Meanwhile, the biggest bit of non-MLS news also emerged from Toronto: There will be Division 2 soccer next year, and the Carolina RailHawks will be part of it.
Over the weekend in Toronto, the Board of Directors of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) voted to "provisionally" sanction the new North American Soccer League, the league announced this morning.
The formal sanctioning vote will occur in February, at the USSF's Annual General Meeting in Las Vegas, but apparently that's a formality and with the provisional sanction, the owners of NASL are free to plan for next season.
The 2011 season will open April 9, 2011, a date that will include a rematch between the RailHawks and the Puerto Rico Islanders, who were the finalists for the championship of the 2010 USSF-D2 Pro League, the one-season shotgun marriage of two dissident factions of lower-division ownership groups.
The new league will also consist of FC Edmonton, Miami FC, NSC Minnesota Stars, Atlanta Silverbacks, Montreal Impact and FC Tampa Bay. San Antonio is scheduled to join in 2012, another unnamed club is poised to join in 2013. And there is the possibility, apparently, of more clubs joining the party for 2011. No names are given in the press release, but this is probably a reference to AC St. Louis, a club currently looking for new ownership.
Full release follows.
NORTH AMERICAN SOCCER LEAGUE PROVISIONALLY SANCTIONED BY UNITED STATES SOCCER FEDERATION
NASL to Operate as the Division II Men’s Outdoor Professional Soccer League in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico; Opening Weekend April 9, 2011
November 22, 2010 — The North American Soccer League (“NASL”) was provisionally approved as the Division II men’s outdoor professional soccer league by the Board of Directors of the United States Soccer Federation (“USSF”) at its meeting in Toronto, Canada on November 21, 2010. The provisional nature of the sanctioning is consistent with the USSF’s bylaws which require approval by the National Council of the USSF. This approval is expected to be forthcoming at the USSF Annual General Meeting in February, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“This is a historic day for soccer in North America as we officially launch a new Division II league that will seek to uphold its namesake,” said Aaron Davidson, Chief Executive Officer of the NASL. “We would like to thank the Board of Directors of the Federation for their ongoing support throughout this process. We look forward to working with Major League Soccer at the first division level and the United Soccer Leagues at the third division level to continue to build on the foundation they have established to grow the beautiful game in North America.”
The NASL will play the 2011 season with eight teams in major markets across the United States Canada and Puerto Rico. A team in San Antonio, Texas will join the league for the 2012 season and a team to be announced will join the league for the 2013 season. Mr. Davidson added, “We are considering the addition of several expansion teams in the coming months. Despite the excitement surrounding this announcement, we intend to carefully consider how, when and where to expand to ensure the stability of the NASL and to put the best possible product on the field for our fans.”
The inaugural NASL season will open on April 9, 2011, highlighted by the rematch of the 2010 finalists between the Puerto Rico Islanders and the Carolina Railhawks in Cary, North Carolina. Other matches include FC Edmonton at Miami FC, NSC Minnesota Stars at Atlanta Silverbacks, and Montreal Impact at FC Tampa Bay. The NASL’s teams will play a 28 game schedule, consisting of 14 home and 14 away games against each opponent.
The NASL’s playoff format will consist of the top six teams, with the first two teams receiving a bye until the semi-final round and the remaining four teams playing in a single-game playoff to advance to the semi-finals. The semi-finals and the finals will each consist of a two-game home and home aggregate goal system.
The NASL will undertake an extensive marketing campaign in the months leading up to its inaugural weekend.