Thursday, September 16, 2010

As the D2 Turns

The soap opera of USSF Division 2 soccer has been going on for two years now. USL teams split to form the NASL in 2009, both leagues jointly competed at the D2 level in 2010, USSF had to manage the leagues to ensure a D2 league at all in 2010. There was a great article yesterday on insideMNsoccer.com about D-Day for USSF Division 2 league sanctioning for the 2011 season. If you remember back in a July article we generated our own version of D2 soccer in the US by going with medium size cities in tight proximity with one another. It appears that the path towards D2 2011 is a little better defined after Wednesday, even though USSF has stated that without sanctioning there will be no D2 league next year. Here’s how we see D2 shaping up for next year based on NASL, USSF, and USL news as well as some educated speculation.

NASL will be the only league submitting a bid for D2 sanctioning for 2011, which has been confirmed by NASL, USSF, and USL staff in multiple sources. NASL currently is made up of 9 teams, but Vancouver will be leaving for the MLS and Atlanta and Edmonton are suppose to be joining for 2011 leading to a total of 10 teams. Additionally, the Puerto Rico Islanders have decided to jump ship from the USL and move to the NASL in 2011 (which have magically been removed from the uslsoccer.com website). USSF has established a requirement for the D2 league to have at least 8 teams meeting various financial requirements for the league to be sanctioned, not all of the potential 11 NASL teams meet the guidelines. Six teams already meet the requirements with no further changes necessary: Carolina Railhawks, Montreal FC, FC Tampa Bay, Miami FC, Ronchester Rhinos, and FC Edmonton.

The Puerto Rico Islanders meet all of the requirements with the exception of a single owner with at least 35% ownership; the consensus is that the Islanders will receive a waiver from USSF based on their otherwise stellar resume and history.

There have been recent developments with AC St. Louis, who Jeff Cooper has nearly driven into bankruptcy, receiving a bailout in the form of new potential owner Ryan Woods. A straight buy-out by Mr. Woods would allow St. Louis to meet the new D2 guidelines, which USSF and MLS are clearly pulling for as a key soccer market. Woods has further stated his intentions to buy the team and push to earn an MLS expansion franchise in the next 5 years.

Unfortunately for Minnesota, Baltimore, and Atlanta they will likely fail to meet the financial requirements for NASL’s 2011 bid and will have to look elsewhere for a league. Although discussions with new owners are on-going for all three teams, the timetable just doesn’t allow for the paperwork to be in place before the end of September to support the bid.

That leaves NASL with 8 teams for their 2011 bid, assuming everything works out with Puerto Rico and St. Louis. We are going to go out on a limb and suggest that two more teams will also be included as part of the bid: FC New York and Austin Aztex. FC New York is currently aligned with the USL to join in 2011, but their ownership group (Jo-Ellen Treilber and Doug Petersen) already meet the financial requirements for D2 and have a great location in a key USSF/MLS market, at Hofstra’s University’s new 13,000 seat Shuart Stadium just east of NYC. If FC New York aren’t part of the 2011 bid, we fully expect them to leave USL after 2011 and could potentially replace Montreal when they leave for MLS in 2012. A more likely defector would be the Austin Aztex who meet all of the D2 requirements and clearly are going to be a wasted franchise if they remain with the new D3 USL organization.

So we expect the NASL 2011 bid to look something like this:
1. Carolina Railhawks
2. Montreal FC
3. FC Tampa Bay
4. Miami FC
5. Ronchester Rhinos
6. FC Edmonton
7. Puerto Rico Islanders
8. AC St. Louis
9. FC New York
10. Austin Aztex

The soap opera of USSF Division 2 soccer will continue over the next few months, but hopefully the cast will be finalized on or around October 1st.

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