Published: Jan 07, 2010 06:42 PM
Modified: Jan 07, 2010 06:43 PM
The U.S. Soccer Federation announced on Thursday that its second division of professional soccer will have one singular 12-team league to be called the USSF division II, unless a corporate sponsor steps forward, in which the Carolina RailHawks will play in this season.
The solution ends a nearly four-month struggle between second division franchises as some owners were hoping to form a breakaway league – a proposed North American Soccer League – separate of the established United Soccer League. The USL had filed lawsuits against the NASL and some of its members but it has since been dropped.
The RailHawks were at the forefront of that movement as nine teams in all tried to apply for USSF sanctioning under the NASL name.
On Dec. 29, the USSF declined to sanction NASL, as well as the USL – which had been ravaged of all but four of its second division teams – for 2010. Both leagues were deemed unable to provide a sustainable operation during the upcoming season and given seven days to work out an interim solution with hopes that there would be a single league to be approved on a provisional basis.
“The most important thing is long-term stability,” said USSF president Sunil Gulati in a teleconference on Thursday. “What we've achieved here today gives us a short-term solution for the 2010 season.”
The result is a lea– it will be referred to as the USSF Division II until a corporate sponsor steps forward – and set up for this year only. Its divisions' names, the USL Conference and the NASL Conference, take after each side of the dispute with the RailHawks in the latter.
The divisions are in name-only in order to give the leagues a namesake in new league as they will have no effect on playoff seeding or league standings. In fact, three NASL teams are in the USL Conference.
RailHawks owner Selby Wellman said the compromise was best for the short-term, and that his group still plans on submitting an application for NASL next year.
“There's a little bit of nostalgia and happiness that it's finally over. The RailHawks are full steam ahead for this year even though it's a transition year,” Wellman said. “I'm excited we'll get all these problems resolved with USL and we'll all get to play division II this year and I'm even more excited that we'll now be able to dedicate all our resources to launching the NASL completely at the beginning of 2011.”
The NASL was formed by ownership groups of the RailHawks, Miami FC and the Minnesota Thunder soon after the USL was sold from Nike to NuRock Soccer Holdings LLC in late September. Those owners had also placed a bid for the league in hopes of changing some of its structure and improving its brand in North America.
Wellman said this solution could be a “blessing in disguise” as his group will get an extra nine months to get its league ready.
“We've now got a full year to launch it properly,” Wellman said.
The Cary News will have more from Wellman on the SWakeSports blog