The USL has been granted Division II sanctioning by the U.S. Soccer Federation for 2018, with the organization giving the league a two-year path to full compliance.
After playing several seasons as a Division III circuit, the USL was granted provisional Division II status for the 2017 season early last year. The current professional league standards mandated by USSF for Division II leagues include at least 12 teams across three time zones, with minimum standards for stadium sizes, market sizes and owner net worth. The USL will have to continue working toward full compliance, but its sanctioning for 2018 does not come as a surprise, as it is slated to field 33 teams for the coming season and the future of the NASL remains uncertain.
In a statement issued Tuesday, USSF noted the progress that the USL has made in the period since it was originally given provisional Division II status. More from the AP:
The USSF board approved the decision last weekend during a meeting in New York. The federation said Tuesday in a statement that the “USL has demonstrated substantial progress toward reaching full compliance since being granted provisional Division II sanctioning.”
The North American Soccer League held second-tier status from 2011 through last year. When its status was not renewed, it filed an antitrust suit against the USSF. The NASL’s application for a preliminary injunction against the USSF was denied in November, and it took the case to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has not ruled. The NASL has announced that it will skip its spring season and plans to shift to the international calendar of an August-May season.
As was announced by the league earlier this month, USL will play the 2018 season with 33 teams, comprising of a 16-team Eastern Conference and a 17-team Western Conference. The league is welcoming six new teams this year, including two former NASL clubs in North Carolina FC and Indy Eleven.
Image courtesy F.C. Cincinnati.