Carolina Railhawks fans may have a chance to cheer for their Division 2 team, after all. (via upload.wikimedia.org)

NASL Officially Receives One-Year Sanctioning As Division 2 League

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NASL Officially Receives Division 2 Sanctioning

The NASL will be allowed to compete as a Division 2 league after the USSF sanctioned the first-year league at U.S. Soccer Annual General Meeting. The season will now go ahead as scheduled with the first matches being held on April 9. The sanctioning is for only one year, as the league will now be expected to meet certain financial requirements to receive permanent Division 2 status. It is rumored that one of those requirements is for Traffic USA to divest itself of ownership in two of three franchises it currently helps fund.

NASL Provisionally Sanctioned by USSF for 2011: http://bit.ly/eKC9B9 #NASLless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

"Division 2 soccer is an important element in the success and popularity of the sport in the United States and we are pleased the NASL will play professional games in their markets this season," U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "The Federation’s continued interest is in sustainability and stability at the Division 2 level of professional soccer."

The news comes nearly a month after the NASL lost its provisional sanctioning. That was reportedly predicated by the ownership situation in Carolina devolving to a point that the team's assets were put on sale on eBay. Traffic USA eventually won the bidding, at least temporarily clearing the way for the league to gain sanctioning.

"Today is a historic day for soccer in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. We've worked dillgently over the past several years to implement a new vision for second division and would like to thank USSF President Sunil Gulati and the USSF staff for their leadership, cooperation and support in creating this next chapter for the professional game in the region," Aaron Davidson, CEO of the NASL commented. "We are committed to buidling a new second division which will develop markets, players, coaches, referees, executives and adminsitrators and give soccer fans throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico a league and teams to be proud of."

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USSF Grants NASL Division 2 Sanctioning For One Year, Report Says

The USSF has granted the NASL a one-year sanctioning as the country's Division 2 league, according to a report in IMSoccer News. The vote to sanction the fledgling league was 6-5 with MLS Commissioner Don Garber and U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati abstaining. The NASL has essentially been given one year to more closely meet the standards USSF put forth for D2 leagues. There will be another ratification vote on Saturday. IMS's report indicated the biggest concern the USSF board had with the NASL was Traffic USA's ownership stake in several teams. 

When all was said and done the board narrowly approved the NASL provisionally for 1-year and with other restrictions and directives. The board is requiring that the league have a clear plan on how they will remove Traffic Sports USA from owning Carolina and part ownership in Atlanta. They will be allowed to continue their ownership of Miami.

The one-year sanctioning, though, buys some much-needed for the NASL. Since losing its provisional sanctioning on Jan. 20, the league's owners have put up more than $6 million in letters of credit and agreed that the money would cover any potential catastrophic losses.

A significant part of NASL's ability to improve its status will be what happens with the San Antonio Scorpions, who have recently hit some roadblocks in their attempts to get a soccer stadium built with the help of public funds. Another potential wild card will be what happens with the Montreal Impact's relationship with the league. Although the Impact are moving to MLS for the 2012 season, there have been suggestions the team's ownership could field a team in NASL next year, potentially in Quebec City.

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NASL CEO Aaron Davidson Expresses Confidence In Division 2 Sanctioning

It should come as little shock if you've been following the storyline, but NASL CEO Aaron Davidson sounded very confident that his league would receive Division 2 sanctioning from the USSF during this weekend's annual General Meeting. There wasn't necessarily a lot of news broken during Wednesday's conference call, but the claims of confidence do seem to be the strongest to date.

#NASL's Davidson, "Everyday points forward on this. … We have delivered on the standards."less than a minute ago via web

 

In the meantime, the NASL has been operating as business-as-usual as a league in its position reasonably could. They've been conducting combines, releasing schedules and generally plowing forward as if the season were not in jeopardy. The reality, of course, is not so clear.

Davidson once again seemed to indicate that playing as a Division 3 league was not a viable option and he has never indicated that the league would attempt to play without any kind of sanctioning. It really does seem to be D2 or bust for the fledgling league.

One piece of news, at least, has been settled. Davidson confirmed that Traffic USA was the winning bidder for the Carolina Railhawks name and that the Carolina team would play under the Railhawks name, although it will officially be a new organization.

