The Sweeper: USSF Division II Set for Kick-Off

USSF Division 2

Big Story

An offseason of controversy about the second division in American soccer brought lower league soccer here more attention than it had ever had before, until the governing US Soccer Federation (USSF) finally stepped-in and resolved the dispute between the NASL and the USL by agreeing to run the league for this year.

Things have been a lot quieter since, with the division returning to the shadows  ahead of kick-off this weekend. The NASL and the USL continue their respective pushes for attention, and it should not be forgotten that the USSF only found a temporary resolution for the 2010 season to allow play to go ahead this year. Behind the scenes, one hopes they are beavering away with both parties to figure out how the structure will work in 2011, but even distant rumblings of future plans aren’t yet surfacing. They do, at least, have a nice logo for the league.

But it seems the two parties, USL and NASL, are still not necessarily cooperating all that well. There appears to be no national television deal, with nothing worked out to continue the previous coverage of the USL on Fox Soccer Channel. Creatively, the USSF has secured a company called Ooyala (really?) to stream every game for free on each club’s website, so the governing body should be credited for that.

Overall, it’s a critical year in lower league soccer not just because of the controversy between the competing entities, but with two of the stronger Division II teams headed to MLS in 2011 (Portland and Vancouver), the role and purpose of a division two is still unclear. The NASL certainly has the most elite teams and the most ambition, but can it establish itself enough for USSF to jilt the USL and award it the rights to run the Division II league in 2011? What should the purpose of a second division actually be — developing players, or developing clubs with fanbases ready to move up to MLS?

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4 thoughts on “The Sweeper: USSF Division II Set for Kick-Off

  1. John

    There is promotion and relegation in Mexico.

    Other leagues also have closed shop promotion/relegation systems, such as the J-League, the Dutch league, and the Scottish league – and then there are the franchise-based leagues in Australia which operate on a similar level. Hell, England was a closed shop promotion/relegation system for a long, long time (with election to the football league). The difference obviously being the lowest level a team could go being fixed at a division lower than the first.

    The differences here are economical. The USL, for all the crap it has taken on the interwebs, actually runs some fairly stable leagues, with no teams folding mid-season, for instance. In the USL, the league is fairly strong (which allows it to bail out teams when necessary) but it’s almost Darwinian in the sense leaves it up to the clubs to promote themselves at the local level.

    The NASL seems to be more of a confederacy of clubs. I’m not sure how strong the centralized body of the NASL really is, but I think having a strong league is ultimately more important given the harsh economic realities of soccer in the United States.

  2. Mike

    Soccer in the USA is to new to support promotion and relegation. What owner is going to pay $30 million for a club only to risk playing in MLS for one year? Once the league is done with expansion, and soccer gains popularity (in both MLS and second division) then we can think about promotion and relegation. Until that time comes it just isn’t going to happen.

  3. FootballMS

    No promotino and relegation makes it sound a bit like Super League in Rugby League which gives too much power to the clubs in possession of the “franchise” to compete in the league, I don’t see it as a productive way to operate a league