced who owns the Atlanta and Minnesota teams?

    What happened to the 75% rule for teams that are in the United States federation? Is that still a rule? How did they comply for 2011?

    Its pretty well established that Traffic controls the NASL, right? What have they shown through running the Miami team that makes anyone think they are capable of doing anything other than losing boatloads of money?

    Just the latest “next big thing”. I give it two years maximum, more likely one year.

  22. Strikers Return permalink
    November 22, 2010


    USSF would not have granted this “provisional” sanctioning if NASL didn’t meet the standards. The Feb. thing is simply a matter of the technicalities of the federations by-laws. The ONLY way anything would be different in Feb. is if between now and then one of the owners decided to close up shop. And why would that happen between now and then?

    I’ve seen plenty of comments around the web from Rhinos’ fans bemoaning the self-relegation. And you tell me in all of your facts there how trips to Antigua and now two trips to Puerto Rico (unless they go in and play back to back, but that’s not going to be possible for every team in the league to do schedule wise) instead of one are going to look on what will now be a D3 expense sheet rather than a D2. Seems to me that if the aim was to escape travel costs, someone should hang a big Oopsie sign in the Rhinos office.

    Bottom line is the NASL now has a chance to operate the league their way. Not USL’s way. They are owed a fair chance. USL has certainly had 20+ years, but you begrudge NASL even one? This is why things don’t move forward. Everything is in place now, let’s see what happens, and despite idiots like Soccer Sam and his NASL hating cronies, the smart thing is for all of us to hope soccer succeeds at ALL levels in this country.

  23. Zlatan permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Most likely scenario is that come February, USSF will give a 1 year extension for NASL D2 teams to satisfy the requirements and let them play a provisional year. The team count may not be up to 8 in the first season, and at least 1/2 the teams won’t meet the financial requirements. I agree with previous posts that most teams will loose a boat load of money. A regional league system, with promotion and relegation between D2 and D3, with D3 contribution helping offset travel costs for 12-16 team D2 league is the only solution. Come 2012, the NASL gang will be back a D3 with USLPro. I truly believe MLS is engineering this disaster, to allow them to stifle competition and eventually create their own reserves league in D2. I’m not sure I would buy a car from Garber.

  24. November 22, 2010


    I am pretty sure that before the bid was submitted to USSF they figured out a way to meet the requirements for 2011 (thx Traffic!)

    It’s pretty sad that you are wishing for the NASL to join USL-Pro in D3 when the NASL were the only ones to actually try to meet the rigorous (but eventually needed) USSF requirements. By contrast, the USL’s position was a set up for a successful failure (“well, since no one can make D2, let’s work on making D3 so when we both fail, we win, since NASL had no back-up plan”).

    Now everyone’s blaming MLS. Listen up, NASL haters: you have only one direction in which to point the fingers–inward. If USL had actually done right by the teams, owners and soccer in America, there wouldn’t BE an NASL. That they have gotten this far in spite of such spirited opposition and clever politicking is proof they actually care about the sport and the success of their teams and properties.

    I plan to support FC New York (which is local to me, and USL-Pro), Puerto Rico and Miami like this season (NASL) and the mighty Red Bulls, my MLS local team, even though they screwed up royally with Juan Pablo Angel.

    We finally look to have some order in this house. Now let’s focus on supporting our teams.

  25. MarcV permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Rochester in D3 – one can’t help but notice the rhino in the room. Memo to Rochester ownership – consider renaming the team Rochester Crows. There will be plenty to eat…

  26. Joe permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Can anyone tell me what team besides Montreal in the NASL draws more then 1500 per game?…..congrats to them for getting D2. Its mainly all smoke and mirrors. We in Rochester aren’t happy, though most here don’t know squat about a D2 or D3 league( no real difference anyways)…..Yes USL sucks . The Rhinos will average 3X more attendance per game then any other NASL team (montreal excluded) and 75% of last years Rhino’s 1st place finishing team has resigned with our club. In time the Rhinos will be back , while most NASL teams will be dead and buried…….just for the record, Soccer Sam and his show are clearly biased toward the USLpro (he should be ,he owns the Lancers which will lay in the I-league indoor soccer next November)…everyone around here know he is a bit slanted in his views.

  27. Garrett permalink
    November 22, 2010

    @ Joe

    Aside from Montreal, Carolina, Tampa and Puerto Rico all drew well over 1,500. If STL made it back (even though I highly doubt they will this year), they would fall into the +1500 range.

    For all the numbers:

  28. Bart permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Actually, Soccer Sam’s pizza is a lot better than anything in Canada. The rest of this is pure BS.

