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NASL slams U.S. Soccer sanctioning decision

The North American Soccer League (NASL) has hit out at the U.S. Soccer Federation, stating its decision to deny Division 2 status for 2018 is not in the best interest of the sport in the country.

The NASL relaunched in 2011 with second-tier status below Major League Soccer (MLS), but U.S. Soccer in January initially elected to afford Division 2 status to both it and the United Soccer League (USL). This was a provisional measure as the governing body said neither league met its requirements at the time.

The NASL currently has eight teams, four short of the required 12 for Division 2 status, but has already confirmed expansion sides for San Diego and Orange County in 2018. U.S. Soccer’s decision casts doubt over the NASL’s long-term future, and the league said in a statement: “Since taking the pitch in 2011, the NASL has been working diligently to advance the growth of soccer by creating an entrepreneurial league where dynamic clubs bring the excitement of professional soccer to fans across North America. 

“Despite the progress made by the NASL, U.S. Soccer has taken a decision to refrain from sanctioning the league as Division 2 for the 2018 season. The NASL is disappointed with the decision and does not believe that the federation acted in the best interest of the sport. 

“U.S. Soccer’s decision negatively affects many stakeholders in soccer: fans, players, coaches, referees, business partners, and the NASL club owners who have invested tens of millions of dollars promoting the sport. The decision also jeopardises the thousands of jobs created by the NASL and its member clubs.”

The NASL is currently in a rebuilding phase having found itself caught up in the corruption scandal in world football. In October 2016, Aaron Davidson, the former president of the US division of Brazilian sports marketing agency Traffic Sports, pleaded guilty to corruption charges in the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation.

Davidson had served as NASL board chairman, with Traffic one of the league’s investors. He pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy.

In its statement, the NASL also took a shot at U.S. Soccer, referring to the national team’s recent defeat to Costa Rica in a qualifier for the 2018 Fifa World Cup. 

It added: “While the last several days have seen some unfortunate results for U.S. Soccer, both on and off the pitch, the NASL remains committed to growing the game and is exploring multiple options as it continues planning for the future.”