Division 3 league USL Pro announced this morning that they are now re-branded simply as USL. Their motto is "We are United" and are using the hashtag, #USLrising to spread the word on social media outlets. In addition to their re-branding initiative, USL has stated its intention to apply for Division 2 status sanctioning in the United States. Currently, the NASL is the Division 2 league in America. It is yet to be seen what the outcome of this announcement will be but there is no doubt that the next year will be VERY interesting in U.S. soccer.
As far as the branding initiative, the USL logo reminds me of a throw-back to the 60s/70s, so I'm not sure why they chose that as their logo. They also released designs of the USL logo as it would appear for each team; MLS also released a similar branding for each team with their new logo. My guess is this happened because of the MLS/USL partnership that was inked last year to have USL become MLS' reserve league.
Besides the fact that USL is continuing to prove itself to be the little brother of MLS, their branding initiative it far from original. I'll let you decide whether or not you like it, but personally, it hurts my eyes looking at the team USL logos.
Now, as far as USL's aspiration to become the Division 2 league in America, I have some doubt as to if USL actually meets the minimum standards required for D2 sanctioning. Here is the current version of the standards for D2 and D3 sanctioning. Without knowing USL's financial situtation, here are my thoughts and doubts USL's ambition for D2 status:
*The closest NASL team to the USL average was FC Edmonton, but that was still higher.
UPDATE: And another requirement that I missed was the population of where the club plays. Thanks to user EquinsuOcha for doing the research on the clubs that don't meet that AND the clubs that don't meet the stadium requirements:
Things can definitely change, but as of now, I don't see USL getting D2 status. We'll see.
From NASL's perspective, it does seem to put some pressure on the league to expand to make sure it satisfies the requirements:
By year 6, the league must have 12 teams - NASL is currently at 11.
By year 6, the league must have teams in the Eastern, Central, and Pacific time-zones. We are missing a team in the Pacific time-zone, and my guess is that is the priority of the league right now. If they get that Pacific time-zone club, it will also satisfy as the 12th team in the league.
Other than those two issues, I see no reason why NASL would, or should, be stripped of its D2 status.
In other news:
This morning, the NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson, talked on Soccer Morning. When the topic of Division 2 and 3 status' were brought up because of USL's announcement this morning. It didn't take long for Bill to bring up the Pro/Rel argument. He said "Without Pro/Rel, it doesn't make much sense to call leagues 2nd or 3rd division". It doesn't matter if you agree with him or not, his point is How can you call a team D2 or D3 without giving them the opportunity to prove themselves that they are worthy of being a "D1"? In our current system, only a few get to call themselves the top level and get to stay there while "lower" teams have no way or just a slim chance to join the top flight...generally via expansion. It is definitely a valid argument, and one that I think will shape American soccer in the next 20 years. "If we want to engage all 300+ million people in this country, we need a way for teams to move up the ladder", Peterson said. I think that is at the heart of the direction American soccer needs to take, If we want all of America to love soccer, we have to keep them interested and engaged. Keeping barriers in place will only alienate soccer fans.
Ok, that's all I have on this topic. 2015 is shaping up to be a very interesting year; the possiblity of a MLS strike, USL wanting D2 status, and continuing to cope with the surge of interest in soccer in America. All of these topics will keep me busy here on ASC for sure.
Till next time, Soccer On. -ASC
San Antonio FC & the USL
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