The NASL is facing a major setback in their mission to become USSF Sanctioned for 2011. Word first started to come out early Friday (1/21) when Brian Quarstad, of Inside Minnesota Soccer (IMS), reported that the USSF was concerned with Sanctioning of D2 PRO Soccer for 2011. The NASL shortly after release a statement confirming the report that that USSF had indeed withdrawn their provisional sanctioning of NASL. In that statement they also emphasized their commitment to securing Division 2 status at the USSF Annual General Meeting held on February 11 – 12, 2011.
Aaron Davidson, CEO of the NASL, commented, “We have invested a lot of time, energy and resources over the past four years to establish a proper team-owned and governed professional second division soccer league and separate ourselves from the instability and annual team turnover of USL, the former second division. The USSF and the soccer community have realized that it’s time once and for all to launch a new second division with higher standards which finally ensure the stability, growth and prosperity of second division soccer in North America. We are prepared to respond to the USSF’s concerns and look forward to delivering on our commitments to our teams and fans to re-launch second division as the NASL in 2011.”
IMS later spoke with U.S. Soccer’s Neil Buethe late Friday afternoon. Buethe said there where issues regarding ownership and organizational details to make sure the league was prepared to start the season, which is less than 3 months away.
“The biggest hurdle was really some of the financial requirements. An unstable league or team can damage the market place and the sport overall if teams fold or have financial issues.” said Buethe.
The NASL is comprised of 8 teams that will play in 2011 including: Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina, FC Edmonton, FC Tampa Bay, Miami FC, Montreal Impact, NSC Minnesota Stars, and the Puerto Rico Islanders . Aaron Davidson, CEO of the NASL and president of Miami FC has worked with several struggling teams to ensure they have the financial capital necessary to operate this year under the more stringent USSF D2 Standards. You may remember reading a previous post when Traffic Sports announced they would take part ownership in the Atlanta Silverbacks. At the end of 2010 the NASL announced that the league would purchase the NSC Minnesota Stars while looking for a new long-term owner. Reports have also emerged that the previous owners of the Carolina Railhawks have dissolved their organization and either the NASL &/or Traffic Sports could be taking over as early as this week. However, those plans could be placed on hold in light of the recent developments.
The NASL continues to move forward and provide the USSF with what it believes are the necessary requirements. IMS quoted Davidson as saying,
“We’ve provided the federation with what we believe was the missing information. We feel we live up to the standards of second division as they were set forth in October. The Federation now have over $6 million in letters of credit that are joint and several for a league who runs budgets around $2 million a team. Traffic is involved with three of the teams, the league is involved with Minnesota and Montreal stands on its own. That means there are three teams left this season that don’t have Traffic or Montreal behind them. If all three teams were to default immediately, you would still have enough money amongst the collective group to run all three of those teams for an entire season.”
At the end of the day I personally think NASL will be sanctioned as Division 2 for 2011. The USSF stepped in for 2010 to make sure things worked out and that the games would be played. I believe the USSF needed to flex some muscle to show the NASL that they were serious and probably to resolve the finance issue to their liking.
Brian Quarstad at www.insidemnsoccer.com has done a fantastic job of breaking and following this story. You may remember him from the 2010 Best Blog nomination he received from US Soccer. If you’re looking for more detail then check out his site and follow him on twitter (@MinnesotaSoccer) for the latest on what’s happening.
What do you think will happen with NASL in 2011? Do you think attendance would change significantly for the Silverbacks if they were playing in D3 or unsanctioned?