League president Jake Edwards says that a US Soccer’s decision on USL’s application to move from Division 3 to Division 2 should come in the next month — a decision that will affect multiple teams both in the USL, but potentially also the NASL.
Right now the U.S. soccer pyramid is clear: MLS, then NASL at Division 2, and USL at Division 3. NASL owners see their better clubs as being the equal of MLS — and, indeed, Minnesota United FC is moving from NASL to USL, perhaps as soon as 2017 — but with other squads moving directly from USL to MLS (Orlando in 2015, perhaps FC Cincinnati in the future) and MLS teams using USL teams as developmental squads, the pyramid’s line are growing a little blurry.
“We’re hoping to hear in the next few weeks,” Edwards told WVXU-FM during a recent FC Cincinnati game. “They’re wrapping up their due diligence. They’re sending folks out to our teams now. They’re inspecting some of our clubs. They’re spending time with our owners. They’ve got a few more weeks of due diligence to go and then we’re hoping to hear in the next month or so.”
But without any system of relegation and promotion, it’s not clear exactly what is to be gained or lost with a USL designation as Division 2. Yes, in theory, it could mean that USL teams can be pushing for higher revenues, and it will mean some venues will be reevaluated: Division 2 will require a stadium size of at least 5,000. The league must operated coast to coast. And 75 percent of the league must be in markets of 750,000 or larger, with a primary owner worth $20 million or more.
Putting NASL and USL on an equal footing will certainly help USL when the two leagues are looking at new markets, but it’s not entirely apparent if USL needs the help: when the NASL and USL both made a run for Nashville, it was the USL that emerged with a strong ownership group and an initial deal to begin play. Arguing that the USL is affiliated with MLS is already a selling point in these situations.
So it will be interesting to see the fallout should USL rise to Division 2. We’re guessing some teams will use a potential rise as a way to seek new or expanded facilities.
Image courtesy Sacramento Republic FC.