  29. jw7 permalink
    November 22, 2010

    The whiners are still at it, oh well do what you do best (complain), is what I always say. 🙂

    Seriously with the way D2 soccer was in the past few years, how could a big change really be all that bad? It had stalled, it was right to give the next group of willing people a chance to improve on this league. This was the first step in making things better, realizing you had a problem and actually dealing with it boldly and with strength. We have people that again have a new vision and believe they can do it. We have a league that not just playing it safe, were going for it, dam the torpedos, full steam ahead. Good for them. I love to see an attacking style of fighting teams not willing to lose quietly.

    This whole thing was handled correctly by the USSF. You had a few people who were very committed to making MLS work they put up their money and they have worked hard to make it work. You now have another group of people stepping up to make the NASL work. We should all be giving them our full support, they are the next risk takers willing to put up what it takes to make this work. No one has unrealistic expectations, they understand what level they are creating. We are not just creating another league in name, we are creating more pro teams, more coaches, more front office, more sales people, more fans, and a bigger more diverse soccer infrastructure. This is a big step forward for soccer in the USA when you look at it that way.

    More is better!

    This will be the league that creates the next MLS teams far into the future. Garber stated the other day that the US top league will have more than 20 teams, we are not a population with only 65 million people like most european countries, we are a country with 300+ million.
    The USL played their role and created some good MLS teams, and this will be the next group to push us all forward into the future of american soccer.

    In sports we show up to be entertained we want to watch the underdog pull off the big comeback and create the very excitement and unexpected result that makes us want to come back for more. This is US soccer history in the making, and you/we were there being part of it.

    A proud day for american soccer fans.

  30. Brian permalink
    November 23, 2010

    BQ: What happened to AC STL? Are they out of the equation? My sources tell me that you have said time and time again that the team would return under the ownership of Ryan Woods. Can you shed some light on the situation for us?? Thanks.

  31. sedlie permalink
    November 23, 2010

    I’ll believe it come April 9th.

    In the meantime, could this all just be smoke and mirrors by the USSF showing it has its house (pyramid) in order for the World Cup bid? Although I don’t think the voters care much about the US soccer pyramid, but rather care about the money going into their pockets and the influence they’ve been promised in exchange for their vote.

  32. thesuperrookie permalink
    November 23, 2010


    Man, I missed you. Thought you forgot about us once the Stars won a single game, made the playoffs and decided to come back for a second season. Judging by your illustrious track record of predictions I read every single word you write with the uptmost respect and care.

    That being said, I am still having difficulty figuring out why some people continue to despise the NASL and what they are trying to accomplish. Seems to me that if someone wanted to sink their money into a project why would we try to stop them? That doesn’t sound like the American way to me.

    Plus, I now have three NASL teams within five hours drive!

  33. Strikers Return permalink
    November 23, 2010

    @jw7 – Well said. This isn’t about anything more then pro soccer. NASL has a chance to start on a clean slate and try to do what they think will help this league and division not only survive, but maybe even thrive in it’s niche on the North American soccer pyramid structure. It’s easy for people to be know-it-all critics at this point and say negative things. Give NASL a couple of years to do things their way and see if they can come up with better results then the prior organization got over 20+ years of running D2.

    There are no guarantees, but these clubs are going to make an effort to make it work, and as soccer fans we are the ones who can actually make the difference. If Traffic rolls into next April having done nothing yet again to promote my team, I’ll be angrier and yelling much louder then the nay-sayers around here who want to pitchfork them already. The new guidelines incorporate rules about club organization and things like marketing. These are key ingredients that have been skipped before. Let’s be patient with NASL and its clubs, get involved however we can, and see what comes of it.

  34. Zlatan permalink
    November 23, 2010

    Superrook — you missed my more recent post, after watching the team, with Manny at the helm, I predicted much better than 1 game. After watching a few games, with the level of competition, I predicted that Manny would have them finish higher than the previous looser-crew-including-GM from the Thunder. BTW, what are the Aztecs up to these days? My ongoing prediction about the NSC being able to actually have team for 2 seasons, was spot on. You see that another club AC St. Louis is done. I don’t hate the NASL…I own rights to trade/systemmarks they will want to use. But I would rather see a real D2 with the ability to make money, thus making me money, in a situation that has longevity. We have the same cast of characters, with the same bad ideas, with the same pack of crappy marketing and loosing money, chasing D2 status with someone elses money. It would help everyone in or about the game to have a sustainable set of leagues that could make a little money. I will be in the states/MN for part of the summer in 2011 and will be drinking a few cold ones, with other fans of the game, wherever their are games to watch!! Footy forever!!

  35. Yawassanay permalink
    November 29, 2010

    Good to see that USL Pro is designated as a D3 league. No way could club teams from PR or former USL D2 be considered D2 quality. Finally some sense or order is in place for ascending and descending the ladder in this continent..i doubt the leagues will play nice and form a true promotion/relegation system, but the fact a system of D1 to D3, possibly D4 soon will exists tempts one to hope this will occur. Once a True CSL league is established, the game hopefully will flourish with several academies opening and feeding the MLS and other leagues.

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