After months of uncertainity, the second and third divisions of the US soccer pyramid have yet more uncertainty. For the first time since 2010, the USL is again the second division of American soccer. After a forced joint season in 2010, the NASL has been the second division and the USL has been the third division. Given the turmoil that the NASL has endured these past few months, and the continued strength and growth of USL, this decision is not surprising.
However, US Soccer has also continued to give the NASL division 2 status, not willing to kill the league by demoting them to division 3. Such a demotion would mean the loss of the New York Cosmos (if they are able to come back at all) and would definitely start a death spiral for the entire league.
On the field, the distinctions don’t mean much, but in the front offices and on the balance sheet, division status does make a difference. Sponsors, potential owners, and TV deals do take notice of division 2 versus division 3 status. Rumor has it that the potential buyer for the New York Cosmos will only buy the team if the league still has division two status next season.
Overall, US Soccer is pushing the hard decision to next year, letting the two leagues run their course through 2017. They want the leagues to meet the full requirements for division two by 2018. Basically, they don’t want it to be their action that ends the NASL, because USL will continue to grow and prosper, while a D3 sanctioning would have immediately killed NASL. We will see if this allows the league to survive another year.