The other somewhat significant news that came out of the conference call was what seems to have led to the NASL losing its sanctioning in the first place. While Davidson had alluded to it in the past, he confirmed that the big hangup was whether or not the individual teams' letters of credit would be considered one lump sum or not. Originally, some owners apparently balked at the idea of being held responsible for other owners' potential failures. Davidson insisted that issue has been settled. He also indicated that the Puerto Rico Islanders, who have been one of the more successful on-field clubs, have not been as successful financially and were potentially not up to the D2 standards.

"They’ve always been humble and candid," Davidson said, according to Indy Week. "They’ve always been up front about where they’re lacking from a business perspective and where we could help them.—with best standards, best practices.

"You’re starting to see those things implemented right now."

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Carolina Railhawks Live: Team Will Re-Launch In NASL Under Old Name

As has been reported over the last couple of days, the winner of the Carolina Railhawks name was, indeed, Traffic USA. Now it has been confirmed that Carolina will indeed play this season under their old name, but as an entirely new organization.

After previous owner Selby Welman gave up his ownership and auctioned off the team assets, Traffic USA took ownership of the Carolina team and entered an eBay-bidding war for assets such as the team's name. Traffic USA ultimately won that bidding war, paying $14,999.

Although Traffic USA will be the majority owner of the team, Cary resident Paul Singh will be a minority partner. The team president will be Curt Johnson, who played at North Carolina State University and was once the general manager of the Kansas City Wizards.

"Traffic Sports is excited about the new Carolina RailHawks. We believe that the Triangle area is a great market and that the Carolina RailHawks will be one of the model teams of the NASL," Vice President of Traffic Sports Enrique Sanz said in a league release. "We look forward to continuing the winning tradition of the RailHawks on the field and to taking the commercial operation to that same championship level. And with the hiring of Curt Johnson returning home to guide this team and Martin Rennie, considered one of the top young coaches in the United States, we believe we are well on our way to building an all-around championship team."

Whether or not the Railhawks will have a league in which to play remains an open question. The USSF is scheduled to meet this month to determine whether or not the NASL will be sanctioned as a Division 2 team. The NASL lost its provisional sanctioning just as the Railhawks situation was turning uncertain. Since that time, the league has put up $6 million in Letters of Credit in an attempt to convince USSF that the league is stable enough for official sanctioning. NASL CEO Aaron Davidson has previously hinted that his league will not go forward without Division 2 sanctioning.

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NASL Releases Schedule, Announces Playoff Format

The NASL has announced its teams will play a 28-game regular-season schedule and will finish off the season with a six-team playoff. The season will kick off April 9 and feature a game between last year's USSF Division 2 finalists, the Puerto Rico Islanders and Carolina.

The top six teams from the regular season will advance to the playoffs, with the top two teams receiving first-round byes. The other four teams will play one-game playoffs for a spot in the semifinals. The semfinals and finals will be home-and-home aggregate-goal series. The final will be played on the weekends of Oct. 22 and 29.

"We believe we have created a balanced schedule that is in accordance with international standards for the sport and will improve the game day ambiance for fans, media, players and coaches," NASL CEO Aaron Davidson said in a statement.

This news comes in the wake of the NASL being notified that their provisional Division 2 sanctioning had been stripped by the USSF. The league has since posted a $6 million letter of credit that it hopes will satisfy the USSF's concerns.

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NASL Puts Up $6 Million Bond As Insurance Against Default, CEO Aaron Davidson Says

In the wake of losing its provisional Division 2 sanctioning from USSF, the NASL has put up a $6 million letter of credit as insurance against its teams defaulting during the season, league CEO Aaron Davidson has confirmed. It's still unclear whether this will be enough to grant sanctioning, but teams have started releasing schedules and appear to be moving forward with planning their seasons.

That $6 million represents $750,000 for each of the eight teams planning to play next year. It is being presented as a lump sum, meaning that if one team were to default and require more than $750,000, it could be accessed. The San Antonio Scorpions, who won't begin play until 2012, also contributed to the letter of credit.

"That’s more money than has ever been guaranteed by any pro soccer league and its teams in the U.S.," Davidson said. "Further, our LOC’s are joint and several, an additional requirement that was not in the minimum standards. That means that it’s one for all and all for one."

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