A Brief Word From US Soccer

US Soccer bylaws

I love US Soccer Federations press releases. I have every sympathy for why America’s governing body cannot reveal much information on private and legally sensitive ongoing disputes, but there’s something about the dry and cryptic teasers of information that amuse me to no end.

Consider today’s official statement on the ongoing crisis in America’s lower leagues, as the USL and breakaway rival NASL strive for official recognition as Division II leagues in 2010:

CHICAGO (Dec. 7, 2009) – U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, CEO/Secretary General Dan Flynn and Professional Council Chairman Don Garber met with representatives from both the United Soccer League (USL-1) and the North American Soccer League in New York on Sunday (Dec. 6) to discuss Division II league plans in 2010.

“We had a productive meeting and the discussions will continue,” said Gulati. “In the interim we have asked both groups to submit additional information.”

Both leagues have been requested to provide further details of their respective league plans by Dec. 9 to U.S. Soccer’s Professional League Task Force. Once the Task Force determines that the parties have provided the needed information, it will update the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors for further review.

U.S. Soccer’s Professional League Task Force is chaired by Flynn, and includes board members Carlos Cordeiro and Mike Edwards.

Ah, well, now we know what’s going on. But what’s this Professional League Task Force then? Who else is on it, aside from Carlos Cordeiro and Mike Edwards, and why are they specifically mentioned here (or did they not mean “includes” in the sense of there are others not being mentioned?)?  Unfortunately, there is no further information on what this task force is, who is on it and what they are charged and able to do as far as I can find on the US Soccer website.

It’s also interesting to consider that MLS Commissioner Don Garber is wearing in these discussions as a US Soccer board member and Professional Council Chairman. Meanwhile, we should recall that USL founder Francisco Marcos also remains on US Soccer’s Board of Directors, fittingly as an At Large Representative.

One nugget that has come to light is from Kenn Tomasch, who unearthed a possibly redundant piece of evidence from the 1990s that more than one Division II league can exist under US Soccer’s auspices.

Whether or not that is still the case, it’s unlikely both the USL and NASL could be approved as Division II, since such leagues require at least eight teams, and there aren’t sixteen teams of Division II calibre to fill both leagues (USL is down to four or five teams now due to the defections to the NASL).  Glancing through US Soccer’s policy manual, it’s clear even to an observer not privy to the discussions that took place at the weekend that neither the USL nor the NASL meet the required criteria to be recognised as a professional league by the governing body right now, and hence the need for these further discussions. Here are a few key requirements from Policy 202(1)(H)-1 on Professional Leagues:

(d) The competitive divisions referred to in subsections (a) – (c) of this section shall
consist of professional leagues.  Each professional league shall be:

(1) certified by the Board of Directors (BOD) based on standards established
under these policies;

(2) subject to the authority of the Federation;

(3) comprised of at least 8 professional teams certified by the Board of Directors;
and

(4) subject to all rules and regulations of the Federation, autonomous in its
operations.

The USL currently has four, maybe five teams confirmed for 2010; the NASL has the required number, but none of them are “comprised of at least 12 registered professional players” in a professional league “subject to the ultimate authority of the Federation”, as Policy 202(1)(H)-1 (c) — last I heard, the USL and NASL were still wrangling over whether the USL could cancel the defecting teams’ USSF player registrations or not.

Sorry, I guess that didn’t make things any clearer either, did it?  I guess that’s why these press releases are so perfunctory, huh?  This isn’t easy to figure out, with the egos and dollars at stake in a dispute that has been going on since the summer.

At least the official public silence from the US Soccer has been broken, and hopefully we’ll see more from the federation on the next steps after this task force has reviewed the USL and NASL’s proposals.

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