On Friday evening, U.S. Soccer announced that the Board of Directors has voted to grant provisional Division II status to the North American Soccer League (NASL) and United Soccer League (USL) for the 2017 season.
In a statement released by the federation, the board said that neither league meets all the standards set forth by U.S. Soccer, but it "will work with the leagues on a pathway to full compliance." The leagues will also be required to meet additional criteria.
"After an exhaustive process working with both leagues, in the best interest of the sport the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors has decided to grant provisional Division II status to the NASL and USL," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati in a statement. "U.S. Soccer will create an internal working group that will work with each league to set a pathway to meet the full requirements for Division II and allow for the larger goal of creating a sustainable future. We look forward to another productive year for professional soccer in this country."
U.S. Soccer will determine the additional requirements and a timeline for completion in the coming weeks.
MLS and USL have a partnership going back to the 2013 season that has seen MLS clubs affiliated with USL clubs, providing reserve players an opportunity to play in a fully professional environment. The partnership has expanded over time, and today, 10 MLS clubs have full-fledged teams competing in the USL, including the first team to do so, LA Galaxy II, and the 2016 USL Cup champions New York Red Bulls II.
"We would like to thank U.S. Soccer for taking the time to work through this process and provide us with provisional sanctioning for Division II in 2017," USL CEO Alec Papadakis said in a statement. "We welcome the opportunity to work closely with U.S. Soccer to meet all the Division II standards in the near future and continue to be part of the impressive growth of the sport in the United States."
"The NASL Board of Governors and I support U.S. Soccer's decision to grant the league provisional Division II status," North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik said in a statement. "We're excited about beginning play in April, and we look forward to the continued growth of our league and soccer in the U.S."